by

Poetry Friday

I’m currently stage managing a production of the musical Rags, which is about Jewish immigrants coming to America in the early 1900s.  At the beginning of the play, as they approach Ellis Island, the immigrants see “a giant lady wearing a funny hat and holding something that look[s] like a broom.”  In honor of the production’s closing weekend I give you one of the most famous poems in America, though people don’t realize it:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883

You can actually see the poem written in Emma Lazarus’s own handwriting at the Library of Congress website here.

Leave a Reply