Context and themes
This poem was written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) and is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. It was written in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. But it was soon forgotten and played no role at the opening of the statue in 1886.
The poem is constructed after the Petrarchan sonnet. Pay attention to the historical and mythological references throughout the poem.
The title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, sometimes described as standing astride the harbor.
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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”