Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

The first sight viewed by immigrants coming to the United States by boat from Europe is the Statue of Liberty. Because of this, it has often been connected with the idea of immigration. This mental and emotional link was given early expression in the following poem*, which was written in 1883 and inscribed in bronze at the base of the statue in 1903.

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!"


Colossus [-'--]: huge bronze statue of the Greek god Helios in the harbor of Rhodes, built in the 3rd century B.C. and destroyed by an earthquake that same century
sunset: western, towards the west
twin cities: New York City (Manhattan) and Brooklyn, in those days separate cities
huddle (v.): crowd close together
refuse waste material
(poetic) = tossed: thrown about

Understanding the contents
1. According to the poem, in what way is the Statue of Liberty "not like the brazen giant of Greek fame" ?
2. a) What do you think is meant by "ancient lands" ?
b) What view does the author have of these "ancient lands"?
3. Explain in your own words the message of the "New Colossus" to the ancient lands"

Analysing the text

4. a) How many lines* are there in this poem? Show how the rhyme scheme* reflects the division of the poem into two units.
b) Write down the metre* of the poem in your notebook.
A poem with this particular formal arrangement is called a sonnet.;the first unit is referred to as an octave;the second is known as a sestet.
5. How do the poem's contents correspond to the formal units?
6. Give examples of alliteration* in the sonnet and explain their functions.
7. Point out the two paradoxes* in the poem. What do you think they mean?
8. Study the rhythm* of the poem. Some lines end with a pause; we call them end-stopped lines. Sometimes a sentence or clause runs on from one line to the next without a pause; such lines are known as run-on lines orenjambement.
Find examples of enjambement and explain their effect.

Working with the language
9. "Light" is an important idea in this poem.
a) Collect all the words and phrases belonging to the word field "light". Group them according to their word classes.
b) With the help of your dictionary, build up a collocational field around two of the words you have found.

Going beyond the text
10. The Statue of Liberty was a present from the people of France to the people of the U.S.A. Consult a reference book to find out the reason for this expensive gift and report your findings to the class.

11. Whereas Lazarus has the Statue of Liberty cry "Give me your tired, your poor . . .", the American social critic Philip Slater emphasizes the negative aspects of such a selection: "If we gained the energetic and the daring, we also gained the lion's share of the rootless, the unscrupulous, those who valued money over relationships, and those who put self aggrandizement ahead of love and loyalty." Discuss these contrasting views of immigration.