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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Colossus

(The Steerage, 1907 by Alfred Stieglitz,
1864-1946, American photographer)

The symbolism of the Statue of Liberty is two-fold. Since the beginning, the torch has sent out its light to inspire liberty in the rest of the world. The students demonstrating at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 carried a replica of the statue to reflect that message.

The Statue of Liberty acquired an additional meaning when officials attached a plaque on the inner walls of the pedestal in 1903, engraved with the words of Emma Lazarus’s sonnet. (She had written it in 1883.) The light of the torch also serves as a beacon welcoming newcomers into the country.


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 (1849-1887), American poet

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