Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother of Exiles

The Statue of Liberty is one of those sights so amazing in real life that even the best photographs fail to truly capture it.


Years ago, we took a family trip to see the statue. I know I'm given to hyperbole, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that seeing the statue, watching it grow in view as our ferry approached Liberty Island, literally took my breath away.

I wonder if immigrants like my grandparents, on their transatlantic crossing from Europe in the 1920s, likewise felt their breath catch in their chests as they neared Liberty's growing form over the water.

Inside the statue's base is posted a bronze plaque with a poem engraved on it. Recent events in my home state have brought that poem back to my mind with fresh meaning.


The New Colossus
Emma Lazarus, 1883

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!"

~~~~~

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