In 1903, we Americans erected the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The great bronze sculpture had been presented to us as a gift by France. On the inside of Lady Liberty’s pedestal, these words, composed by Emma Lazarus in 1883, are engraved:
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!”
These words still ring true to the American spirit. I am greatly inspired by the poem, which Emma had named The Great Colossus. But times have changed in the 133 years that passed since she was inspired to write it; and our nation has changed greatly since the sonnet became an anthem that came to express so profoundly our exceptional American optimism and generosity.
With tender admiration for Emma Lazarus, and for the her verse, and with great respect for all that Lady Liberty represents to so many Americans, especially the millions who first glimpsed her freedom torch as new immigrants, I submit an update. I hope it may appropriately express a challenge that yet looms on our bright horizons.
It’s not like a political hack with vengeful fights,
and regulative burdens to constrict our plans.
No. Here within our yawning, paved-o’er shores still stands
a beneficent nation with bright hope , whose lights
form the grid and net of a people free, and this our name:
America. From our electrified sands
glows bold goodwill; our vibrant enterprise, our busy hands
will in time restore this great worn infrastructure’s frame.
“Lose, o ye couch-potato louts, our cultivated TV sloth!” we must say.
“Stand aside, but hey!” Give us, instead, your energetic poor,
your troubled masses yearning to work their poverty away,
along the rusted refuse of our landfill’d shore.
Send these working folks, recession-toss’d, our way,
We’ll renew it all, from Golden Gate to Golden Door!
CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress