Saturday, February 1, 2014

Analysis of "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

Original poem reprinted online here:  "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus
Originally read: July 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Emma Lazarus

A lot of analysis on this poem as well like this one and this one.  This is one of the few poems that it's imperative to understand the historic and personal background of the author to enhance the poem.  It's not necessary to know these things, but the emotional impact.

But simply enough, this quote will do:

Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus" in 1883 "for the occasion" of an auction to raise money for the Statue of Liberty's pedestal. The poem was singled out and printed in the Catalogue of the Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition at the National Academy of Design because event organizers hoped it would "awaken to new enthusiasm" those working on behalf of the pedestal.

The occasion is to commemorate the Statue of Liberty, to put meaning to the intended.

Also of note, the Colossus mentioned is a reference to the greek statue, "Not like the brazen grant of Greek fame" and automatically the speaker disavows any link to that Colossus.  In doing so, the speaker defines through negation, "With conquering limbs astride from land to land; / Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand / a mighty woman with a torch".  Here the semi-colon shows a connection through opposites.  The mighty woman doesn't want to conquer, she's not known for her limbs, she'll be known for her torch.

The torch represents, "flame / Is imprisoned lightening, and her name / Mother of Exiles."  The "imprisoned lightening"  belies a captive power which parallels the concept of "Mother of Exile." Person and object holding in their power.  Why? "From her beacon-hand / Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command / The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."  She has the ability to welcome anyone, anyone, in, to carry that burden just as lightning, just as exiles.

Then comes the famous quote that is on the Statue of Liberty:

     "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
     With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
     Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
     The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
     Send these, the homeless, tempest-lost to me.
     I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The attack in the beginning is that "lightening"  not through violence, but Statue of Liberty has power action and ability to hold "your tired, your poor, . Your huddled masses yearning to breath free," which implies that the other country is incapable of doing so;  furthermore, the Statue of liberty states that the other lacks empathy by even calling them, "The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."  Well, actually, it tells more of the Statue of Liberty as well, the other descriptions are descriptions, "wretched refuse" is a judgement.  She'll take in anyone discarded by the other shore.

The golden door, a reference to the America, is a representation of opportunity.  The color gold could go to monetary value; however, it may relieve the tired, give a sense of freedom for those who want to be free.  Note that the golden door and the lamp coincide through color -- have basically the same meaning.  The statute that holds it though is more vocal as a metaphor.

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