The Statue of Liberty poem as it is known, was written by Emma Lazarus and is named “The New Colossus”. The Statue of Liberty poem is actually a sonnet by Lazarus written to raise money for the building of the base and is now engraved on a bronze plaque and contained inside of the Statue of Liberty.
YONKERS, NY — July 4, 2021 — At first, Lazarus had refused to write the Statue of Liberty poem, but her friend Constance Cary Harrison convinced her that immigrants would be inspired by seeing the statuesque Lady Liberty welcoming them ashore.
Emma eventually wrote the poem and it was donated for auction at the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund.
The New Colossus
By 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!”
The beginning of the Statue of Liberty poem refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Colossus of Rhodes is actually a statue of the Greek god Helios, which stood over 100 feet tall (the tallest of its time) before it was destroyed by earthquake in 226 BC.
So, the Statue of Liberty poem refers to this new giant statue likened to the old that represented the god of light. The Statue of Liberty poem also sets itself apart from Helios in that the Mother of Exiles is more welcoming than conquering. She welcomes all castaways, misfits and homeless types dreaming of freedom.