Lazarus 1492

Keywords: lazarus 1492
Description: This particular collection is a small treasure previously hidden, laden with literary gold of a previous century for discovery by today’s seekers. This is a book I carry with me.

She would later regularly correspond with famous authors (Emerson, Browning, and the James brothers); and she is the first Jewish-American poet of note.

Her father published her poetry collections when she was 16, 17, and 18--demonstrating her talent in youth. Her words have since been appreciated by young and old, alike.

As an elementary-school first grader, I learned the words of the Lazarus sonnet "The New Colossus" as a song. We sang it--all six grades together--at holiday assemblies and for visiting dignitaries.

In addition, it was always presented by our capital-city's youth choir in annual music festivals each spring, the words of Liberty herself particularly moving:

Indeed, she is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this Liberty. The Colossus guarded an ancient Grecian waterway; Liberty stands watch at our gateway and welcomes the stranger home.

America and American democracy are wonders in themselves, despite the misuse and misunderstanding of it liberties. While not all of the free have learned the responsibility of the gift that is America, this land still deserves this tribute that Emma Lazarus offers up in her poetry. Millions across the globe are still tired and poor, huddled in oppression, and yearning to breathe free.

"The New Colossus" is the mezuzah that protects and blesses the entranceway into the House of America with the sacred texts of Hope and Freedom. Lazarus was the evangelist of America; Liberty is an example to the world. 1492

Lazarus studied Jewish culture and history in her later life. Then, she composed "1492," a powerful depiction of America's hope for the Jew. "1492" not only reminds us of Columbus but also of the bigoted expulsion of Jews from Spain to become a people without a nation. This poem foreshadows Colossus in the following lines:

Shortly after 1881 immigration increased into New York, Lazarus rose to the defense and advocacy of thousands of Jewish and Russian immigrants fleeing into the US to escape persecution. She encouraged and supported them with a collection of poems she titled Songs of a Semite .

"Where the doors of sunset part" is the new West - not western Europe, but America. Here, Lazarus also turns Dante around. Dante's work warns us off the gate of Paradise: "Abandon hope, all who enter here," as an angel waves a flaming sword. Lazarus's America beacons to us with a torchlight and welcome: "Ho, all who weary enter here!" Lazarus holds up the post-Civil War America as the hope to all who have been refused elsewhere (the "refuse" of the teeming shore in the future "Colossus"). In America, they can stand up, stand firm, and refuse to be denied.

"The Day of Dead Soldiers," "The South," and "Florence Nightingale" are just a few of the poems in which Lazarus addressed the after-effects of the Civil War. In "Florence Nightingale," Lazarus describes the soldiers' gratitude for Nightingale's nursing--even taking comfort from her shadow falling upon them. Emma forecasts future praise and gratitude:

Other poems in this collection that I enjoy include the magical "The Christmas Tree," a moving translation of Ibn Gabirol's "Night-Piece," the sensuous "Assurance," and the lovely "Winds," which describes the personalities and the backdrops of the currents of the four seasons. Her translation of "Heine's Song"--depicting a snow-covered pine dreaming of a yearning palm tree in the sand--is also a favorite. So is "The New Ezekiel," an exhortation to immigrant Jews.

The strength of her verse recalls the power of the poem of another young poet of the next century, RCAF pilot John Gillespie Magee. At age 19 Magee composed "High Flight" for his parents around Christmas, 1941--just before his plane was shot down. I think Lazarus would have appreciated such lines as these:

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -.

Emma Lazarus has not been studied or recognized well by Americans. This collection of her works from Library of America will go a long way toward correcting the oversight.

Photogallery Lazarus 1492:

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