There are several phrases associated with the Statue of Liberty, but the most recognizable is “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. The poem did not receive much recognition and was quite forgotten after the auction.
In the early 1900s and after Lazarus’ death, one of her friends began a campaign to memorialize Lazarus and her New Colossus sonnet. The effort was a success, and a plaque with the poem’s text was mounted inside the pedestal of the statue.
Also known as the Statue of Liberty poem, New Colossus and its famous last lines have become part of American history. Here is the sonnet in its entirety:
The New Colossus
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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Since Lazarus’ poem was mounted on a plaque, it is not actually inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. The only Statue of Liberty inscription can be found on the tablet in her left hand, which says JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776), the day the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence.