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Selected Poetry of Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

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 New Colossus, 10-14)
  1. The Crowing of the Red Cock
  2. In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport
  3. The New Colossus
  4. The New Ezekiel


Notes on Life and Works

Born July 22, 1849, in New York city to Moses and Esther Nathan Lazarus, assimilated, Sephardic Jews, Emma Lazarus grew up in New York city and Newport, Rhode Island. In 1866 she published her first book, Poems and Translations, after which Emerson acted as her informal mentor. Admetus and Other Poems followed in 1871 and Alide: an Episode of Goethe's Life, a novel, in 1874. Lazarus deeply felt the persecution of the Jews in Russia in the 1880s. That, and her translation of Heinrich Heine, the German Jew, in 1881 and her own Songs of a Semite: the Dance to Death and Other Poems in 1882, turned her away from the Christian environment of her immediate family and into her Jewish roots. She called for the re-creation of a Jewish homeland that year. She went overseas, visiting European writers and cities, first in 1883 and then from May 1885 to September 1887, and creating the Society for the Improvement and Colonization of East European Jews. She also did charitable work at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. In 1883, she contributed a sonnet, "The New Colossus," for the Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty. The Statue about which she wrote opened in 1886, although it was only in 1903 that a bronze plaque with her poem was affixed to the base of the monument. Her posthumous entry in The Dictionary of American Biography does not mention that poem. Her death came, at the age of 38 years, on Nov. 10, 1887, in New York city. She is buried in Cypress Hill Cemetery.

Biographical information

Given name: Emma
Family name: Lazarus
Birth date: 22 July 1849
Death date: 10 November 1887
Nationality: American
Ethnicity: Jewish
Family relations
          father: Esther Nathan Lazarus
          father: Moses Lazarus
Religion: Jewish
Buried at: Cypress Hill Cemetery, New York City
First RPO edition: 2001