What Does the Statue of Liberty’s Tablet Say?

The date “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” – July 4, 1776 – is engraved on the tablet that the Statue of Liberty holds in her left hand. The poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus is engraved on the bronze plaque on the pedestal of the statue.

“Give me your weary, your destitute, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is the most famous statement linked with the Statue of Liberty, and it comes from the poem “The New Colossus.” Emma Lazarus wrote the poem as part of a fundraising campaign to help fund the construction of a pedestal for the statue. It was recited at an art and literary auction, but it wasn’t meant to be part of the final package. There was no plaque when the statue was unveiled in 1886. Georgina Schuyler, an Emma Lazarus friend, started a campaign to memorialise the poem in 1901, and in 1903, a bronze plaque with the inscribed poem was set on the pedestal’s inner wall.

The poem is written in the form of a sonnet, with three rhymed quatrains and a closing couplet that reads, “Send them, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land,” the poem begins, referring to the Colossus of Rhodes, a massive statue from 280 B.C. that is regarded one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Lazarus was implying that the new statue was a symbol of freedom rather than victory or conquest when he made the analogy.

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