Emma Lazarus |
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!"
Emma Lazarus |
A dream of interlinking hands, of feet
Tireless to spin the unseen, fairy woof
Of the entangling waltz.
Bright eyebeams meet,
Gay laughter echoes from the vaulted roof.
Warm perfumes rise; the soft unflickering glow
Of branching lights sets off the changeful charms
Of glancing gems, rich stuffs, the dazzling snow
Of necks unkerchieft, and bare, clinging arms.
Hark to the music! How beneath the strain
Of reckless revelry, vibrates and sobs
One fundamental chord of constant pain,
The pulse-beat of the poet's heart that throbs.
So yearns, though all the dancing waves rejoice,
The troubled sea's disconsolate, deep voice.
Who shall proclaim the golden fable false
Of Orpheus' miracles? This subtle strain
Above our prose-world's sordid loss and gain
Lightly uplifts us.
With the rhythmic waltz,
The lyric prelude, the nocturnal song
Of love and languor, varied visions rise,
That melt and blend to our enchanted eyes.
The Polish poet who sleeps silenced long,
The seraph-souled musician, breathes again
Eternal eloquence, immortal pain.
Revived the exalted face we know so well,
The illuminated eyes, the fragile frame,
Slowly consuming with its inward flame,
We stir not, speak not, lest we break the spell.
A voice was needed, sweet and true and fine
As the sad spirit of the evening breeze,
Throbbing with human passion, yet devine
As the wild bird's untutored melodies.
A voice for him 'neath twilight heavens dim,
Who mourneth for his dead, while round him fall
The wan and noiseless leaves.
A voice for him
Who sees the first green sprout, who hears the call
Of the first robin on the first spring day.
A voice for all whom Fate hath set apart,
Who, still misprized, must perish by the way,
Longing with love, for that they lack the art
Of their own soul's expression.
For all these
Sing the unspoken hope, the vague, sad reveries.
Then Nature shaped a poet's heart--a lyre
From out whose chords the lightest breeze that blows
Drew trembling music, wakening sweet desire.
How shall she cherish him? Behold! she throws
This precious, fragile treasure in the whirl
Of seething passions; he is scourged and stung,
Must dive in storm-vext seas, if but one pearl
Of art or beauty therefrom may be wrung.
No pure-browed pensive nymph his Muse shall be,
An amazon of thought with sovereign eyes,
Whose kiss was poison, man-brained, worldy-wise,
Inspired that elfin, delicate harmony.
Rich gain for us! But with him is it well?
The poet who must sound earth, heaven, and hell!
Emma Lazarus |
Oft have I brooded on defeat and pain,
The pathos of the stupid, stumbling throng.
These I ignore to-day and only long
To pour my soul forth in one trumpet strain,
One clear, grief-shattering, triumphant song,
For all the victories of man's high endeavor,
Palm-bearing, laurel deeds that live forever,
The splendor clothing him whose will is strong.
Hast thou beheld the deep, glad eyes of one
Who has persisted and achieved? Rejoice!
On naught diviner shines the all-seeing sun.
Salute him with free heart and choral voice,
'Midst flippant, feeble crowds of spectres wan,
The bold, significant, successful man.
Emma Lazarus |
Here, where the noises of the busy town,
The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
And muse upon the consecrated spot.
No signs of life are here: the very prayers
Inscribed around are in a language dead;
The light of the "perpetual lamp" is spent
That an undying radiance was to shed.
What prayers were in this temple offered up,
Wrung from sad hearts that knew no joy on earth,
By these lone exiles of a thousand years,
From the fair sunrise land that gave them birth!
How as we gaze, in this new world of light,
Upon this relic of the days of old,
The present vanishes, and tropic bloom
And Eastern towns and temples we behold.
Again we see the patriarch with his flocks,
The purple seas, the hot blue sky o'erhead,
The slaves of Egypt, -- omens, mysteries, --
Dark fleeing hosts by flaming angels led.
A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,
A man who reads Jehovah's written law,
'Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,
Unto a people prone with reverent awe.
The pride of luxury's barbaric pomp,
In the rich court of royal Solomon --
Alas! we wake: one scene alone remains, --
The exiles by the streams of Babylon.
Our softened voices send us back again
But mournful echoes through the empty hall:
Our footsteps have a strange unnatural sound,
And with unwonted gentleness they fall.
The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
All found their comfort in the holy place,
And children's gladness and men's gratitude
'Took voice and mingled in the chant of praise.
The funeral and the marriage, now, alas!
We know not which is sadder to recall;
For youth and happiness have followed age,
And green grass lieth gently over all.
Nathless the sacred shrine is holy yet,
With its lone floors where reverent feet once trod.
Take off your shoes as by the burning bush,
Before the mystery of death and God.
Emma Lazarus |
Music and silver chimes and sunlit air,
Freighted with the scent of honeyed orange-flower;
Glad, friendly festal faces everywhere.
She, rapt from all in this unearthly hour,
With cloudlike, cast-back veil and faint-flushed cheek,
In bridal beauty moves as in a trance
Alone with him, and fears to breathe, to speak,
Lest the rare, subtle spell dissolve perchance.
But he upon that floral head looks down,
Noting the misty eyes, the grave sweet brow--
Doubts if her bliss be perfect as his own,
And dedicates anew with inward vow
His soul unto her service, to repay
Richly the sacrifice she yields this day.
Emma Lazarus |
Blue storm-clouds in hot heavens of mid-July
Hung heavy, brooding over land and sea:
Our hearts, a-tremble, throbbed in harmony
With the wild, restless tone of air and sky.
Shall we not call im Prospero who held
In his enchanted hands the fateful key
Of that tempestuous hour's mystery,
And with controlling wand our spirits spelled,
With him to wander by a sun-bright shore,
To hear fine, fairy voices, and to fly
With disembodied Ariel once more
Above earth's wrack and ruin? Far and nigh
The laughter of the thunder echoed loud,
And harmless lightnings leapt from cloud to cloud.
Floating upon a swelling wave of sound,
We seemed to overlook an endless sea:
Poised 'twixt clear heavens and glittering surf were we.
We drank the air in flight: we knew no bound
To the audacious ventures of desire.
Nigh us the sun was dropping, drowned in gold;
Deep, deep below the burning billows rolled;
And all the sea sang like a smitten lyre.
Oh, the wild voices of those chanting waves!
The human faces glimpsed beneath the tide!
Familiar eyes gazed from profound sea-caves,
And we, exalted, were as we had died.
We knew the sea was Life, the harmonious cry
The blended discords of humanity.
Look deeper yet: mark 'midst the wave-blurred mass,
In lines distinct, in colors clear defined,
The typic groups and figures of mankind.
Behold within the cool and liquid glass
Bright child-folk sporting with smooth yellow shells,
Astride of dolphins, leaping up to kiss
From the vast abyss
How joyously their thought-free laughter wells!
Some slumber in grim caverns unafraid,
Lulled by the overwhelming water's sound,
And some make mouths at dragons, undismayed.
Oh dauntless innocence! The gulfs profound
Reëcho strangely with their ringing glee,
And with wise mermaids' plaintive melody.
What do the sea-nymphs in that coral cave?
With wondering eyes their supple forms they bend
O'er something rarely beautiful.
Their lithe white arms, and through the golden wave
They lift it tenderly.
Oh blinding sight!
A naked, radiant goddess, tranced in sleep,
Full-limbed, voluptuous, 'neath the mantling sweep
Of auburn locks that kiss her ankles white!
Upward they bear her, chanting low and sweet:
The clinging waters part before their way,
Jewels of flame are dancing 'neath their feet.
Up in the sunshine, on soft foam, they lay
Their precious burden, and return forlorn.
Oh, bliss! oh, anguish! Mortals, Love is born!
Hark! from unfathomable deeps a dirge
Swells sobbing through the melancholy air:
Where love has entered, Death is also there.
The wail outrings the chafed, tumultuous surge;
Ocean and earth, the illimitable skies,
Prolong one note, a mourning for the dead,
The cry of souls not to be comforted.
What piercing music! Funeral visions rise,
And send the hot tears raining down our cheek.
We see the silent grave upon the hill
With its lone lilac-bush.
O heart, be still!
She will not rise, she will not stir nor speak.
Surely, the unreturning dead are blest.
Ring on, sweet dirge, and knell us to our rest!
Upon the silver beach the undines dance
With interlinking arms and flying hair;
Like polished marble gleam their limbs left bare;
Upon their virgin rites pale moonbeams glance.
Softer the music! for their foam-bright feet
Print not the moist floor where they trip their round:
Affrighted they will scatter at a sound,
Leap in their cool sea-chambers, nibly fleet,
And we shall doubt that we have ever seen,
While our sane eyes behold stray wreaths of mist,
Shot with faint colors by the moon-rays kissed,
Floating snow-soft, snow-white, where these had been.
Already, look! the wave-washed sands are bare,
And mocking laughter ripples through the air.
Divided 'twixt the dream-world and the real,
We heard the waxing passion of the song
Soar as to scale the heavens on pinions strong.
Amidst the long-reverberant thunder-peal,
Against the rain-blurred square of light, the head
Of the pale poet at the lyric keys
Stood boldly cut, absorbed in reveries,
While over it keen-bladed lightnings played.
"Rage on, wild storm!" the music seemed to sing:
"Not all the thunders of thy wrath can move
The soul that's dedicate to worshipping
Eternal Beauty, everlasting Love.
No more! the song was ended, and behold,
A rainbow trembling on a sky of gold!
Forth in the sunlit, rain-bathed air we stepped,
Sweet with the dripping grass and flowering vine,
And saw through irised clouds the pale sun shine.
Back o'er the hills the rain-mist slowly crept
Like a transparent curtain's silvery sheen;
And fronting us the painted bow was arched,
Whereunder the majestic cloud-shapes marched:
In the wet, yellow light the dazzling green
Of lawn and bush and tree seemed stained with blue.
Our hearts o'erflowed with peace.
With smiles we spake
Of partings in the past, of courage new,
Of high achievement, of the dreams that make
A wonder and a glory of our days,
And all life's music but a hymn of praise.
Emma Lazarus |
Late-born and woman-souled I dare not hope,
The freshness of the elder lays, the might
Of manly, modern passion shall alight
Upon my Muse's lips, nor may I cope
(Who veiled and screened by womanhood must grope)
With the world's strong-armed warriors and recite
The dangers, wounds, and triumphs of the fight;
Twanging the full-stringed lyre through all its scope.
But if thou ever in some lake-floored cave
O'erbrowed by rocks, a wild voice wooed and heard,
Answering at once from heaven and earth and wave,
Lending elf-music to thy harshest word,
Misprize thou not these echoes that belong
To one in love with solitude and song.
Emma Lazarus |
I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,-by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown.
The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.
The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.
The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.
All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.
Erica Jong |
We have a small sculpture of Henry James on our terrace in New York City.
Nothing would surprise him.
The beast in the jungle was what he saw--
Edith Wharton's obfuscating older brother.
He fled the demons
for fear they would devour
his inner ones
(the ones who wrote the books)
& silence the stifled screams
of his protagonists.
like a wandering Jew--
WASP that he was--
but with the Jew's
face pressed up
to the glass of sex
refusing every passion
but the passion to write
the words grew
more & more complex
until they utterly imprisoned him
in their fairytale brambles.
Language for me
is meant to be
clear water gleaming
under a covered bridge.
I love his spiritual sister
because she snatched clarity
from her murky history.
Tormented New Yorkers both,
but she journeyed
to the heart of light--
She took her friends on one last voyage,
through the isles of Greece
on a yacht chartered with her royalties--
a rich girl proud to be making her own money.
The light of the Middle Sea
was what she sought.
of this demonic city caught
between pitch and black
long for the light.
But she found it
in a few of her books.
while Henry James
what he had probably
that beast, that jungle,
that solipsistic scream.
He did not join her
on that final cruise.
(He was on his own final cruise).
Did he want to?
I would wager yes.
I look back with love and sorrow
at them both--
but she shines like Miss Liberty
to Emma Lazarus' hordes,
while he gazes within,
always, at his own
Emma Lazarus |
THE MIGHT that shaped itself through storm and stress
In chaos, here is lulled in breathing sweet;
Under the long brown ridge in gentleness
Its fierce old pulses beat.
Quiet and sad we go at eve; the fire
That woke exultant in an earlier day
Is dead; the memories of old desire
Only in shadows play.
We liken love to this and that; our thought
The echo of a deeper being seems:
We kiss, because God once for beauty sought
Within a world of dreams.