Posts Tagged 'American poets'

The Miracle of Lazarus

 by edward moran
Emma Lazarus was America’s first great Jewish poet. Almost every American (and not only) has three lines of her poetry ingrained in their psyche, lines as well-known as the Constitution itself or the Ten Commandments. “Give me your tired, your poor…”, then fill in the blank. Just about anyone who has a high-school diploma knows that the next line welcomes Europe’s desperate “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But her verse does not stop there. John Hollander has recently edited a new volume of Lazarus’ poetry for the Library of America. Schocken Books has published Esther Schor’s biography of Lazarus in its Jewish Encounters series. Below is the original sonnet that is engraved in bronze at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.

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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Who Was Samuel Greenberg?

Complete Poems of Hart Crane

Samuel Greenberg wrote visionary lyric poems highly inspired by Emerson. His poetry has largely been forgotten, but the only reason it is remembered at all is because Hart Crane plagiarized his work. Greenberg died in a hospital on Ward’s Island at the age of twenty-three. Years later his poems were published with a lavish introduction by Allen Tate, who possesses the most prominent forehead in modern literature. Crane, the better poet of the two (and the more famous), threw himself into the sea at the age of thirty-one. His body was never found. His collected work was recently published in a definitive edition by the Library of America. Below is a brief comparison.

First the Greenberg original (I’ve regularized some of the spelling):

Conduct 

By a peninsula, the painter sat and
Sketched the uneven valley groves.
The apostle gave alms to the
Meek, the volcano burst
In fusive sulphur and hurled
Rocks and ore into the air.
Heaven’s sudden change at
The drawing tempestuous
Darkening shade of Dense clouded Hues
The wanderer soon chose
His spot of rest, they bore the
Chosen hero upon their shoulders
Whom they strangly admired – as,
The Beach tide Summer of people desired.

Compare with the more famous poem by Hart Crane:

Emblems of Conduct

By a peninsula the wanderer sat and sketched
The uneven valley graves. While the apostle gave
Alms to the meek the volcano burst
With sulphur and aureate rocks…
For joy rides in stupendous coverings
Luring the living into spiritual gates.

Orators follow the universe
And radio the complete laws to the people.
The apostle conveys thought through discipline.
Bowls and cups fill historians with adorations–
Dull lips commemorating spiritual gates.

The wanderer later chose this spot of rest
Where marble clouds support the sea
And where was finally born a hero.
By that time summer and smoke were past.
Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates.


Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

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