What Is Written on the Statue of Liberty’s Tablet?

The date “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” – July 4, 1776 – is written on the tablet that the Statue of Liberty is holding in her left hand. The poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus is inscribed on the bronze plate that is attached to the pedestal of the statue.

The line from the poem “The New Colossus” that is most commonly used to describe the Statue of Liberty is, “Give me your tired, your destitute, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Emma Lazarus composed the poem as part of a drive to obtain funds to erect a pedestal for the monument.

Although it was recited during an art and literature auction, the final pedestal was not supposed to include it. Present was no plaque there when the statue debuted in 1886. Emma Lazarus’ friend Georgina Schuyler launched a campaign in 1901 to honour the poem, and in 1903 a bronze plaque with the poem inscribed was installed on the pedestal’s inside wall.

With three rhymed quatrains and a closing couplet that reads, “Send them, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp at the golden entrance,” the poem is written in the sonnet style.

The Colossus of Rhodes, an enormous statue from 280 B.C. that is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is mentioned in the poem’s opening line, “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land.”

Lazarus was conveying the idea that the new statue represented freedom rather than victory or conquest when he made the analogy.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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