New Colossus
sonnet by Emma Lazarus, 1883
music by Tim Griffin, copyright 2011

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!”


I tried for years to write a song about the Statue of Liberty; everything I wrote came out sounding trite or pompous or both. Then I realized the words I needed had been written by Emma Lazarus for the occasion of the statue’s dedication. I just added music.

When performing for young audiences, I like to present this song as a musical riddle, telling them I will ask afterward what the song is about. Even most adults have trouble recognizing where the words come from– they get that look that says they’ve heard this before, but not sure where– until the line, “Send me your your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Sometimes we need a reminder of who we are.

Here are some standards for the state of California addressed by this song:


  • CA.HSS.K.2: Students recognize national and state symbols and icons such as the national and state flags, the bald eagle, and the Statue of Liberty.

First Grade:

  • CA.HSS.1.3.1: Recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing songs that express American ideals (e.g., “My Country ’Tis of Thee”).
  • CA.HSS.1.3.3 Identify American symbols, landmarks, and essential documents, such as the flag, bald eagle, Statue of Liberty, U.S. Constitution, and Declaration of Independence, and know the people and events associated with them.

Eighth Grade:

  • CA.HSS.8.1.3 Analyze how the American Revolution affected other nations, especially France.

Guitar Chords:
Asus2, Dsus2, A, C, F#m. This is one of my harder songs to play (sometimes I still botch the change from the sus chords to the F#m!) but, like anything else, it comes with repetition.