The South

Emma Lazarus

Night, and beneath star-blazoned summer skies
   Behold the Spirit of the musky South,
A creole with still-burning, languid eyes,
   Voluptuous limbs and incense-breathing mouth:
         Swathed in spun gauze is she,
From fibres of her own anana tree.
Within these sumptuous woods she lies at ease,
   By rich night-breezes, dewy cool, caressed:
’Twixt cypresses and slim palmetto trees,
   Like to the golden oriole’s hanging nest,
         Her airy hammock swings,
And through the dark her mocking-bird yet sings.
How beautiful she is! A tulip-wreath
   Twines round her shadowy, free-floating hair:
Young, weary, passionate, and sad as death,
   Dark visions haunt for her the vacant air,
         While noiselessly she lies
With lithe, lax, folded hands and heavy eyes.
Full well knows she how wide and fair extend
   Her groves bright flowered, her tangled everglades,
Majestic streams that indolently wend
   Through lush savanna or dense forest shades,
         Where the brown buzzard flies
To broad bayous ’neath hazy-golden skies.
Hers is the savage splendor of the swamp,
   With pomp of scarlet and of purple bloom,
Where blow warm, furtive breezes faint and damp,
   Strange insects whir, and stalking bitterns boom—
         Where from stale waters dead
Oft looms the great jawed alligator’s head.
Her wealth, her beauty, and the blight on these,—
   Of all she is aware: luxuriant woods,
Fresh, living, sunlit, in her dream she sees;
   And ever midst those verdant solitudes
         The soldier’s wooden cross,
O’ergrown by creeping tendrils and rank moss.
Was hers a dream of empire? was it sin?
   And is it well that all was borne in vain?
She knows no more than one who slow doth win,
   After fierce fever, conscious life again,
         Too tired, too weak, too sad,
By the new light to be or stirred or glad.
From rich sea-islands fringing her green shore,
   From broad plantations where swart freemen bend
Bronzed backs in willing labor, from her store
   Of golden fruit, from stream, from town, ascend
         Life-currents of pure health:
Her aims shall be subserved with boundless wealth.
Yet now how listless and how still she lies,
   Like some half-savage, dusky Indian queen,
Rocked in her hammock ’neath her native skies,
   With the pathetic, passive, broken mien
         Of one who, sorely proved,
Great-souled, hath suffered much and much hath loved!
But look! along the wide-branched, dewy glade
   Glimmers the dawn: the light palmetto trees
And cypresses reissue from the shade,
   And she hath wakened. Through clear air she sees
         The pledge, the brightening ray,
And leaps from dreams to hail the coming day.

Poems by This Author

1492 by Emma Lazarus
Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate
Age and Death by Emma Lazarus
Come closer, kind, white, long-familiar friend
By the Waters of Babylon by Emma Lazarus
The Spanish noon is a blaze of azure fire
By the Waters of Babylon [V. Currents] by Emma Lazarus
Vast oceanic movements, the flux and reflux of immeasurable tides, oversweep our continent
Chopin by Emma Lazarus
A dream of interlinking hands, of feet
Critic and Poet by Emma Lazarus
No man had ever heard a nightingale
Echoes by Emma Lazarus
Late-born and woman-souled I dare not hope
In Exile by Emma Lazarus
In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport by Emma Lazarus
Here, where the noises of the busy town
Long Island Sound by Emma Lazarus
I see it as it looked one afternoon
The Feast of Lights by Emma Lazarus
Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
The New Year by Emma Lazarus
To R.W.E. by Emma Lazarus
As when a father dies, his children draw
Venus of the Louvre by Emma Lazarus
Down the long hall she glistens like a star