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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)


“O WORLD-GOD, give me wealth!” the Egyptian cried,

His prayer was granted. High as heaven, behold

Palace and pyramid; the brimming tide

Of lavish Nile washed all his land with gold.

Armies of slaves toiled ant-wise at his feet,

World-circling traffic roared through mart and street;

His priests were gods; his spice-balmed kings enshrined

Set death at naught in rock-ribbed charnels deep.

Seek Pharaoh’s race to-day, and ye shall find

Rust and the moth, silence and dusty sleep.

“O World-God, give me beauty!” cried the Greek.

His prayer was granted. All the earth became

Plastic and vocal to his sense; each peak,

Each grove, each stream, quick with Promethean flame;

Peopled the world with imaged grace and light.

The lyre was his, and his the breathing might

Of the immortal marble, his the play

Of diamond-pointed thought and golden tongue.

Go seek the sunshine race, ye find to-day

A broken column and a lute unstrung.

“O World-God, give me power!” the Roman cried.

His prayer was granted. The vast world was chained

A captive to the chariot of his pride;

The blood of myriad provinces was drained

To feed that fierce, insatiable red heart.

Invulnerably bulwarked every part

With serried legions and with close-meshed code,

Within, the burrowing worm had gnawed its home;

A roofless ruin stands where once abode

The imperial race of everlasting Rome.

“O Godhead, give me truth!” the Hebrew cried.

His prayer was granted: he became the slave

Of the Idea, a pilgrim far and wide,

Cursed, hated, spurned, and scourged with none to save.

The Pharaohs knew him; and when Greece beheld,

His wisdom wore the hoary crown of eld.

Beauty he hath forsworn, and wealth and power.

Seek him to-day, and find in every land;

No fire consumes him, neither floods devour:

Immortal through the lamp within his hand.