The New Year

By Emma Lazarus 1849–1887 Emma Lazarus

Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
      And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
      The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
                      Then the new year is born.

Look where the mother of the months uplifts
      In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
      Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
                      Profusely to requite.

Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
      Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
      The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
                      To what undreamed-of morn?

For never yet, since on the holy height,
      The Temple’s marble walls of white and green
Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world’s light
      Went out in darkness,—never was the year
Greater with portent and with promise seen,
                      Than this eve now and here.

Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent
      Hath been enlarged unto earth’s farthest rim.
To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,
      Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave,
For freedom to proclaim and worship Him,
                      Mighty to slay and save.

High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,
      Out of the depths ye published still the Word.
No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:
      Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,
Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,
                      Or died a thousand deaths.

In two divided streams the exiles part,
      One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
      By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
                      And both embrace the world.

Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,
      Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,
The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise
      Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove
How strength of supreme suffering still is ours
                      For Truth and Law and Love.

Source: Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings (2002)

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Poet Emma Lazarus 1849–1887

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Religion, Judaism

Holidays Rosh Hashanah

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Emma  Lazarus

Biography

Emma Lazarus was born in New York City to a wealthy family and educated by private tutors. She began writing poetry as a teenager and took up the cause — through both poetry and prose — against the persecution of Jews in Russia during the 1880s. Lines from her sonnet “The New Colossus” were engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903, memorializing the famous lines, “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Judaism

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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