Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Breathe the Air of Immortality

by Emma Lazarus

Would I had waked this morn where Florence smiles,
A-bloom with beauty, a white rose full-blown,
Yet rich in sacred dust, in storied stone,
Precious past all the wealth of Indian isles--
From olive-hoary Fiesole to feed
On Brunelleschi's dome my hungry eye,
And see again the lotus-colored sky,
Spring the slim belfry graceful as a reed.
To kneel upon the ground where Dante trod,
To breathe the air of immortality.
From Angelo and Raphael -- to be --
Each sense new-quickened by a demi-god.
To hear the liquid Tuscan speech at whiles,
From citizen and peasant, to behold
The heaven of Leonardo washed with gold--
Would I had waked this morn where Florence smiles!

Emma Lazarus, of course, is most famous today for her sonnet, "The New Colossus", which she wrote to help raise money for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, and which is quoted on that same pedestal.

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