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"Goddess of Liberty, Answer"

This poem refers to the Statue of Liberty, and appears to be a response to Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus." The location mentioned by the author, "Sandy Hook," is on the coast of New Jersey, and signifies the border of the U.S. beyond which are the ocean and the countries that poor immigrants, those addressed in Lazarus's poem, were coming from during this period.

Goddess of Liberty, listen! Listen. I say, and look
To the sounds and sights of sorrow this side of Sandy Hook!
Your eye is searching the distance, you are holding your torch too high
To see the slaves who are fettered, though close at your feet they lie.
And the cry of the suffering stranger has reached your ear and your breast,
But you do not heed the wail that comes from the haunts of your own oppressed.

Goddess of Liberty, follow, follow me where I lead;
Come down into sweat-shops and look on the work of greed!
Look on the faces of children, old before they were born!
Look on the haggard women of all sex graces shorn!
Look on the men—God, help us! if this is what it means
To be men in the land of freedom and live like mere machines!

Goddess of Liberty, answer! how can the slaves of Spain
Find freedom under your banner, while your own still wear the chain?
Loud is the screech of your eagle and boastful the voice of your drums,
But they do not silence the wail of despair that rises out of your slums.
What will you do with your conquests, and how shall your hosts be fed,
While your streets are filled with desperate throngs, crying for work or bread?

Source | Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "Goddess of Liberty, Answer," poem, in Heath Anthology of American Literature, vol. C, 5th Ed., ed. Paul Lauter (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 757.
Creator | Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “"Goddess of Liberty, Answer" ,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 2, 2023,

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