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Chapter 10 - New Americans write realism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Phillip J. Barrish
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

In 1895 Thomas Bailey Aldrich, who had served as editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1881 to 1890 (the same position previously held by Howells), published a new collection of poetry. The collection’s lead poem was also the book’s title: “Unguarded Gates.” The poem takes the form of a warning and plea to the Statue of Liberty. The statue had been dedicated in New York’s harbor only nine years earlier in 1886 and did not yet bear its famous inscription (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”). But it had already come to serve as a symbol of the United States’ historic policy of welcoming immigrants as they completed their long journeys across the ocean.

“Unguarded Gates” begins by praising America for no longer tolerating slavery on “an inch of earth within its bound” and for offering democratic liberties and freedom of opportunity to all its inhabitants. Aldrich also confirms for the Statue of Liberty that an important part of her mission is to “lift the down-trodden.” But the main thrust of the poem is an admonition to the “white Goddess” about immigration:

  1. Wide open and unguarded stand our gates,

  2. And through them presses a wild motley throng –

  3. Men from the Volga and the Tartar steppes,

  4. Featureless figures of the Hoang-Ho,

  5. Malayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and Slav,

  6. Flying the Old World’s poverty and scorn;

  7. These bringing with them unknown gods and rites,

  8. Those, tiger passions, here to stretch their claws.

  9. In street and alley what strange tongues are loud,

  10. Accents of menace alien to our air,

  11. Voices that once the Tower of Babel knew!

  12. O Liberty, white Goddess! Is it well

  13. To leave the gates unguarded?…

The poem expresses the combination of hostility, fear, and disgust that Aldrich and many other upper-class Anglo-Americans felt toward the unprecedented – and unprecedentedly diverse – millions of immigrants who arrived in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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  • New Americans write realism
  • Phillip J. Barrish, University of Texas, Austin
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to American Literary Realism
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139021678.011
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  • New Americans write realism
  • Phillip J. Barrish, University of Texas, Austin
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to American Literary Realism
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139021678.011
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • New Americans write realism
  • Phillip J. Barrish, University of Texas, Austin
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to American Literary Realism
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139021678.011
Available formats
×