Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lost Our Ear

I just watched the David Cross comedy concert Making America Great Again! on Netflix.  There's a routine where he recites the most famous part of "The New Colossus," the poem by Emma Lazarus at the Statue Of Liberty.

Here's the entire sonnet, with the part he quotes in bold:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities* frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost [sic] to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I watched the concert with the closed captioning on, and was very disappointed. And not because they spelled it "tossed" rather than "tost."

These are famous words, so you'd think the CC typist would know them.  But instead of "teeming shore," we got "teeming shores." I suppose it's an easy mistake to make if you don't already know the poem, since the next word, "send," starts with an "s."

But that's still no excuse. If you understand basic poetry, or even basic rhyming, you'd see that "shore" rhymes properly and "shores" doesn't.  You even get two words--"poor" and "door"--that it rhymes with, so you can't miss it.

However, our rhyming standards, following our popular music, have dropped quite a bit, and I doubt it even occurred to the CC typist that Lazarus had to have used "shore"--that "shores" wouldn't even be considered.

Cross bothered to learn the quote word-perfect. I wonder if I should send him a letter informing him he's been undone by the closed captioning.

*Twin cities?  New York and Newark? New York and Jersey City? Manhattan and Brooklyn? Manhattan and Staten Island?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was an 18th century innovation to stick in near rhymes rather than perfect rhymes to avoid sing-songy qualities. Of course I heard that from an unreliable character in a John Barth novel.

IN any case though it does not apply to a pure rhyme poet like Lazarus (was that her real name- seems too perfect given the theme of new beginnings in the poem- I suppose I will have to look it up)

7:06 AM, October 29, 2016  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Was "poor" a perfect rhyme for "door" (and "shore") in the 19th century? Or the poet could have welcomed folks with large pores to our teeming shores.

4:48 AM, October 30, 2016  

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