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"Unguarded Gates" (Excerpt)

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was a well-known and regarded American poet of the late nineteenth century. In "Unguarded Gates," he expresses the anti-immigrant xenophobia and notions of Anglo-American superiority shared by many native-born Americans of the time. In a letter to a friend written in 1892, Aldrich explains that the poem was influenced by his anger at having been recently robbed, stating "I... protest against America becoming a cesspool of Europe...I believe in America for the Americans."

Wide open and unguarded stand our gates,

And through them presses a wild motley throng 

Men from the Volga and the Tartar steppes,

Featureless figures of the Hoang-Ho,

Malayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and Slav,

Flying the Old World’s poverty and scorn;

These bringing with them unknown gods and rites,

Those, tiger passions, here to stretch their claws.

In street and alley what strange tongues are loud,

Accents of menace alien to our air,

Voices that once the Tower of Babel knew!

O Liberty, white Goddess! is it well

To leave the gates unguarded? On thy breast

Fold Sorrow’s children, soothe the hurts of fate,

Lift the down-trodden, but with hand of steel

Stay those who to thy sacred portals come

To waste the gifts of freedom. Have a care

Lest from they brow the clustered stars be torn

And trampled in the dust. For so of old

The thronging Goth and Vandal trampled Rome,

And where the temples of the Caesars stood

Source | Excerpt from "Unguarded Gates," Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Unguarded Gates, & Other Poems (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895) 13-17.
Creator | Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “"Unguarded Gates" (Excerpt),” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/746.

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