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the new colossus

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As the ship comes in upon New York harbour, Alexander stands tall on the bow - when the ship docks, he strides tall into America. Expectations to prove himself press heavy on his shoulders like a new gravitational orbit - entirely self-imposed. His pockets are empty save the jingle of the few remaining coins, all that remains from the money his town collected to send him to America. Before him lies a whole world yet to impress.

He' got the shirt on his back and brains in his head. Give him a pencil and a place to stand he won't just move the world: he'll remake it, in his own image (one day this country's currency will bear his countenance) but right now the only note that matters is the single refrain that echoes with every footstep, as he tells himself over, and over, and over: this is my shot, don't throw it away. 

Nobody here knows his name - not yet. 

The rest, so they say, is history - but right now it's just his story, and there’s no rest for the wicked, or the weary, and none at all for Hamilton, who lives his life in perpetual motion

*

Liberty bells peal in the streets as libertine belles spiel in the streets. The Schuyler sisters parade and promenade amid pomade: ribbons thread their hair, revolutionaries emerge everywhere.

Hamilton places bets with Lafayette; mulls with Mulligan and laughs with Laurens.

(The only thing he never does is hem and haw with Burr.)

*

Hamilton writes to Eliza, each billet-doux attesting that this love is true.

*

He is fighting in the trenches and if they can't win outright they can at least not lose - to stretch the conflict out until compromise is untenable, surrender the path of least resistance. 

He's a right-hand man, the man with a plan. 

You can't win a war you don't fight, and water isn't the only thing that can turn the tide. 

*

The world is his oyster and oysters only produce pearls by irritating all that surrounds them. 

*  

Two weeks after Phillip is born, Angelica knocks at the door to the Hamilton’s house in Harlem, and is ushered in by a maid.

In her arms, Eliza cradles her baby. “He’s finally fallen asleep,” says Eliza, hushed; Angelica’s greeting shushed in lieu of hello. Angelica is momentarily confused because Phillip gazes at her alert and wide awake - his father's eyes, exactly - and then she looks over Eliza’s shoulder to the couch where Alexander is sprawling; snoring.

Even in repose, Alexander is never still: his fingers twitch, involuntary - a gesture for a quill?

*

“I told you I was going to change your life,” Angelica whispers into his ear.

“Then by all means, don’t go away.”

She sails off to London, anyway.

*

Phillip is performing another recital, clamouring for Alexander to join Eliza in the chorus. 

“I can’t sing,” Alexander protests, and Eliza nods at Phillip.

“It's a rare day when your father admits he can’t do something,” she teases. 

When he catches Eliza’s eyes, they’re dancing, so he sweeps her up in his arms so that she's dancing -- and romancing is yet another thing he’s taught himself the art of, readying himself in a world he wasn’t born a part of; this emigree orphan American living in the four score and seven.

*

Before most children were tying their shoelaces, Alexander Hamilton was already pulling himself up by his bootstraps. 

Alexander Hamilton is never satisfied - not content to settle for less or to wait for anything less than everything, all at once. 

He can vanquish foes if only he can fight them, right his wrongs as only he can write them.
He’s not young, not anymore, but he’s still scrappy and he knows better than anybody how some people are just born hungry.

Until he takes his last breath, he'll keep building this new nation sky high, in the unblinking eye of a hurricane. 

If life has taught him anything after everything it’s this: time is always running out. Time waits for no man, which he can understand: he's never been one to wait for anything, either.

*

All pomp and no circumstance, Burr remains by his side - impossible to shake and equally impossible to take seriously. Abhorring mediocrity, Hamilton avoids the obvious pun - wits as sharp as his tongue - he invents other invectives. 

He delights in deflating Burr's bombastic at great length and in doing so, outshines foes who lick their wounds as Hamilton rose a hero. 

*

The very first thing Alexander notices about Maria Reynolds is that, improbable as it may seem, she looks like Peggy - wide-eyed and easily astonished. Peggy, who had once confided in him (-- whatever happened to Peggy?).

Angelica, Eliza and Peggy: the Schuyler sisters. What if it never stopped being a question of which one?

*

“Yo, Adams, Imma let you finish, but Washington was the best President of all time. Of ALL. TIME,” intones Alexander Hamilton. He waves his glass for emphasis as the shade of John Laurens raises two pints of Sam Adams (but he’s working on three) while meanwhile in Virginia, the nation's first president finally sits under his own vine and fig tree.

*

When the sordid story of Maria Reynolds unfolds, Eliza is caught in the crossfire - an unfortunate casualty. Alexander's decision to clear his name professionally forever sullies it personally.

Eliza burns every letter he ever wrote; sensibility censored - candor abandoned and the centuries will censure. Ashes to ashes, et cetera.

*

Phillip's death is discordant; a thief - grief a crushing crescendo. In every crevice and corner of their lives, Phillip's absence is a phantasm, a yawning chasm Alexander can never hope to fathom.

There is a sorrow no words can ever bridge, so Alexander lives in silence instead.

It's quiet uptown.

*

Hamilton won't ever equivocate - when asked for his opinion, he gives it straight.

Jefferson's elected president as Burr broods over past precedents. 

*

Epistles become pistols. 

*

Best of nine lives, blessed with wisdom, he rises up at dawn to see if his number's finally up.

They row across the Hudson, waves lap against the boat - Hamilton's life has always been sink or swim; no float.

On the opposite side - as always - Aaron Burr waits.

*

There will always be a million things he hasn't done.

*

He scaffolded the statutes of liberty, fanned a revolutionary spark into a flame that blazed fast and bright and blinding; burning, leaving scorched earth behind and the seeds of a legacy nurtured by Eliza, who tenderly tended and defended his name to the people, by the people, for the people. 

Today, high above the Hudson, Liberty still carries a torch - America a melting pot peopled with those determined to give it a shot; each new voice joining the forever unfinished symphony.

 

 

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 breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-- The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus, 1883