Registered: Apr 93
posted 12-06-2019 04:19 PM
Few lives have been lived in America, or in any country, more worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance than that of William Cullen Bryant. Tile poet who wrote “Thanatopsis” in his youth has seen nearly three generations go down into the grave with the comfort of his reconciling words, and is still among us, the years yet full for him of the fruitage of good works. Indeed the coming years must always be the richer for the abiding influence of the poems and life of one who is recognized by most as the greatest of American poets and who has been always one of the most typical and exemplary of American citizens. Such a life is in one sense its own best monument, yet it is fitting that the gratitude of a community for such a good should be voiced in some permanent memorial, which should testify at once to the greatness and fullness of the life and the honor with which it was regarded by the generations among which it was lived.
It was a happy thought of Rev. Dr. Samuel Osgood that the eightieth birthday of Mr. Bryant should be celebrated by the provision of some such memorial, and it is to his suggestion and the eager co-operation of other members of the Century Club, of which Mr. Bryant is the President, that we owe “ the Bryant Vase.” The vase is to be presented to him, but after his death it is to be placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the art treasury of our city and the proper abiding-place of an art-monument bearing the foremost name recorded in its annals.
It was decided that the memorial should take the somewhat novel, but fitting, form of a commemorative vase, in solid silver of the best American art manufacture. A design had already been prepared at the suggestion of Dr. Osgood, by Tiffany & Co., but the committee of twenty-five appointed from the Century Club, among whom were, besides the originator of the idea as Chairman, Dr. Bellows, Dr. Potter, Wm. H. Appleton, John Taylor Johnston, B. H. Field, Jos. H. Choate, and as well-known citizens, proposed to open the award to competition and invited other silversmiths to submit designs. The conditions were that the vase should be of solid silver, thirty inches high, and cost $5000.
This left a wide range of design to the artist, who indeed could scarcely have had a more fertile field of invention. Mr. Bryant was, first and foremost, a poet, a peculiarly American poet and accepted as our greatest. He was also a great journalist, one of the most noble and influential among us, and by virtue of this a statesman; and his public utterances had made him famous as an orator. He had also been among our leading philanthropists and reformers, and bore a prominent part in that most inspiring of triumphs, the freeing of a race. In fact, he has been identified alike with our literature and our history. The absolute purity of his life as a citizen and a man would alone have entitled him to veneration. He was at once the interpreter of Nature and the ministrant of Art. Classic in the simplicity of his thought and diction, he was thoroughly a modern in his appreciations and sympathies; his trans1ations of Homer, the finest the world has produced, linked the early age to our latter days. what richness of possibility thus opened to the designer in the choice of thought and the use of emblems! His life and his poems were so full of opportunities that the main difficulty was an embarrass de richesse.
Five designs were submitted to the gentlemen having control in the matter. They were designed and submitted respectively by Mr. Jas. H. Whitehouse, Tiffany & Co.; Mr. T. J. Fairpoint, Gorham Silver Company; Mr. Chas. Osborne, Whiting Manufacturing Co.; Mr. C. Witteck, who designed those submitted both by Starr & Marcus and Black, Starr & Frost. All found admirers, but those which met with most favor were the three first named, of which we give engravings, through the courtesy of the Messrs. Appleton, in whose admirable Art Journal (American edition) they appeared. Excellent cuts of all five were given in a recent number of the Journal, the only criticism to be passed upon the engravings being that, since each vase was reduced to the size block, by different standards, the cuts fail to give an adequate idea of their importance. The Gorham vase, it should be noted, is the especial suffer from this cause, while the Tiffany vase gains relatively in the engraving.
The accepted vase, after the Tiffany design, is of Greek form, with open top, the body being of the shape of an egg, and is thirty inches in height. It is to be executed in oxidized silver. The chief feature of this vase is the simplicity of its general design. Most of the decoration is in sufficiently low relief to preserve unity of outline, and this effect is perhaps the best point in the successful design. On the other hand there is less poetry, invention and freedom, we may say less inspiration than in any of the others. It seems as though the designer had not made the most of the opportunities of his subject, although such decoration as he has used displays true artistic skill in the adaptation of American plant forms for decorative purposes and a happy use of the symbolization of plants. The patterns he has designed entirely cover the surface of the vase, and, setting aside the question of artist inspiration, are the work of a thoroughly designer. As apiece of fertile design, the preference is certainly to be given to the Tiffany vase, which is noble, massive and rich, but as an example of higher art, it is surpassed, we think, by both the others here illustrated. And the use of a noble metal should permit much more freedom than is possible in the ordinary material of vases.
The zone of the vase is occupied by a belt of six medallions, the front one being an admirable portrait of Mr. Bryant's noble head, crowned by the classic wreath. Above this medallion is the lyre of the poet, below the primitive printing press, recalling his journalistic career. The other medallions follow the story of his life with scenes wrought in low relief. One shows his father pointing him to his career:-
For be is in the grave who taught my youth
The art of verse, and in the bud of life
Offered me to the muses.
Another represents the poet musing in the wood.
STRANGER, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men,
And made thee loathe thy life.
Another shows the editor at his work, and another the translator interpreting Homer to these later days. Directly under the portrait medallion is a smaller circle, in which the "water-fowl" is seen winging its way across the sky:-
Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?
Vainly the fowler’s eye
Might mark thy distant flight, to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.
Seek’st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
On the chaféd ocean side?
There is a Power, whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,—
The desert and illimitable air
Lone wandering, but not lost.
An oval medallion on the neck of the vase shows "The Fringed Gentian:"
Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven’s own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.
Thou comest not when violets lean
O’er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o’er the ground-bird’s hidden nest.
Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue-blue-as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.
I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.
-and the band running around from this bears as legend the most famous and most inspiring line Mr. Bryant has written:
"Truth crushed to earth will rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers."
The handles display a happy adaptation, in full open work, of the Indian corn plant, and are ornamented on the outside with the bursting bolls of cotton. Within perches the bobolink, Bryant's "Robert of Lincoln:-"
MERRILY swinging on brier and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name:
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe is that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln is gayly dressed,
Wearing a bright black wedding coat;
White are his shoulders and white his crest,
Hear him call in his merry note:
Spink, spank, spink;
Look, what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee.
This use of plants, as we have said, is a salient feature of the design. On the base of the neck is a formalized pattern of the primrose and the ivy leaf, symbolizing youth and old age, the poet's eternal youth amid snow crowned years, which admirably replaces the Greek egg and dart design. The body of the vase is covered by a formal fret work among which the apple blooms typical of fruitfulness, peep out, the eglantine and amaranth, signifying poetry and immortality, being interwoven with them. The maize and cotton plants are again used on the lower part of the body, these being peculiarly American products, and at the foot of the vase is a leaf of the water-lily, which is symbolical of eloquence.
As originally designed this vase stood upon feet, which made it appear of the commonplace presentation sort and were quite incongruous with its general purpose. It seems to have occasioned some dissatisfaction among the other competitors that this design was permitted to be modified and improved from suggestions found in the competing vase. It has now, in place of the feet, a monumental pedestal, which admirably supports the design of the vase, and is simply adorned with a device of the lyre, crossed pens and broken shackles, the last of course suggestion Mr. Bryant's part in the anti-slavery reform.
The top unlike all the Other designs presented, is open a feature which has called out some criticism as making the vase incomplete and suggesting its use a receptacle, of wine or flowers, rather than its true monumental purpose.
The vase here pictured and described is now being manufactured, and will forever as a tribute of gratitude from the citizens of New York to Mr. Bryant, in our Metropolitan Museum. Doubtless this new and effective method of commemoration will not be given over, and thus an impulse will be given to American art manufacture that will do very much for its future. We are already competing with the world in this particular specially and the originators or the Bryant vase have been doubly patriotic in at once becoming so eminent an American and so promoting this branch of American art.
The Gorham design was the most ambitions of any presented, and the vase was to have been four feet high. Its redaction in the engraving therefore makes it appear much less in diameter compared to the others than it really would be. Both the size and the elaborate workmanship which this design required increased its probable cost to nearly double the limit of the Committee, but the Gorham Company, with characteristic pride in art manufacture and desire that what ought to be the finest piece of metalwork yet produced in this country should in no way fall below the possibilities of the art, generously requested that the over-value (of nearly five thousand dollars) should be accepted as its contribution to the fund.
This vase is tall and slender, very beautiful in proportions, and of pure Greek outline, broken only somewhat below the middle by a twist fillet. The neck of the vase is quite plain, and the top is surmounted by a statuesque figure of winged Fame, the wings out-spread and the hands holding the emblems of her power.
The pedestal is the most original feature of this design; it is circular, thirty-eight inches in circumference, and about it in alto-relievo are six bold groups, illustrating different poems of Mr. Bryant’s. These rest on a circular platform, on the front of which is the name W. C. Bryant, and which is ornamented at the side with wreaths of laurel.
The reader will gather a more full idea of the richness of the sculptured base from the outline drawing given of its full circumference. The figures in each of these groups are ten inches high, and wrought mostly in full relief. They are very ingeniously placed, so as to give each illustration the best relative effect, the picture from “Waiting by the Gate” being peculiarly suited for the front. The poems selected for illustration are ‘Thanatopsis,’ ‘The Death of Slavery,’ ‘Waiting by the Gate,' ‘The Conquers Grave,’ ‘A Day Dream,’ and the translation of Homer’s Odyssey. We quote them with a few extracts which may serve pleasantly to refresh the memory.
"Thanatopsis" is represented by the figure! of the on the long train of ages in figures from youth to decrepitude, and in costumes from classic and medieval to modern times:-
As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's fresh spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man,—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
"The Death of Slavery" is typified by the three emancipated figures of the family; the man tossing his arms with broken shackles towards heaven and shouting; the woman holding up her free babe as she kneels to thank God for its new destiny:
O THOU great Wrong, that, through the slow-paced years,
Didst hold thy millions fettered, and didst wield
The scourge that drove the laborer to the field,
And turn a stony gaze on human tears,
Thy cruel reign is o’er;
Thy bondmen crouch no more
In terror at the menace of thine eye;
For He who marks the bounds of guilty power,
Long-suffering, hath heard the captive’s cry,
And touched his shackles at the appointed hour,
And lo! they fall, and he whose limbs they galled
Stands in his native manhood, disenthralled.
"Waiting by the Gate" shows four young children floating in clouds out of the gate towards heaven, indicated by rays of glory and circles of stars in the background; leaving Death, symbolized by the seythe, behind them:-
Beside a massive gateway built up in years gone by,
Upon whose top the clouds in eternal shadow lie,
While streams the evening sunshine on quiet wood and lea,
I stand and calmly wait till the hinges turn for me.
- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -
Once more the gates are opened; an infant group go out,
The sweet smile quenched forever, and stilled the sprightly shout,
O frail, frail tree of Life, that upon the greensward strows
Its fair young buds unopened, with every wind that blows!
The Conqueror's Grave" is illustrated by the ascent of the soul, in a female figure, and radiant with Celestial joy, rising to heaven amidst a shower of flowers thrown to her from welcoming hands. On the ground beneath her feet is a figure of Death, disarmed, chained down, and writhing in rage that he is powerless to do her harm:-
WITHIN this lowly grave a Conqueror lies,
And yet the monument proclaims it not,
Nor round the sleeper's name hath chisel wrought
The emblems of a fame that never dies,
Ivy and amaranth, in a graceful sheaf,
Twined with the laurel's fair, imperial leaf.
A simple name alone,
To the great world unknown,
Is graven here, and wild-flowers, rising round,
Meek meadow-sweet and violets of the ground,
Lean lovingly against the humble stone.
Here, in the quiet earth, they laid apart
No man of iron mould and bloody hands,
Who sought to wreak upon the cowering lands
The passions that consumed his restless heart;
But one of tender spirit and delicate frame,
Gentlest, in mien and mind,
Of gentle womankind,
Timidly shrinking from the breath of blame:
One in whose eyes the smile of kindness made
Its haunt, like flowers by sunny brooks in May,
Yet, at the thought of others' pain, a shade
Of sweeter sadness chased the smile away.
"A Day Dream" represents the poet seated on a rock overlooking the sea with the waves dashing up nearly to his feet; and female forms appear rising from the sea, clad in thin drapery, with long, flowing tresses, sporting in and on the waves, and extending their arms to him:
A day-dream by the dark-blue deep;
Was it a dream, or something more?
I sat where Posilippo's steep,
With its gray shelves, o'erhung the shore.
On ruined Roman walls around
The poppy flaunted, for 'twas May;
And at my feet, with gentle sound,
Broke the light billows of the bay.
I sat and watched the eternal flow
Of those smooth billows toward the shore,
While quivering lines of light below
Ran with them on the ocean-floor.
Till, from the deep, there seemed to rise
White arms upon the waves outspread,
Young faces, lit with soft blue eyes,
And smooth, round cheeks, just touched with red.
Their long, fair tresses, tinged with gold,
Lay floating on the ocean-streams,
And such their brows as bards behold —
Love-stricken bards — in morning dreams.
"The Odyssey" is represented by the figure of Ulysses sailing away from Calypso's enchanted island, with his hand on the helm of his ship, and gazing for guidance on the Pleiades.
A large slightly sunk panel, containing a portrait in low relief of Mr. Bryant, as he now appears, in his familiar cloak, is the prominent feature of the ornamentation on the body of the vase. Around this portrait are branches of the laurel, about which twines a ribbon with inscriptions, "Journalist" in the centre below the portrait and at the sides "Poet," "Statesman" "Orator" "lawyer" - the latter vention seeming to make up the requisite five. On the reverse was to be an ideal figure of Journalism, this apparently being the phase of Mr. Bryant's life most prominent in this designer's mind, with branches of the power-symbolizing oak. The foot of the vase is bordered with laurel wreaths; above, the ornamentation is on one side of wheat, suggesting "The Song of the Sower," and on the other of "The Yellow Violet." The handles illustrate Mr. Bryant's poems on birds. On the one side is the Water-fowl, on the other "Robert of Lincoln" while the reverse of the handles were to picture "The Coming of the Birds" and "The Last Bird:"-
When beechen buds begin to swell,
And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,
The yellow violet’s modest bell
Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.
Ere russet fields their green resume,
Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,
To meet thee, when thy faint perfume
Alone is in the virgin air.
Of all her train, the hands of Spring
First plant thee in the watery mould,
And I have seen thee blossoming
Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.
Thy parent sun, who bade thee view
Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,
Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,
And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.
Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,
And earthward bent thy gentle eye,
Unapt the passing view to meet
When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.
Oft, in the sunless April day,
Thy early smile has stayed my walk;
But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,
I passed thee on thy humble stalk.
So they, who climb to wealth, forget
The friends in darker fortunes tried.
I copied them—but I regret
That I should ape the ways of pride.
And when again the genial hour
Awakes the painted tribes of light,
I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower
That made the woods of April bright.
The design submitted by the Whiting Company was very rich in variety of detail, and it, also, loses some of its effects, for this reason, in the reduction of the engraving. The vase was to be thirty-eight inches high, oxidized and parcel gilt, and its cost would also have far exceeded the sum named by the Committee. The Whiting Company proposed however to make the same offer as that made by the Gorham Company — a generous rivalry in devotion to American art interests and in far-sighted policy which is highly to the credit of both.
The body of this vase is also of classic outline, the shape of an egg. flattened at the heavier end. This form is however much varied in effect by the handles, which are of a rich open-work scroll pattern, and the month and cover, which are bent in varied curves. The base rests on a square monumental pedestal of variegated marble, with silver adornments, while from the cover rises the fine group of Truth and Error, in illustration of the familiar lines already quoted.
The aim of the Whiting artist has evidently been to adhere to a severity of outline in the base and body of the work that the rich ornamentation above might be more effective and that the free use of sculpture, as it were, necessary to the suitable illustration of the prominent features in the poems and lire of Mr. Bryant might be introduced without giving an appearance of excess. The most marked feature of divergence from the other designs is this base. Three adopted a pedestal fully ornamented with figures in full relief, and one need a base of four feet. Mr. Osborn, considering the monumental purpose of the entire work, preferred to give that character to his base, and his thought has since been adopted, as appears in the engraving, for the accepted vase. The Whiting pedestal is however by no means bare, for there are four panels of silver with illustrations in repoussee set in on the respective sides, while above and below them narrow borders of silver surround the base. The front panel pictures “the endless procession” of “Thanatopsis,” a host of shadowy forms following to the grave; on the other face was to be an illustration from "The Conqueror's Grave." The panels on the two sides were to represent the earlier and later days or the poet, Homer's day and our own. The one shows "Homer reciting his poetry," the other Mr. Bryant himself surrounded by the modern means of disseminating thought, -the telegraph and the cylinder press suggesting Mr. Bryant's career as a journalist.
But it is in the ornamentation of the body of the vase that the peculiar originality and beauty of this vase is shown. In the front centre is a medallion containing a fine portrait of Mr. Bryant, his shoulders cloaked, the frame being a wreath of laurel. Below this is the monogram 1874. The reverse was to have a shield medal1ion for an inscription. The Four spaces left were to be filled with illustrations from Mr. Bryant's poems.
That on the right of the portrait medallion was to be occupied by an exquisitely wrought picture form the "Song of the Sower:"-
The maples redden in the sun;
In autumn gold the beeches stand;
Rest, faithful plough, thy work is done
Upon the teeming land.
Bordered with trees whose gay leaves fly
On every breath that sweeps the sky,
The fresh dark acres furrowed lie,
And ask the sower's hand.
Loose the tired steer and let him go
To pasture where the gentians blow,
And we, who till the grateful ground,
Fling we the golden shower around.
Fling wide the generous grain; we fling
O'er the dark mould the green of spring.
For thick the emerald blades shall grow,
When first the March winds melt the snow,
And to the sleeping flowers, below,
The early bluebirds sing.
Fling wide the grain; we give the fields
The ears that nod in summer's gale,
The shining stems that summer gilds,
The harvest that o'erflows the vale,
And swells, an amber sea, between
The full-leaved woods, its shores of green.
Hark! from the murmuring clods I hear
Glad voices of the coming year;
The song of him who binds the grain,
The shout of those that load the wain,
And from the distant grange there comes
The clatter of the thresher's flail,
And steadily the millstone hums
Down in the willowy vale.
Fling wide the golden shower; we trust
The strength of armies to the dust.
This peaceful lea may haply yield
Its harvest for the tented field.
Ha! feel ye not your fingers thrill,
As o'er them, in the yellow grains,
Glide the warm drops of blood that fill,
For mortal strife, the warrior's veins;
Such as, on Solferino's day,
Slaked the brown sand and flowed away —
Flowed till the herds, on Mincio's brink,
Snuffed the red stream and feared to drink; —
Blood that in deeper pools shall lie,
On the sad earth, as time grows gray,
When men by deadlier arts shall die,
And deeper darkness blot the sky
Above the thundering fray;
And realms, that hear the battle-cry,
Shall sicken with dismay;
And chieftains to the war shall lead
Whole nations, with the tempest's speed,
To perish in a day; —
Till man, by love and mercy taught,
Shall rue the wreck his fury wrought,
And lay the sword away!
Oh strew, with pausing, shuddering hand,
The seed upon the helpless land,
As if, at every step, ye cast
The pelting hail and riving blast.
That on the left was to be given to an illustration from the dainty conception of "Sella:"-
Then Sella hung the slippers in the porch
Of that broad rustic lodge, and all who passed
Admired their fair contexture, but none knew
Who left them by the brook. And now, at length,
May, with her flowers and singing birds, had gone,
And on bright streams and into deep wells shone
The high, midsummer sun. One day, at noon,
Sella was missed from the accustomed meal.
They sought her in her favorite haunts, they looked
By the great rock and far along the stream,
And shouted in the sounding woods her name.
Night came, and forth the sorrowing household went
With torches over the wide pasture-grounds,
To pool and thicket, marsh and briery dell,
And solitary valley far away.
The morning came, and Sella was not found.
The sun climbed high; they sought her still; the noon,
The hot and silent noon, heard Sella's name,
Uttered with a despairing cry, to wastes
O'er which the eagle hovered. As the sun
Stooped toward the amber west to bring the close
Of that sad second day, and, with red eyes,
The mother sat within her home alone,
Sella was at her side. A shriek of joy
Broke the sad silence; glad, warm tears were shed,
And words of gladness uttered. “Oh, forgive,”
The maiden said, “that I could e'er forget,”
Thy wishes for a moment. I just tried
The slippers on, amazed to see them shaped
So fairly to my feet, when, all at once,
I felt my steps upborne and hurried on
Almost as if with wings. A strange delight,
Blent with a thrill of fear, o'ermastered me,
And, ere I knew, my splashing steps were set
Within the rivulet's pebbly bed, and I
Was rushing down the current. By my side
Tripped one as beautiful as ever looked
From white clouds in a dream; and, as we ran,
She talked with musical voice and sweetly laughed.
Gayly we leaped the crag and swam the pool,
And swept with dimpling eddies round the rock,
And glided between shady meadow-banks.
The streamlet, broadening as we went, became
A swelling river, and we shot along
By stately towns, and under leaning masts
Of gallant barks, nor lingered by the shore
Of blooming gardens; onward, onward still,
The same strong impulse bore me, till, at last,
We entered the great deep, and passed below
His billows, into boundless spaces, lit
With a green sunshine. Here were mighty groves
Far down the ocean-valleys, and between
Lay what might seem fair meadows, softly tinged
With orange and with crimson. Here arose
Tall stems, that, rooted in the depths below,
Swung idly with the motions of the sea;
And here were shrubberies in whose mazy screen
The creatures of the deep made haunt. My friend
Named the strange growths, the pretty coralline,
The dulse with crimson leaves, and, streaming far,
Sea-thong and sea-lace. Here the tangle spread
Its broad, thick fronds, with pleasant bowers beneath;
And oft we trod a waste of pearly sands,
Spotted with rosy shells, and thence looked in
At caverns of the sea whose rock-roofed halls
Lay in blue twilight. As we moved along,
The dwellers of the deep, in mighty herds,
Passed by us, reverently they passed us by,
Long trains of dolphins rolling through the brine,
Huge whales, that drew the waters after them,
A torrent-stream, and hideous hammer-sharks,
Chasing their prey. I shuddered as they came;
Gently they turned aside and gave us room.”
Above the portrait was to be an illustration from "The Little People of the Snow:"
Now you must know that, in those early times,
When autumn days grew pale, there came a troop
Of childlike forms from that cold mountain-top;
With trailing garments through the air they came,
Or walked the ground with girded loins, and threw
Spangles of silvery frost upon the grass,
And edged the brooks with glistening parapets,
And built it crystal bridges, touched the pool,
And turned its face to glass, or, rising thence,
They shook from their full laps the soft, light snow,
And buried the great earth, as autumn winds
Bury the forest-floor in heaps of leaves.
A beautiful race were they, with baby brows,
And fair, bright locks, and voices like the sound
Of steps on the crisp snow, in which they talked
With man, as friend with friend. A merry sight
It was, when, crowding round the traveller,
They smote him with their heaviest snow-flakes, flung
Needles of frost in handfuls at his cheeks,
And, of the light wreaths of his smoking breath,
Wove a white fringe for his brown beard, and laughed
Their slender laugh to see him wink and grin
And make grim faces as he floundered on.
The opposite space was to Suggest the "Lines to a Water-Fowl." On the neck is "Robert of Lincoln," in high relief and full flush of spirits, and there were to be three other subjects to match the zone of the vase is a row of small varied medallions, in which is sculptured the abundant animal life voiced in Bryant's song, the squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, beaver and others which he mentions, while still below, as the vase tapers, is a series of sunken panels, in which are to be found the wild flowers and grasses be so loves, the fern, the fringed gentian, the mullen, the hollyhock, sunflower, typifying his fondness for nature in its simplest forms. At the very foot there is a wreath of laurel entwined with a ribbon, which was to have the titles of the best known poems of our poet laureate. In the ornamentation of the handles the cotton plant and sugarcane are introduced, proclaiming the nationality or the poet.
But the crowning glory of this design is the allegorical group which surmounts it, and which is exquisitely modeled. The pinching of the neck seems to have been intended by the artist to give effectiveness to this vigorous group. Below writhes Error, with hideous and distorted face, the mask fallen to reveal his horrid nature. Above him soars the figure of Truth, rising to heaven. A lovely female shape, with face chastened by the experience of suffering, the manacles sundered from her hands and feet. A superb effect has been wrought in the design by making the figure itself independent of support, which is ingeniously found in the drapery of her garment. The airy lightness of the figure, seemingly unsupported from any base, is exquisite, and the group is one of the finest interpretations of the poem which can be conceived.