Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Early Wednesday Morning in Gramercy Park: Breakfast at the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Playground

We opened up the gate at the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Playground at 7 a.m. today.

For a long time, we sat there drinking our iced tea by ourselves.

We love the work of Saint-Gaudens, but until we read the biographical information on the sign, we didn't realize that his family had come here from Ireland. Actually, we probably forgot that.

Some of the decorations in the playground are based on the designs of Saint-Gaudens

Our favorite Saint-Gaudens statue is not one of the many in New York that we love but the Clover Adams Memorial at Rock Creek Park in D.C.

In "Passers By," the "interlude" between the last two volumes of Galsworthy's A Modern Comedy trilogy, Soames Forsyte sits by that amazingly beautiful work:
In Washington, District of Columbia, the "Fall" sun shone, and all that was not evergreen or stone in Rock Creek Cemetery was glowing. Before the Saint Gaudens statue Soames Forsyte sat on his overcoat, with the marble screen to his back, enjoying the seclusion and a streak of sunlight passaging between the cypresses.

With his daughter and her husband he had been up here already, the afternoon before, and had taken a fancy to the place. Apart from the general attraction of a cemetery, this statue awakened the connoisseur within him. Though not a thing you could acquire, it was undoubtedly a work of art, and produced a very marked effect.

He did not remember a statue that made him feel so thoroughly at home. That great greenish bronze figure of seated woman within the hooding folds of her ample cloak seemed to carry him down to the bottom of his own soul. Yesterday, in the presence of Fleur, Michael, and other people, all gaping like himself, he had not so much noted the mood of the thing as its technical excellence, but now, alone, he could enjoy the luxury of his own sensations. Some called it "Grief," some "The Adams Memorial." He didn't know, but in any case there it was, the best thing he had come across in America, the one that gave him the most pleasure, in spite of all the water he had seen at Niagara and those skyscrapers in New York. Three times he had changed his position on that crescent marble seat, varying his sensations every time. From his present position the woman had passed beyond grief. She sat in a frozen acceptance deeper than death itself, very remarkable! There was something
about death! He remembered his own father, James, a quarter of an hour after death, as if--as if he had been told at last!

A red-oak leaf fell on to his lapel, another on to his knee; Soames did not brush them off. Easy to sit still in front of that thing! They ought to make America sit there once a week!

He rose, crossed towards the statue, and gingerly touched a fold in the green bronze, as if questioning the possibility of everlasting nothingness.

"Got a sister living in Dallas--married a railroad man down there as a young girl. Why! Texas is a wonderful State. I know my sister laughs at the idea that the climate of Texas isn't about right."

Soames withdrew his hand from the bronze, and returned to his seat.
Two tall thin elderly figures were entering the sanctuary. They moved into the middle and stood silent. Presently one said "Well!" and they moved out again at the other end. A little stir of wind fluttered some fallen leaves at the base of the statue. Soames shifted along to the extreme left. From there the statue was once more woman--very noble! And he sat motionless in his attitude of a thinker, the lower part of his face buried in his hand.

Considerably browned and distinctly healthy-looking, he was accustomed to regard himself as worn out by his long travel, which, after encircling the world, would end, the day after tomorrow, by embarkation on the Adelphic. This three-day run to Washington was the last straw, and he was supporting it very well. The city was pleasing; it had some fine buildings and a great many trees with the tints on; there wasn't the rush of New York, and plenty of houses that people could live in, he should think. Of course the place was full of Americans, but that was unavoidable.

Eventually three boys came in to play tag for fifteen minutes or so before they went off to school, presumably the Salk School of Science (Middle School 255) or P.S. 40 next door.

It was a nice start to a rare summerlike day in early April.

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