William Cullen Bryant Memorial

  • Sculptor: Herbert Adams
  • Architect: Thomas Hastings
  • Dedicated: 1911
  • Medium and size: Overall about 50 feet wide; bronze figure (6 feet), marble canopy and pedestal flanked by urns and balustrades
  • Location: Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 42nd and 41st Streets
  • Subway: B, D, F, V to 42nd Street - Bryant Park

Bryant ensemble

Bryant figure

The Columbian Exposition

The Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-1893 (see Columbus in Central Park) spurred urban renewal programs across the United States. The City Beautiful monuments illustrated in the video are (in order) the Straus Memoria, Schurz, Ericsson, the Maine Monument, and America (one of the Continents).
Among the buildings illustrated are Pennsylvania Station (construction supervised by Rea) and Grand Central Terminal (see Vanderbilt and Glory of Commerce).

For more on the City Beautiful movement in New York, see the 3-part series on ForgottenDelights.com (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Bryant vs. Cooper

Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide discusses the significant differences between Bryant (1911) and the superficially similar Peter Cooper by Augustus Saint Gaudens (1894).

Cooper figure

Above: Peter Cooper, by Augustus Saint Gaudens, 1894

Cross References

Many of the figures whose sculptures stand in Manhattan today have connections with each other, but Bryant had more than most.

  • Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune and James Gordon Bennett, Sr. (father of owl fetishist James Gordon Bennett, Jr.) of the New York Herald are mentioned in the episode for their contrast to Bryant’s editorial style. The coverage of Black Friday in 1869 (see Bennett) is a perfect example of their differing approaches to reporting.
  • Bryant ran the New York Post, founded by Alexander Hamilton.
  • He introduced Lincoln for his famous "right makes might" campaign speech at the Cooper Union in February 1860, and read a moving poem at Union Square after Lincoln's assasssination ("Oh, slow to smite and swift to spare, / Gentle and merciful and just!").
    He delivered a eulogy of Washington Irving (who had introduced Bryant's poetry to British audiences). A bust of Irving stands on Irving Place at 17th St.
  • Bryant spoke at the unveiling of several early statues in Central Park: Shakespeare, poets Halleck and Scott on the Literary Walk, and Italian patriot Mazzini. After the Mazzini speech, given on a hot June day in 1878, 84-year-old Bryant tripped on a friend's doorstep and suffered the head injury that led to his death a few weeks later.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan has a detailed comparison of the sculptures of Bryant and Cooper, and a consideration of Bryant's stature as a writer.

"My Autumn Walk," by William Cullen Bryant

This was written in October 1864, when the Civil War had been raging for over 3 years and casualties had passed half a million.

On woodlands ruddy with autumn
 The amber sunshine lies;
I look on the beauty round me,
And tears come into my eyes.

 For the wind that sweeps the meadows
Blows out of the far Southwest,
Where our gallant men are fighting,
And the gallant dead are at rest.

The golden-rod is leaning,
And the purple aster waves,
In a breeze from the land of battles,
A breath from the land of graves.

Full fast the leaves are dropping
Before that wandering breath;
As fast, on the field of battle,
Our brethren fall in death.

Beautiful over my pathway
The forest spoils are shed;
They are spotting the grassy hillocks
With purple and gold and red.

Beautiful is the death-sleep
Of those who bravely fight
In their country’s holy quarrel,
And perish for the Right.

But who shall comfort the living,
The light of whose homes is gone:
The bride that, early widowed,
Lives broken-hearted on;

The matron whose sons are lying
In graves on a distant shore;
The maiden, whose promised husband
Comes back from the war no more?

I look on the peaceful dwellings
Whose windows glimmer in sight,
With croft and garden and orchard,
That bask in the mellow light;

And I know that, when our couriers
With news of victory come,
They will bring a bitter message
Of hopeless grief to some.

 O for the fresh spring-season,
When the groves are in their prime,
And far away in the future
Is the frosty autumn-time!

O for that better season,
When the pride of the foe shall yield,
And the hosts of God and Freedom
March back from the well-won field; 

And the matron shall clasp her first-born
With tears of joy and pride;
And the scarred and war-worn lover
Shall claim his promised bride!

The leaves are swept from the branches;
But the living buds are there,
With folded flower and foliage,
To sprout in kinder air. -- William Cullen Bryant

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante