Literary walk, Central Park

Often described as the only straight line in Central Park, the promenade along the literary walk provides a leisurely stroll among rare and majestic American Elm trees. On this visit, during the pandemic, there were no artists painting caricatures; no buskers playing tunes; no hot dog vendors and no throngs of tourists. It was just a quiet walk in the Park, looking at the statues, and trying to recall what they had penned. I tried to imagine a time in the 1850s when carriages would drop off members of New York society to stroll through Central Park and to socialize with others.

The first ‘literary’ statue that was installed in the park along the mall was Shakespeare’s, honoring the 300th anniversary of his birth.

The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: 
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 
(Portia, Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Scene 1)

As you walk further along, you see the sculpture of Walter Scott, credited with inventing the historical novel. 

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
  This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!—
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell.
From “The Lay of the Last Minstrel.”

Right across from Scott is Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland who holds a quill pen in his hand.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
From Auld Lang Syne

Further along is Fitz-Greene Halleck, a 19th-century poet and satirist whose poetry has been studied for what it reveals about the social world of the nineteenth century.

Money is power, ’tis said—I never tried;  I’m but a poet—and bank-notes to me  Are curiosities, as closely eyed,  Whene’er I get them, as a stone would be,  Toss’d from the moon on Doctor Mitchill’s table, Or classic brickbat from the tower of Babel  From Fanny

Perhaps the most significant and very recent addition to the literary walk is the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, the first one to depict actual women. Figures of Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton commemorate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

This is the first sculpture that was installed since 1965. It signifies that times are changing. In the midst of a pandemic, one can hope that it will bring positive change for everyone. A time when hope, equality and fairness are on our minds.

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