Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/351

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311
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

Boxer," which stands in the central carmine arch, filling the whole hall with its colossal strength, calmness and beauty. A beauty higher than that of the "Nymph," lovely as she is; more potent than that of "The Sophokles," with all his marvelous grace and eloquence. The others are imaginatively great; this is profoundly so. Not merely because it is an ambitious modernism, though this is much; nor that it is more or less a portrait of a world-renowned subject, which matters nothing for to-day, though it is likely to become a real value a hundred or a thousand years hence. But because it is, as all noble art must be, a symbol that is higher than a mere fact, or any thousand facts. It is absurd to say that this is a statue of Sullivan, the boxer, even though he posed for it. It is a hundred Sullivans in one. It is the essential meaning and expression of all such men as Sullivan. It is just what the great sculptor who conceived it calls it: "The Boxer," a personification of the power, will, grace, beauty, brutality, and majesty of the perfect pugilist of modern times.

It is a statue which, once seen, can never be forgotten. It is unlike all other statues in the world—as unlike the glorious "David" of Angelo as the "David" is unlike the "Discohulus" of the Athenian master.

One of the wonders of the exhibition is that the same man could produce all three statues. The "Nymph" no more resembles "The Boxer" than flowing water resembles ironstone. One illustrates the airy lightness of grace, peace, and freedom; the other the heavy purpose of violence, force, and domination. But as Nature is equally beautiful in every phase, so are these antipodal figures equal in beauty. The lilybends of the "Nymph," the lovely feet, hands, and throat, are not more beautiful of line or curve than the vast limits of the athlete. Standing at the farther end of the hall this may be clearly seen. At this distance the fell purpose of mouth and level eye is modified, and the dreadful threat of the brutal hands (the only brutal feature of the statue) is considerably lessened; but the grace of the muscular torso, the band-like muscles of neck, shoulders, and sides, and the wonderful modeling of the legs are seen with striking distinctness.

This statue stands for nineteenth century boxing for all time. There is no gloss of savagery in the dreadful hands and lowered frontal; but the truth is grandly told of the strength, quality, and physical perfection. It is the statue of a magnificent athlete, worthy of ancient Athens, and distinctly and proudly true of modern Boston.

Strangers visiting Boston will ask for years to come: "Where is the statue of "The Boxer"? And should the city be fortunate enough and wise enough to keep this great work in immortal bronze in one of our halls or galleries, it is as sure to win international renown as the towering "Young David" in Florence.

Two Gladstonian envoys, Sir Thomas H. G. Esmonde