Greenwich Village - A Last Word
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
AND after all this,—what of the Village? Just what is it?
" In my experience," said the writing man of sententious sayings, " there have been a dozen ` villages.' The Village changes are like the waves of the sea ! "
Interrogated further, he mentioned various phases which Greenwich had known. The studioand-poverty Bohemian epoch, the labour and anarchy era, the futurist fad, the " free love " cult, the Bohemian-and-masquerade-ball period, the psychoanalysis craze; the tea-shop epidemic, the arts-and-crafts obsession, the play-acting mania; and other violent and more or less transient enthusiasms which had possessed the Village during the years he had lived there. Not wholly transient, he admitted. Something of each and all of them had remained—had stuck—as he expressed it. The Village assimilates ideas with miraculous speed; it gobbles them up, gets strong and well on the diet, and asks for more. It is so eager for novelty and new ideals and new view-points that if nothing entirely virgin comes along, it will take something quite old, and give it a new twist and adopt it with Village-like ardour.
Oh, you mustn't laugh at the Village, you wise uptowners,—or if you laugh it must be very, very gently and kindly, as you laugh at children; and rather reverently, too, in the knowledge that in lots of essentials the children know ever so much more than you do!
It is true that changes do come over the Village like the waves of the sea, even as my friend said. But they are colourful waves, prismatic waves, fresh, invigourating and energetic waves, carrying on their crests iridescent seaweed and glittering shells and now and then a pearl. The Village has its treasure, have no doubt of that; never a phase touches it but leaves it the richer for the contact.
You, too, going down into this port o' dreams will win something of the wealth that is of the heart and soul and mind. You will come away with the sense of wider horizons and deeper penetrations than you knew before. You will find novel colours in the work-a-day world and a sort of quaint music in the song of the city. Some of the glowing reds and greens and purples that you saw those grown-up children in the Village joyously splashing on their wooden toys or the walls of their absurd and charming " shops " will somehow get into the grey fabric of your life; and a certain eager urging under-tone of idealism and hope and sturdy aspiration will make you restless as you follow your common round. Perhaps you will go back. Perhaps you will keep it as a rainbow memory, a visualisation of the make-believe country where anything is possible. But in any case you will not forget.
Many a place gets into your mind and creates nostalgia when you are far from it. But Greenwich Village gets into your heart, and you will never be quite able to lose the magic of it all the days of your life.