Graven On The Tablet Of The Heart
( Originally Published 1902 )
SOME friends of Rev. Dr. Theodore L. Cuyler of Brooklyn proposed to erect a statue in his honor in Cuyler Park, corner of Fulton street and Greene avenue, Brooklyn ; to which he objected, in the following note :
" MY DEAR FRIENDS : I have just received your kind letter, in which you express the desire of yourselves and of several prominent citizens, that I would consent to the erection of a `memorial in Cuyler Park,' to be placed there by the voluntary contributions of generous friends here and elsewhere. Do not, I entreat you, regard me as indifferent to a proposal whose motive affords the most profound and heartfelt gratification. But a work of art in bronze or marble (such as has been suggested) that would be creditable to our city, would require an outlay of money that I cannot conscientiously consent to have expended for the purpose of personal honor rather than of public utility.
" Several years ago the city authorities honored me by giving my name to the attractive plot of ground at the junction of Fulton street and Greene avenue. If my most esteemed friend, the Park Commissioner, will kindly have my name visibly and permanently affixed to that little park, and will direct that it be always kept as bright and beautiful with flowers as it now is, I shall be abundantly satisfied. I have been permitted to spend forty-one supremely happy years in this city, which I love, and for whose people I have joyfully labored, and, while the permanent fruits of these labors remain, I trust that I shall not pass out of all affectionate remembrance. The monuments reared by human hands may vanish away, but if God has enabled me to engrave my humble name on any loving hearts they will be the best memorials, for hearts live on forever.
Figures of stone and metal representing events and persons, are good for people that erect them and for the generations that behold them. They are the just expressions of appreciation of heroic and virtuous deeds, and are object lessons for the education of the young. Dr. Cuyler declined the honor, not because he was insensible to the favor of his fellow men, or of their remembrance after death. In his note, he expressly stated his sincere appreciation of the feelings that prompted the offer, and his wish to be remembered by his friends, He thought that a figure suitable for the place would cost more than should be spent for such an object. With this opinion I do not agree, nor do I think the public would have thought such an expenditure extravagant or unwise. Neither literature nor art has kept pace with the material progress of this country. A few sagacious and benevolent men are doing their best to hasten the pace of letters and fine art, but there is very much still to be done. In these days, when men do not hesitate to put up hundreds of millions of dollars in business enterprises, there ought to be no hesitation in scattering libraries and beautiful statues everywhere. Dr. Cuyler did not object to a memorial, he returned his thanks to the commissioners for having named the park after him, he seemed to prefer to be remembered in the green of the lawn, the shade of the trees, and in the lovely face of the flowers, rather than in mute bronze or stone, and requested the commissioners to preserve the park, called by his name, as a perpetual memorial. The doctor wisely said that the memorials which he prized most were the tablets of human hearts on which, by forty years of service for God and humanity, he had been permitted to write his name and carve his features. Statues of marble that have charmed the world for centuries have been broken to pieces by the hammer of the vandal ; figures of bronze that have stood a beauty and inspiration for a thousand years, have been battered and ruined, and thrown into the junk-shops and melted into practical utensils ; the thin dust that Time has scattered through his fingers has covered up most of the monuments of the past. Even the pyramids, that lift their haughty heads above the sand and defy the ravages of time, will some day be brought down ; already shrewd oblivion has stolen away from them the names of the kings they were built to commemorate. But the tablet of the heart remains unhurt by the hand of vandalism, unchanged by the alchemy of years. Those who work in cloth, work in that which the moth destroys ; those who labor in wood, labor in that which the worm grinds to powder with ease ; those who toil in brass, toil in that which the rust consumes ; those who work in marble, work in that which Time hammers to pieces with his chisel and his mallet ; but those who work in soul—immortal mind ; those who work in soul—immortal soul, work in that which shall never fade nor fail, but shall be bright and beautiful in the light of Time, and shall grow brighter and more beautiful in the glories of Eternity. And when Time shall have dried up the seas, and levelled the mountains, and cast the earth away as a worn-out garment ; when the stars shall have been chilled into huge balls of ice, or burned to cinders, then the tablet of the human heart, with the impressions that kindred spirits have left upon it, shall endure forever.