The building stands upon a broad platform of granite six steps in height, and the huge blocks on either side are vacant pedestals for groups of sculpture upon which St. Gaudens is now engaged. Passing between them, under clustered lamps suggesting the early Florentine fanali, we cross an arched vestibule of Tennessee marble to its inner threshold, where the doors, not yet in place, are to be of bronze from a design by Daniel Chester French. Another step brings us to the lower entrance-hall.
This hall is divided into three aisles by piers of Iowa stone. The signs of the zodiac gleam from the marble pavement in shining brass, and the ceiling, arched and domed, is adorned with mosaic of delicate tints and graceful patterns.
This modern Italian work, unique of its kind in America, recalls the Pompeian fragments in the Naples museum, and is used as a setting for the names of men linked by birth or later fortunes with the State of Massachusetts, though the fame surviving them is world-wide. The bays of the centre aisle are given to Hawthorne, Franklin, Longfellow, Adams, Peirce, and Emerson; while the six small domes in the side-vaults record eminent local historians, jurists, theologians, artists, scientists, and statesmen, numbering twenty-four in all. The fitness of this record is at once apparent. All these established a claim "rightly to be great;" all have passed away from earth, and are now honored with a lasting remembrance in the outer precincts of this great Valhalla of Learning.
Intersecting passages lead from the side aisles to the Periodical and Catalogue Rooms, which occupy the remainder of the front upon the ground floor. These spacious, airy rooms, with tiled and vaulted ceilings supported by columns, are well adapted to their purpose. But a flood of light draws us by them along the main aisle to the beautiful arch of Siena marble through which the staircase springs.
A great hall opens up before us to the full height of the second story, lined throughout with the same Siena marble, in color a deep golden yellow, so lustrous and resplendent that the light streaming through the long windows seems to proceed from it. Moulding and wainscot, panel-arch, pilaster, and balustrade are all of this rich material, highly polished, massed in broad, plane surfaces, in solid pillar-shaft and in carved Corinthian capital. But the scheme has been worked out so skilfully that there is no suggestion of heaviness. Even the colossal couchant lions of Louis St. Gaudens on the first landing look ready to leap up lightly. These lions were given by two Massachusetts regiments in memory of comrades who fell in the battles recorded upon their pedestals. As we turn by them to follow either of the two branches into which the stairs divide, the whole place seems steeped in sunshine, and the library motto, "Lux Omnium Civium," is borne in upon our minds at every step that brings us nearer to the light's true source. The vacant panels here are to contain decorations of the French artist, Puvis de Chavannes. With all complete this glowing stairway will be, surely, one of the finest in the world.
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