Caryatid Who Has Fallen Under Her Stone

rodincaryatid By Anonymous Via http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/rodin/rodin.html

rodincaryatid By Anonymous Via http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/rodin/rodin.html

We have a few upcoming writings, both completed and in progress, that made me recall this passage and the statue by Rodin variously known as the “Fallen Caryatid with Stone” or “Caryatid Who Has Fallen under Her Stone”. Please take a moment to reflect upon not only the wonderfully strong figure of the Caryatid, but Heinlein’s words that still move me to tears after all these years…

Fallen Caryatid With Stone By Anonymous Via http://www.phototour.com/echtml/caryatid_3049.html

Fallen Caryatid With Stone By Anonymous Via http://www.phototour.com/echtml/caryatid_3049.html

Excerpt from Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1961)

Jubal looked at the replica Caryatid Who Has Fallen under Her Stone. “I won’t expect you to appreciate the masses which make that figure much more than a ‘pretzel’ — but you can appreciate what Rodin was saying. What do people get out of looking at a crucifix?”

[Ben] “You know I don’t go to church.”

“Still, you must know that representations of the Crucifixion are usually atrocious — and ones in churches are the worst… blood like catsup and that ex-carpenter portrayed as if He were a pansy… which He certainly was not. He was a hearty man, muscular and healthy. But a poor portrayal is as effective as a good one for most people. They don’t see defects; they see a symbol which inspires their deepest emotions; it recalls to them the Agony and Sacrifice of God.”

“Jubal, I thought you weren’t a Christian?”

"Porch of the Maidens" (Caryatids) By Tilemahos Efthimiadis Via Flickr

“Porch of the Maidens” (Caryatids) By Tilemahos Efthimiadis Via Flickr

“Does that make me blind to human emotion? The crummiest plaster crucifix can evoke emotions in the human heart so strong that many have died for them. The artistry with which such a symbol is wrought is irrelevant. Here we have another emotional symbol — but wrought with exquisite artistry. Ben, for three thousand years architects designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures.

caryatid-01-317 By Pablo Via http://tib.cjcs.com/2110/caryatid-my-favorite-sculpture/

caryatid-01-317 By Pablo Via http://tib.cjcs.com/2110/caryatid-my-favorite-sculpture/

“At last Rodin pointed out that this was work too heavy for a girl. He didn’t say, ‘Look, you jerks, if you must do this, make it a brawny male figure.’ No, he showed it. This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl — look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods… and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it.

“But she’s more than good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women — this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage, Ben, and victory.”

“‘Victory’?”

“Victory in defeat; there is none higher. She didn’t give up, Ben; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father working while cancer eats away his insides, to bring home one more pay check. She’s a twelve-year old trying to mother her brothers and sisters because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her post while smoke chokes her and fire cuts off her escape. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

— Excerpt from Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1961)

Fallen Caryatid with Stone By Emw Via commons.wikimedia.org

Fallen Caryatid with Stone By Emw Via commons.wikimedia.org

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Comments

  1. Poetesse says:

    That last line just did me in completely: "She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit."

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