Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tasso's Oak

The poet, Torquato Tasso (died 1595), spent his last years at the monastery of Sant'Onofrio.  He is said to have planted an oak by which he would sit and write.  Literary admirers from Goethe to Henry James and John Cheever came to pay their respects.

The oak survives, sort of.  Held up by rusty I-beam's, it is a poignant work of preservation.

But this is the difference between Rome and New York.  The Stuyvesant Pear Trees (which I wrote about in The Creative Destruction of Manhattan) were planted not that long after Tasso died (around 1647, by the new Governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant) and lasted until 1867, when a collision on what was now 13th Street and 3rd Avenue felled the dying tree.  The New York Times reported on the event.  Unlike the Tasso Oak, which appears quite dead but is preserved on the spot, well over 400 years ago, the Stuyvesant Pear was promptly taken down with a health slice deposited in the New-York Historical Society where you can visit it today.

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