George William Curtis: Here are some of his comments at the dedication in Central Park, New York City, on October 2, 1880
"Until we know why the rose is sweet, or the dewdrop pure, or the rainbow beautiful, we cannot know why the poet is the best benefactor of humanity. Whether because he reveals us to ourselves or because he touches the soul with the fevor of divine aspiration, whether because in a world of sordid and restless anxiety he fill us with serene joy, or puts into rhythmic and permanent form the best thoughts and hopes of man - who shall say? How the faith of Christendom has been stayed for centuries upon the mighty words of the old Hebrew bards and prophets, and how the vast and inexpressible mystery of divine love and power and purpose has been best breathed in parable and poem!
"The poet's genius is an unconscious but sweet and elevated in our national life. It is not a power dramatic, obvious, imposing, immediate, like that of the statesman, the warrior, and the inventor, but it is as deep and strong and abiding . The soldier fights for his native land, but the poet touches that land with a charm that makes it worth fighting for and fires the warrior's heart with the fierce energy that makes his blow invincible. The statesman enlarges and orders liberty in the states, but the poet fosters the love of liberty in the heart of the citizen. The inventor multiples the facilities of life, but the poet makes life better worth living.
"Robert Burns transfigured the country of his birth and love. Every bird and flower, every hill and dale and river whispers and repeats his name. When he died there was not a Scotchman who was not proud of being a Scotchman. But he, as all great poets, as they turn to music the emotions common to humanity passed from the exclusive love of his own country into the reverence of the world."