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An account of the celebration of the first semi-centennial anniversary of the incorporation of Columbia college online

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Griffin. The commencement of my acquaintance
with this accomphshed youth was in the year 1823, a
few days after that on which, covered with honours, he
left these halls of learning ; and in the summer of 1830,
I received, while on a journey, the startling intelligence
that he had expired. Endowed by nature with an
elegant mind ; blest with the advantages of a thorough
education ; and improved by foreign travel ; we were
looking upon him as one destined to usefulness in the
church at whose altars he ministered, and to a distin-
guished rank among men of letters. But the hand of
death was suddenly laid upon him ; and we are now
only permitted to infer, from his published remains,
what he would have accomplished, had he been al-
lowed to prolong for a few years more his days on
earth. This passing commemoration of one who, for
a short period, occupied an official station in our Col-
lege, may not unfitly terminate that series of honoured
names, which has now passed in review. The exqui-
site opening lines of one of his translations from a
poet of Italy, are those in which we may appropriately
bid him farewell.

Oh spirit, beautiful and blest !

That, freed at last from every bond,

Hast naked sprung to calmer realms above ! *

It is surely a reasonable subject for gratification, that, on
this festal morning, we have it in our power, as sons of our
Alma Mater, to call up, among the various remembran-
ces of the last fifty years, the memory of such men as



* The Remains of this uncommon young scholar liave been given to the public
in two volumes; and are accompanied by a most interesting Memoir from the pen
of Professor McVickar.



38

these. But here, a question of no Uttle interest can-
not fail to present itself to our minds. If Columbia
College has been the honored instrument of training
such graduates, what does she not deserve at our
hands 1 Filled with the present inspiring recollections,
let every member of this Institution inquire what is
his duty ; and labor, with true loyalty and devotion,
in its conscientious fulfilment.

Our College this day calls upon us, by all the bene-
fits which she has rendered, and by the illustrious
names treasured up in the archives of her history, to
do every thing that we can to promote her welfare
and her glory. For will it be denied, that this Semi-
nary of learning rightfully claims some portion of the
honor, which crowns the memory of these her foster-
children 1 Can this right be withheld from her ? She
takes to herself, it is true, no glory for their original
powers. These were the gift of heaven before they
entered within her enclosure. But who gave these
powers their direction t Who trained them with the
hand of firm but parental discipline ; so that in subse-
quent days, the energies of the mind, thus prepared,
were made, like ' nimble and airy servitors,' to accom-
plish, at the bidding of their possessor, results of use-
fulness to man 1 Who ever thinks of the Paleys, the
Horsleys, the Pitts, the Grenvilles, and the Cannings of
England, without having his mind turned, in reveren-
tial acknowledgment, to those great foundations, where
these master spirits received, in the days of childhood
and of youth, their intellectual culture ? It is by edu-
cation that the character is formed. This work begins
beneath the parental roof: it is carried on under the
subsequent guardianship of schools : and at length,
within these retreats of science and of letters, it re-



39

ceives the finishing touch. If, then, my fellow-alumni,
Columbia College has given such men to the world,
let us seek to sustain her character, in those various
spheres of life in which our lot has been cast. We
have, some of us, long since ceased to pursue our tran-
quil way, under the shelter of her academic bowers.
But let our hearts still cherish her remembrance, and
aim after her good. Let us uphold her, through evil
and through good report. Let us proclaim her, in this
great communit}^, to be what she is : — and, if men
shall ask us what she can do, let us point them to
what she has done I

But this continued interest in the prosperity of our
venerated mother is not the only form, in which the
student who has been nurtured within her walls should
manifest his gratitude for the blessings she has be-
Stowed. She calls upon her younger sons to pursue,
through life, those liberalizing studies, the taste for
which, during the hours of their collegiate career, it
was her great object to create, or to foster. It will, I
trust, not be considered as any attempt to disparage
those other branches of useful learning, which form
part of the course of instruction here pursued, if I
urge upon the young men who have emerged from
this honoured seat of letters, and are now enoaged in
the active pursuits of the world, the importance of a
diligent attention to classical attainments. In giving
prominence to this department of study, my apology
must be, that of that which a man chiefly loves, he
will be most apt to speak.

One of the most evil signs of our times, for some
years past, in a literary point of view, has been a dis-
position to undervalue that acquaintance with the lan-
guage and the literature of ancient Greece and Rome,



40

which must always form the basis of a Hberal educa-
tion ; and the continued cultivation of which, after the
days of academic life are past, is the only right path
to the attainment of professional excellence. The
eloquence of the senate needs the indescribable, but
happy influence of these studies. It would be impos-
sible to find, in any deliberative assembly throughout
the world, a more powerful concentration of intellect,
than that which is presented within the walls of our
Houses of Congress. Yet who will deny, that, in read-
ing or hearing many of the speeches there delivered,
we feel the want of that classical finish, which so pecu-
liarly distinguishes the oratory of the British Parlia-
ment ; and the possession of which has rendered the
efforts of Pitt, Fox, Burke, Brougham, Wilberforce,
Canning, and Peel, as harmonious and graceful in lan-
guage, as they are profound in argument 1 The elo-
quence of the bar, too, must be formed by this prepa-
ratory discipline ; and we can require no higher proof
of its advantage, than that which was exhibited in
every public display of the late distinguished Thomas
Addis Emmet, The pulpit, also, needs the same ma-
gical aid to effective speaking. The thorough scho-
lar is there known, not by labored classical illustra-
tion, improperly supplanting that which the sacred
volume supplies ; but by the precision and directness
of his phraseology. In the severe and simple school of
the ancient masters, he has learned to form his taste;
to express himself with conciseness ; to prune away
redundancies; and, entering at once upon his subject,
to carry it on with point and vigor to its final close.

Let no man, then, whose vocation it is to promote
the good of his fellow-beings, in either of these learned
and dignified callings, be tempted to forego so efficient



41

an instrument of usefulness, as the study of the ancient
models. Passing strange it is, that by so many among
our statesmen, our lawyers, and our clergy, these pro-
ductions are laid upon the shelf; while, by way of
indemnifying themselves for the loss, they contentedly
resort to the diluted streams of translation, instead of
ascending to the living waters that gush from the pure,
oriojinal fountain. Our Alma Mater asks a different
return from her children. She commands us, while
she this day points to the catalogue of her illustrious
dead, to show our sense of the benefits she has ren-
dered, by our assiduous cultivation of those refining
and elevatincj studies, which it has so long been her
glory to inculcate. Let us obey her call. The classics
are the public man's ornament. Nay, more : they
carry a refreshment with them into every department
of daily pursuit. The associations which they bring in
their train, embellish and alleviate the toils of exist-
ence : — curcB casusqiie levamen — throwing a charm and
a gilding over the drudgery of this weary world — lend-
ing a dignity to misfortune — and expanding the mind
with an influence, which he that has cultivated these
resources knows to be real ; and which he who has
them not, can never feel.

Inhabitants of this city ! To you we would this
day commend our valued and bountiful Mother, as
worthy of your affection. To you let me speak of her,
on the ground of her actual character, and great ad-
vantag^es. For I utter not the lanouaoe of partial
praise, neither shall I crave pardon for what may seem
to be invidious comparison, in saying, that Columbia
College boldly challenges competition with her, in any
one of those departments of knowledge, on which, as a
solid foundation, is erected the superstructure of future
6



42

usefulness and influence. And the reason of this su-
periority is obvious. Here, the pupil is brought under
the immediate instructions, not of imperfectly qualified
tutors, needing themselves to be instructed, and using,
peradventure, the office of a teacher but as a stepping-
stone to some ulterior object, — but of the professors
themselves; whose matured minds, and rich experience,
are thus enjoyed by every student within these walls.
Here, too, — and let not this privilege be forgotten, —
while the young of our metropolis receive intellectual
culture, they are enjoying, at the same time, the inesti-
mable oversight, and various blessings, of the domestic
mansion. Thus mental and moral training may here
go hand in hand : and the youthful aspirant after lite-
rary acquirements will not be left to the dominion of
those wayward propensities, which, when he is an
exile from the sacred precincts of home, lose their most
effectual safeguard, in being no longer bound by the
silken cords of parental authority and love.

Instructress of our earlier years ! On this day of
heart-stirring and glorious recollections, we lay at thy
feet the free-will offering^ of our hearts, and bid thee
hail in thy future career of beneficent exertion. May
thy coming days add new trophies to those which thou
hast already reared, to testify that thou hast well re-
deemed thy trust ! And, above all, may those youth,
who, in after periods, shall issue forth, band after band,
from thy hallowed retreat, never forget, that for privi-
leges received, there is responsibility incurred; and
that they will best repay thy blessings by bearing en-
graved upon their memories the lesson, that learning is
but an instrument conferred by heaven, for promoting
the interests of our universal species, and the glory of
our Maker, Redeemer, and God.



POEM.



BY WILLIAM BETTS, A. M



POEM.



Intent to terminate their baleful feud,

On Moreh's plain the ancient patriarchs stood^

Their mighty wealth increas'd beyond control.

One country seem'd too little for the whole ;

For all the bounties Heaven designs to bless,

Man's vile perverseness turns to wretchedness.

Their countless flocks secure around them play,

Their anxious herdsmen nigh them sullen stray,

Those slaves, whose strifes their masters now expel

From each familiar tent and cooling well ;

And whilst their minds were hung in equipoise

'Twixt future ills and dearly cherish'd joys,

A bitter pang pierc'd through each patriarch's heart,

Reluctant still, tho' still resolv'd to part.

Far in the west, Judaea's mountains throw
Their gloomy shadows o'er the plains below ;
Repulsive, barren, rude, confus'd they lay,
And frown'd each bold adventurer away.
Not so the East ; for there Gomorrah's towers
Rose mid green vales and perfume breathing bowers,
And Sodom, in the fumes of richness steep'd,
In lazy luxury delighted slept.



46

The fragrance rising from each blossom'd field.
The mighty crops those fertile pastures yield,
The groves, where figs, and dates and olives vie
With loaded boughs in wanton rivalry,
The palms, whose swelling trunks aspiring high
Spread their dark branches 'gainst the azure sky.
Vines after countless vines, whose bending stems.
Scarce bear their luscious clusters, bright as gems,
Gomorrah's grapes, the fairest Earth hath borne,
By guilt since turned to bitterness and scorn,
In tranquil slumber all serenely lay.
Beneath the Syrian sunshine's setting ray.
So sunk the scene appear'd in still repose,
So full of joy, so free from mortal woes,
E'en Jordan's stream, as on it slowly roll'd
Through the fair valley, like a thread of gold,
Dispensing treasure, almost seem'd excess,
Mid this profuse, surpassing loveliness.

* Be thine the choice,' the holy Abraham cried ;
' What'er that choice, contented I abide ;

* For me, the wilderness no terrors bears,

' For me no charms the fruitful valley wears ;

* No danger e'er can Abraham's steps attend,

' For Abraham's God is ever Abraham's friend.'
Pleas'd with the prospect of profuse excess,
To Lot such reas'ning seem'd as foolishness.
He saw not, he, the wisdom that decides
To turn from good that bounteous Heav'n provides ;
And madness absolute it seem'd, to be
Indifferent 'twixt wealth and poverty.

* Those barren hills but scanty food provide,

* For me, my household and my flock beside,



47

' While in yon vale, with teeming plenty bless'd,
*E'en were my wealth a thousand times increas'd,
' Their utmost wants were easily supplied,
* To thrice their number were they multiplied.'

So reason'd Lot, and turn'd his eager eyes
To the gay fields that bright before him rise.
Nor thought that barren mountain-sides reveal
The venom'd serpent blossom'd meads conceal ;
That when base man by Heav'n to toil was doom'd,
E'en on that thorn a flow'ret straightway bloom'd,
And the same fountains, that our wants supply,
Full floods of pleasure e'er accompany.
So reason'd Lot, nor thought in those soft skies,
What baneful, death-dispensing mists might rise,
What loathsome ills that teeming soil might nurse,
And seeming blessings prove severest curse.
So reasons Man ; though Nature's book divine
Be open'd wide, and each resplendent line
Lit by the torch of wisdom ; tho' the hand
Of sage Experience, prompt at our demand,
Is e'er prepared to turn from page to page,
And teach the past, the future to presage ;
Yet, stupid man, to slothfulness inclin'd,
Gropes idly on, contented to be blind,
And better loves the sluggish, slumb'ring night,
Than the rude labour of the risinof liaht.
So reasons Man ; nor thinks his mortal foe
Deliohts his loathsome legions thick to strew
In earth's choice places ; well his toils he lays.
Wealth tempts to sloth, and sloth to death betrays.

When guilty man, by toil and sorrow scourg'd
From Eden's bowers, his way reluctant urg'd.



48

Then did relenting Heaven on Toil bestow
The power to heighten joy, and soften wo.

See from created earth's remotest years,
What blessed fruit the tree of labour bears,
And in the powers of body, sense, or mind,
That Toil and Excellence are ever joined.
Of the broad world, survey the varied dress
Of wanton wealth, or utter barrenness.
With Toil, the fairest scene cannot dispense,
To Toil the vilest yields its recompense.
Behold the works of human skill, where art
Assaults the senses, to subdue the heart ;
Tho' Genius first the crude design conceives.
Toil, patient Toil alone, the work achieves ;
And last, the vast variety of man,
From almost brute to almost angel, scan ;
And the plain difference we soon detect.
In mind's improvement,or in mind's neglect.

In those remote and dim mysterious lands.
Where Ham's dark empire still ascendant stands,
Look where majestic Quorra rolls his tides,
As south by Garnicassa slow he glides,
What time from her high seat the Queen of night
Pours on his breast a flood of tropic light —
That light which none but tropic climes have seen,
So lustrous, clear, and placidly serene.
From Garnicassa's mud-built hovels come
The sounds of music, and the vocal hum
Of merry voices ; joyful groupes advance,
And twine on Quorra's shore the midnight dance ;
See ! how the dark-limb'd maidens upward spring.
And in fantastic forms their bodies fling ;



49

Hark ! what loud peals of laughter break the night,
As each sinks down exhausted with delisfht :
Of ancient sires and aged matrons stand
A happy multitude on Quorra's strand,
And ever hail with sympathetic voice,
Their children in their triumphings and joys.
Sad group ! such scenes of seeming happiness
Wake the vile theme, that ignorance is bliss.
Here Folly lingers, with malignant breath.
From sports of innocence extracting death ;
For oft in flow'rs her venom has she found,
And poison'd wisdom, where she fear'd to wound-
Short dream of pleasure ! as the tender shoot
That in thin soil extends its narrow root,
Refresh'd by morning dews, doth quickly rise.
But droops in summer's midday sun, and dies ;
E'en thus, the joy that mind no nurture gives.
Scarce the same hour that sees its birth, survives.
Look but within them, and their minds survey.
How quick the scene of pleasure fades away ;
Like a deep cavern, desolate and dark.
There, never shines an intellectual spark,
And there, in gloom congenial, listless lie,
Of sloth and ignorance the progeny :
Or as some old and long neglected field.
Whose cultur'd soil prolific crops might yield,
Untouch'd by plough, with wholesome seed unstrown,
With noxious weeds and nettles is o'ergrown ;
E'en so their minds, unus'd to exercise,
Teem with the fruit of rank, spontaneous vice.
Grateful for good, to treason soon they haste,
Greedy of gain, but ever prone to waste ;
7



50

Their cruel anger danger soon dismays,
And the fierce heart the palsied hand betrays ;
With the short present their dull thoughts employ'd,
The past and future are an equal void ;
The joys of sense, as idols they adore,
And, save their Fetish, own no higher Pow'r.
But not to sable Africa confin'd
Is this sad picture of a sluggish mind :
No ! tho' with us, hypocrisy, and pride,
And wealth, and polish'd luxury may hide,
With shrubs, and trees, and flow'rs around its brink,
The pool of idleness ; approach to drink,
See the green scum its sluggish face o'erspread,
Feel the vile vapour, rising from its bed,
And turn away : — as in neglected mind,
Death and disgust alone you there may find ;
In that dull pool no image e'er descends,
Of the sweet Heav'n that bright above it bends.
Now turn to other climes, where wealthy Ind,
Upon her rich and gorgeous throne reclin'd,
Sits in the majesty of ancient birth.
The awful mother of the later earth.
A hundred provinces her will obey,
And at her feet, their countless treasures lay,
A hundred princes own their subject powers.
From high Thibet, to Ceylon's heavenly bowers ;
From unrecorded ages, vast her store
Of learning, science and religious lore ;
Full-grown like Pallas, sprung from parent-earth,
Her arts appear coeval with her birth.
Look where Ellora's wondrous caves display
The labours of a people pass'd away,



51

Whose ancient story shuns tradition's hght,

And mocks conjecture in its boldest flight :

Or see where Ganges, with his flow'ry tides,

By Brahmin lov'd, majestically glides.

And ever pours his full and sacred waves,

Nor heeds the hundred cities that he laves.

By mosque and palace proudly passes by,

And mausoleum's gorgeous vanity ;

But lingers ever mid the fragrant groves.

Where Hindoo maidens breathe their secret loves,

Their timid wishes to their Ganges sino-

And the lov'd lotus on his bosom fling.

Amid these seats of might and loveliness,
Of learning's treasures, and of art's excess.
Divine Philosophy content might roam,
And gather wisdom in her native home.
Here might we seek the cultivated mind.
Here manners kind, benevolent, reflned,
Mercy and Justice, Firmness undismay'd,
And Bounty large, in lib'ral deeds display 'd ;
And Charity, the dearest child of Heav'n,
Which sees no ill, but soon as seen, forgiv'n ;
And fond Affection, in whose melting ray,
The ice of Selfishness dissolves away;
Honour, with whom to doubt is to desist.
And Truth, whom none successfully resist.

Ah no ! like gems before the senseless beast,
Dull Sloth has spurn'd the treasures of the East,
And stupidly content, unhappy lies,
Amid the fetid heaps that round her rise.
See from her filth, a throng of demons spring,
With loathsome face, and foul extended wing,



52

Envoys select, from Brahma's Pantheon borne,

Their vile credentials in their features worn.

Base Treachery, affecting joy to feel.

While myrtle blossoms hide his murd'rous steel ;

And Cunning, from whose small and glancing eye,

Truth sick'ning turns, nor turns without a sigh ;

Voluptuous Pleasure, by herself betray 'd,

And gloomy Pride in tinsell'd robes array'd ;

Cold Selfishness, that turns the heart to ice,

And greedy Waste, engend'ring avarice ;

Unholy Falsehood, fearing human-kind,

And Cruelty with Cowardice combin'd.

These are thy idols, hapless Ind ! to these,

The fruitful brood of indolence and ease.

The haughty Brahmin yields uncheck'd control.

And the poor Pariah bends his abject soul.

Ah ! who in this foul tribe could e'er descry

Eternal Vishnu's rightful progeny?

That mighty Spirit, He ! whose quick'ning breath,

When chaos slept in elemental death,

Mov'd o'er the liquid waste abyss of night.

And wak'd the deep to beauty, life and light I

If such the sad reverse where once the blaze
Of arts and learning shed refulgent rays.
Behold the western star of Empire shine.
On Japhet's mighty and increasing line.

See little Athens, midst her barren soil.
By slow degrees, with patient, ceaseless toil.
Still upward rising, more and more renown'd,
Her sunny hills with matchless temples crown'd,
Her sculptur'd forms, at whose resplendent blaze
Of wondrous beauty, still content to gaze,



53

Succeeding ages never dared aspire,
To their high regions of celestial fire ;
Her sages, from whose swelling treasures flow
Full streams of wisdom on the world below ;
Her orators, whose sweet persuasive tongue
Now sooth'd to softness, and to rage now stung ;
Her poets, minstrels, painters, the bright band
Of that illustrious brotherhood, who stand
Midway 'twixt grov'ling earth and swelling sky,
And point to man a higher destiny :
These are the springs, immortal Athens ! whence
Thy empire rose to lustrous eminence ;
Thy intellectual sway their power secures,
And in their fame thy glory still endures.
Thee captive Rome obey'd ; but for thy arts.
Like dew descending on their savage hearts.
But for thy laws, whose firm but gentle sway,
From brutal passions turn'd them slow away.
The Roman Rabble, Tyrants of the world,
Perhaps with wild ferocity had hurl'd
Dismay and terror on the frighted earth.
And chas'd away all virtue, valour, worth.
Imperial Rome ! when thy first fratricide
With royal blood thy humble walls had dyed,
How little could thy feeble tribes descry
The splendour of thy future majesty.
When suppliant kings thy guardian pow'r ador'd,
And prostrate nations own'd thee for their Lord.
Imperial Rome ! though on thy infant state
Surrounding neighbours pour'd their jealous hate,
And by a mortal and malignant blow,
Aim'd at thy quick and utter overthrow ;



54

Tho' midst the wasted homes that round thee burn'd,

Th' insulting Gaul thy anguish rudely spurn'd ;

Tho' victor Carthage, thund'ring at thy gate,

Thy being threaten'd to annihilate,

Thy patient struggles and unceasing pain,

A higher ground, and higher still would gain,

Till rais'd aloft, thy State ferocious frown'd

In haughty grandeur on the realms around ;

When gentler Greece thy savage sons refin'd.

And gave thee. Empire o'er the human mind.

Thus the clear lines on every varied page
Of earth's large volume, in each rolling age,
In every clime, the self-same lesson show, —
Toil leads to joy, and indolence to wo.
Tho' ever thus corporeal labour leads
Through thorny paths to fair and flow'ry meads,
Th' aspiring Mind, successful toil requites
With larger prospects and intense delights.

Ah ! who without untiring search can find
The boundless treasures of the mighty mind ?
Who can disclose the sure unfailing thread,
Through its dim labyrinths secure to tread ?
Who find the key to ope the secret doors
Of the rich chambers of its hoarded stores ?
Who give the rod, whose bending point reveals
Each place obscure, its hidden gold conceals ?

In those old walls, with Learning's labours stor'd,
O'er which a thousand moons their light have pour'd.
Since first, by pious zeal and bounty rear'd.
Their modest structure midst the fields appear'd,


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Online LibraryColumbia UniversityAn account of the celebration of the first semi-centennial anniversary of the incorporation of Columbia college → online text (page 3 of 4)