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Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

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true life like his ; like him, strive to leave to your children that
noblest of all burdens to carry, an unstained and honored name,
and, above all, reverence, as he did, your conscience as your king.

In looking back, whether from the near or distant future,
upon this eventful day of your lives, your satisfaction will be
deepened by the reflection that your honors were conferred by
one who bears a historic name, a name synonymous in the annals
of Britain with promptitude and power, no less than with loyalty
and duty ; by the reflection also that your success has been
witnessed by a sovereign Indian Prince, whose enlightened rule
will be pointed to with admiration by generations unborn ; and
more than all, will your satisfaction be deepened by the remem-
brance that your much-coveted degrees have been proclaimed in
the presence of a Prince of the Blood-Royal of England, whom
with loyal hearts we welcome to our shores for his own sake, for
the sake of Albert the Good, and for the sake of her, the gentle
Lady, who reigns, not more by right of ancient descent over the
persons, than by right of queenly love in the hearts of a free, a
manly and a loyal people.



Gentlemen, After long continued study, after trials through
which you have passed successfully, and after promises which
before so many witnesses you have deliberately made, you are
now admitted to the honour of ranking while you live as mem-
bers of the University of Madras. It devolves on me to exhort
you, according to its statutes, " to conduct yourselves suitably
unto the position to which, by the degree conferred upon you,

70 N University of Madras.

you have attained." It is but natural that before you pass finally
from beneath her fostering care, your Alma Mater should wish
to address to you some parting words of counsel. Some of you,
it is true, are not yet to sever the tie that has so long bound you
to her. Some of you and I hope not a very few will endeavour
to obtain still higher honours at her hand after another period
of submission to her guidance ; but most of you in any case
have completed the portion of your lives that you can afford to
devote to academic pursuits, and even those who seek for a
higher place in the rolls of the University must henceforth be
much less than hitherto under her direct control. They must
journey on, not indeed un guided but at least unwatched by her
or by any of her delegates.

In greater or smaller measure, therefore, you all stand from
this day forward in a new position. You pass from the toils of
learning to those of life, from the acquisition of knowledge to
the higher task of working into the texture of your history on
earth, the knowledge that has been acquired, from being reci-
pients of the influence of others to positions where your own
influence must largely tell upon the generation to which you
belong, and through it upon all the generations that shall follow.
It is well becoming that, at such a stage, this University should
tell you how she expects those to live whom she has stamped with
her approval, and who are now her representatives to the world.
And, therefore, as you listen to what I say, regard it not as the
words of one who has little title to speak with authority in
virtue of age, or experience, or learning. Rather in so far, but
in so far only, as my words approve themselves to be words of
truth and wisdom, regard them, I entreat you, as spoken to you
by that University which has conferred on you so many benefits
already, and towards which I trust that you will cherish while
you live, feelings of mingled love and veneration.

The obligations of many kinds under which you lie are
almost infinite in number; but great though the desire of this
University is that you should be in all respects noble-hearted and
well-conducted men, it is not of the whole round of duty that she
calls me now to speak. Inasmuch as you are subjects, inas-
much as you are citizens, inasmuch as you are men, there are
countless claims upon you such as you cannot safely or
honourably neglect; but these lie beyond the scope of my
present task, except in so far as all duty is from its very nature
linked indissolubly together. It is the duties arising from your
present position that 1 have to impress upon you your duties
as the sons of science as those to whom has been entrusted the

1871. Rev. William Miller. 71

lamp of knowledge, and that in the midst of a land that, much
as we may wish it otherwise, we cannot deny to be comparatively
a hind of darkness.

These duties divide themselves naturally into two classes :
those that you still owe to yourselves upon the one hand, and
those that you owe to your country and your fellow-men upon
the other.

With regard to yourselves, remember that your work as
seekers after truth is not ended. We say indeed,
Your duty as an d it is rightly said, that you have completed your
troth. education; but there are different kinds of com-

pleteness, and the sense in which you can deem
yourselves completely educated requires to be attentively con-
sidered. There is a completeness like that of the giant tree,
around whose blossoms myriad tribes of insects sport and
whose pyramid of leaves spreads wide a welcome shade from the
fierceness of noonday sun. That tree has reached the highest
development of which its nature makes it capable. It stands
complete. But there is a completeness too like that of the seed,
which, whatever it may become hereafter, is far from having
realized the ideal of its being. Yet in its own fashion, the seed
too is complete It has so drawn in the life of its parent stem
that it is fitted to become in the common course of nature such
in all respects as that parent is. The germ of all is already in
it. Every organ that is needed to make it complete even in the
fullest sense, may now be developed out of it. Let it only be
placed in the proper conditions, let it only in these conditions
preserve its own vitality, and it is certain to grow into all that
it was designed to be, without any new external aid. It is the
latter completeness, not the former, that can be affirmed of
your education. Complete in the widest sense it certainly is
not ; but we trust that you have within yourselves all that is
essential for enabling it to become so. The years you have spent
under the care of this University have left in you, as we hope,
not only a certain small stock of information, but a certain
love of knowledge for its own sake, a certain receptivity to
truth, and above all the aptitude to grasp and to make your
own whatever may become the subject of your thoughts here-
after. If indeed there be among you any whose only care has
been to keep in mind the bare facts they have been instructed to
attend to, and who are satisfied now to let study drop, because
their trials have been sustained and their position is secure, for
such these bye-gone years have been, at all events in the high-
est sense, useless if they have not been worse. Such may,

72 University of Madras.

indeed, by their so-called study have bettered the material
prospects of their lives, but as children of the light and seekers
in profession after truth, they have but degraded themselves to
a lower level than that from which they started at the first.
But we hope for better things from all of you. Ideals, it
is true, are attained but seldom, and with you as with us all,
mental training is far from perfect, and zeal for knowledge far
from pure. Yet we trust that in no inconsiderable measure you
have a sense of the dignity of wisdom, a sense of your own need
of it, and a power at the same time of gathering it henceforward
for yourselves. Thus you are complete with the completeness
of a seed. As the seed is cast into the bosom of nature in
order that its energies may be called forth and its destinies
accomplished, so do you cast yourselves into active life, deter-
mined in it to exercise, and by exercise to increase those mental
powers that the training of the past has given you determined
that by continual accessions to your knowledge, the stream of
thought shall be kept flowing constantly within you and bearing
health, activity and growth into the very recesses of your

And here I am reminded that, in the case of some, the
necessity is very clamant that they should thus maintain and
increase their knowledge.

Graduates in Law, in Medicine and Engineering, the
sciences to which you have devoted yourselves obviously demand
the labour of a lifetime. In the case of law, the field is so wide
and the possible application of its principles so varied, as to
make it very plain that no one should enter on its study who
is not content to be ever learning, and ever to confess himself
but a learner still. And Medicine and Engineering are sciences
that in this age are eminently progressive. The thinking of
our time is of such a kind as to be largely auxiliary to each of
them. Every addition that is made to our knowledge of the
plan of nature and how numerous and startling are such
additions now-a-days is capable of being pressed into the ser-
vice of one or other, or of both. You, who have chosen it as
your noble function to study, to preserve, and, when need be,
to cure the dwelling with which man's spirit is endued : you
who are to have it as your high vocation to subdue the stub-
born forces round us to our common use, and to render this
earth an increasingly commodious residence for mankind,
you must be ever watchful of what is new and ever labouring
to extend the limits of your knowledge, if you would even
arrive at or maintain proficiency in your special callings.

1871. Rev. William Miller. 73

But to all of you, gentlemen, I would say : be students
while you live. It is a duty that you owe to your-
se l yes j in order that your intellectual being may be
no stunted and miserable thing, but the noble
growth that it will be developed into by your faithfully following
out the path on which you have creditably entered. Be students
of books, as you have been hitherto. In the busiest life you will
find some time for this. Draw in and make your own the fruit
of the minds of others, and thus keep yourselves ever moving with
the stream of human thought that has flowed on, and shall flow
on through all the ages. Yet even more, be students of men and
of the facts of life- It is in no dreamland of fancy, and in no
retirement of studious seclusion, that man's mind and character
are fitted to arrive at their due expansion. The men that you
meet with in all their variety of intellectual and moral nature,
the political and social forces at work around you, the tendencies
and aims of current speculation, will furnish to the well-trained
mind, food for constant thought for such thought as may elevate
and brace the whole inner life by keeping it in perpetual contact
with what is real and enduring beneath the shows of the fleeting
hour. And on all such subjects, while you do not despise or
neglect the words of others, dare to form an opinion
^ vour wn. Only by venturing to think your own
thoughts and to acknowledge no authority but that
of truth, can you ennoble your minds upon the one hand, or
discharge your moral responsibility on the other. And be not
dismayed though thinking which thus aims only at the true,
should lead jou often into perplexity and doubt. That is but
part of the discipline of life. Some of you know the quaint old
saying adopted as a motto by one of t&e leading minds of the
present century :

" Truth like a torch, the more it's shook it shines."
These perplexities and doubts are but the shaking which
makes truth beam forth more clearly before long. Meet them
manfully. Labour on till certainty is reached. Be sure of this,
that a fuller insight into any fact whether great or small, but
most of all if it be into one of the eternities of human specu-
lation, is by itself a rich return for all the toil and danger of
the search, at least to those in whom the sacred thirst for truth
has been once effectually awakened.

And though my theme at present be mainly that intellectual

character, the growth of which a University must always make

its first concern, I may be permitted to point out before passing

on, one noble result of a different kind which will have a tendency


74 University of Madras.

to flow from your faithfully pursuing wisdom and knowledge
in whatever department of human thought. He that gives
himself to this pursuit is raised above the power of some at
least of the allurements with which the world is crowded. He
that aims at an object thus beyond himself, grows in some
degree insensible to the voice of selfishness the most subtle
and most persistent of tempters into whatever is dishonourable
and base. Endeavour, therefore, to grow in knowledge for this
additional reason because thus you may gain no inconsiderable
aid in living a life of unspotted integrity, so that you shall be
missed and mourned for when you walk no more in the ways of
men : so that of you it may be said, to quote language that
recent study must have made a household word to some of you,

" He had kept
The whiteness of his life, and thus men o'er him wept."

But what in the next place of the duties towards others that

spring from your possession of that germ of know-

Labour for ] e dge which is destined as we trust to grow wide

the benefit of , o ml . , . ,, , *.*.**

others. an( i great r This briefly above all that you use

this knowledge, and all the power that in greater
or less degree it is certain to bring with it, for the benefit of
men, not for the attainment of any personal ends. That you
should employ your knowledge thus is the design with which
it has been given you. It is the design in so far as regards this
University and her subordinate colleges which have been the
instruments of your education. It is the design in a still higher
sense : namely, in so far as concerns the government of the world
itself. On the one hand, you cannot imagine even for a moment
that all the expenditure of wealth and time and strength on the
part of those who have contributed directly or indirectly to your
training, will have attained its end if you arrive at distinction
or at power : you so few, and when considered merely by your-
selves, so utterly insignificant compared with the teeming millions
around you. No; you have been enlightened in order that through
you those millions may be blessed. On the other hand, very
little consideration is needed to convince you that if you live and
labour only for yourselves, you will run counter to the plan on
which the whole world is beneficently ruled.

Time was when men supposed that the luminaries of heaven
moved ceaselessly round this earth, while it in rest

subordination, an ^ ease was content to receive their ministrations.

the life of the Now we know that according to the plan of this
universe, our planet could receive in no such way

as this the light and heat that it requires, It can obtain them

1871. Rev. William Miller. 75

only by obedience to the attracting power of the distant sun.
It is not only served ; it is itself a servant in the first place.
And so of all the other bodies of our system, and apparently of
every system that the telescope of the astronomer has revealed.
The well-being of each and the stability of the whole are
secured by a constant regard in each to a centre and an aim
beyond itself. Imagine for a moment this globe breaking
away from the order of ministration and dependence in which
it is now embraced. How soon would all its beauty perish, how
soon would its varied tribes of abounding life sink back into the
cheerless chaos out of which they have arisen. And, gentlemen,
for those who have acquainted themselves at all with the facts
of physical science, I need not add how in every department of
every natural kingdom the same law of helpful service holds.
Not for itself but for every being that drinks in life and beauty
from its beams, does the light return each morning on the earth.
Not to rejoice in their own array do the lily and the rose deck
themselves in splendour. Not to be an end unto themselves do
the fruits of the valley spring. Not for its own sake does the
patient ox labour in the furrow. Service and subordination are
the life of the universe ; isolation and selfishness its death.

Listen therefore to the parable which nature daily teaches
to those who have penetrated but a little way into
The road to }^Q T mysteries. Listen and learn that it is in the
ness. path of usefulness that you can arrive at, I say not

merely the highest glory, but even the only happi-
ness. And doubt not that in the active life before you, you
will find abundant opportunity for such service to your fellow-
men as the plan of all creation thus summons you to render.
Those who have- chosen their profession can easily discern the
particular benefit that in its exercise they can confer on others.
Make the doing of that good your main design. True, it is by your
labour you must live, and it would not be right or wise to forget
this aspect of the case. But let such personal results of effort be
ever with you the second thing and not the first. In the practice
of the law let the securing of justice and the setting right of wrong
be the object on which your heart is set ; not the mere pocketing
of your fee. In the exercise of the healing art, fix all your
thoughts upon your immediate task of preserving health or life
to those who trust to you for aid. And, graduates in Engineer-
ing, let your conscious aim be this, that the structures of any
kind that you erect, or the canals, let us say, that you may dig,
shall be a convenience and a joy to the struggling lives of those
who are in the world already, and of such a kind that they shall

76 Vniversity of Madras.

continue to serve their purpose in the midst of generations that
are still to come. If thus you act, then, unless the plainest
teaching of nature be a lie, you will not lose by it even in the
lowest view, while your moral nature will be ennobled, and you
will enjoy what must surely be the satisfaction of believing that,
so far at least, you are obedient to the law by which all existence
is bound together into this one glorious universe. And what-
ever be the profession you may choose, you may all in the
exercise alike of it and of your personal influence, do much to
awaken in others that desire for knowledge which this Univer-
sity trusts that she has been the means of awakening in you.
If you are in the least worthy of the position in which you stand,
you need not me to tell you that by doing so you will confer on
them a greater boon than the very greatest that is merely
material in its character.

There was a time when the nations of Europe, too ignorant
even now, were sunk in ignorance of the very densest kind.
It was by the individual effort of those who had been themselves
enlightened, that the darkness began in any measure to be rolled
away. A story of the age of Charlemagne, related by Dr.
Newman in his delightful volume on the Office and Work of
Universities, may serve as an illustration of the spirit in which
some of them went about this work. " Two wandering Irish
students/' he says, "were brought by British traders to the
coast of France. There, observing the eagerness with which
those hawkers of perishable merchandize were surrounded by
the populace, they imitated them by crying out, Who wants
wisdom ? here is wisdom on sale ! This is the place for wisdom/'
It is an example for you not in the letter but certainly in the
spirit. What was genuine and therefore useful in them, might
be in others the veriest affectation ; yet the need of knowledge
is such in India that those who know its grandeur should hesitate
at little if only they can arouse in their countrymen a desire to
be sharers in its benefits.

In exhorting you thus, gentlemen, to labour for the good of

Acquaintance others, I am not unaware that something is tacitly

with sons of assumed. If you have no personal perception that

the object proposed to you is in itself a noble one,

undoubtedly the arguments I have used, or reasoning of any

kind, will have but little practical effect. But I believe that

some consciousness of its intrinsic grandeur is alive within you;

and that the only thing needed is that this consciousness should

be fanned into a flame. Suffer me, therefore, only to remind

you that this University in doing so much directly for your intel-

1871. Rev. Wittiam Mitter. 77

lectual progress has done something indirectly, yea, has done
much, to arouse and guide your moral nature too. Besides the
special training that some have had, you have all enjoyed more
or less of general culture, in which you have come in contact
with the words and thoughts of some among

" Those dead but sceptred sovrans that still rule
Our spirits from their urns."

You have surely done more than arrive at a bare intellectual
apprehension of their meaning. You have caught something
of their spirit too. To you has been unlocked that treasury of
invigorating thought of which Shakespeare and Milton stand
the guardians. The very tongue that they and their fellows
have ennobled, is a channel whereby moral life must flow into
those who study it with sympathy. Some portions too of the
wide field of history you have traversed. There you have met
with men that have contended for freedom and for truth at the
danger of life or at the cost of it : with those too that amidst
perplexity and peril, unsupported by any breath of popular
applause, have toiled on in some righteous cause until its worth
grew clear to all, and empires ennobled became the memorials
of their lives. Such are the men you have admired, not those
whose self-centred existence brought them it may be wealth, or
ease, or power, but came to an end without a single impress left
for good on the destinies of mankind.

It cannot be all in vain, the acquaintance that you thus have
made with

" The sons of ancient fame,
Those starry lights of virtue, that diffuse
Through the dark depths of time their vivid flame."

In the light that streams from them you perceive it to be
the lofty thing it is, to labour and to wait for great unselfish
aims. Thus we would have you live, according to the pure and
holy instincts that these bright examples have from time to
time called forth within you. Thus we would have you live,
for whether your influence be great or small, and even if little
success attend your most devoted efforts, you will thus in inmost
spirit " claim kindred with the great of old."

Such then, gentlemen, are the duties arising from your
present position that I would exhort you to discharge : to
labour for the acquisition of knowledge and of wisdom, in order
that your intellectual being may grow into the glorious thing it
is fitted to become ; then to see to it that you employ in the
service of men and for their good, all the skill and all the influ-
ence that through your own development you thus will gain.

78 University of Madras.

And now, in conclusion, what are the considerations by which
I can best urge you to discharge the duties that have been so
imperfectly pointed out ? Some helps you feel that you require,
for he knows little of himself who has not learnt by sad experi-
ence that man's moral weakness is so great, that, without some
powerful aid, the clearest demonstration of what duty is, goes
but a little way towards securing that duty shall be done.

But powerful, yes and effectual aids there are, nor are they
far away from those who seek them in earnestness with patience
and humility. When I think of you, standing as you do with
all the hope and strength of youth about you, coming into the
world as you have done in a country like this that is beginning
to sweep forward along new paths towards unthought-of desti-
nies, the considerations that might be here adduced seem almost
infinite in number. From among the many that crowd on me
let me select only two. I say not that they are the strongest
that might be used, but at least in their own place they may be
helpful, and I choose them now because one is a thought that
should never be absent from your minds, while the other is spe-
cially approriate to the circumstances in which you stand to-day.

The first consideration is that you should live and labour as
you have been adjured to do, for the sake of India,
i*" J our coun * rv - Forget not her ancient fame. For-
get not that literature and philosophy and art had

Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 39 of 66)