News

Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Talks Justice, Civic Engagement at Radcliffe Day

News

Church Says It Did Not Authorize ‘People’s Commencement’ Protest After Harvard Graduation Walkout

News

‘Welcome to the Battlefield’: Maria Ressa Talks Tech, Fascism in Harvard Commencement Address

Multimedia

In Photos: Harvard’s 373rd Commencement Exercises

News

Rabbi Zarchi Confronted Maria Ressa, Walked Off Stage Over Her Harvard Commencement Speech

EARLIER HARVARD JOURNALISM.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Among all the journals now dead and gone, but once published by Harvard students, the Collegian retains to this day a certain posthumous fame because of the honor it had of first publishing some of Dr. Holmes' most celebrated verses. Dr. Holmes was not the editor of the Collegian as has been stated, however, for the graduated from college in 1829, and the Collegian was not started until 1830. But he was a frequent contributor to the paper, and the reader, in running over its table of contents, meets many familiar titles from his pen. "To My Companions," "The Dorchester Giant," "The Cannibal," "The Spectre Pig," "Evening, by a Tailor," and "The Height of the Ridiculous," - these, with many others in the volume, are credited to Oliver Wendell Holmes. John Osborne Sargent, writing under the pseudonym of Charles Sherry, was the managing editor; and his then prolific pen is responsible for a large part of the Collegian, as before of the Register. All the articles have some fanciful signature attached; besides that of Charles Sherry, there appear L. Lockfast, F. Airy, G. La Touche and A. Templeton-pseudonyms (excepting the first) representing names whose fame has not continued until our day.

"Our project has met with more opposition than we had anticipated. Old and wise men have frowned upon it; private prejudices have operated against it," say the editors in their introduction. A succinct history, many will admit, of the beginnings of many similar student enterprises. A writer of a review article in one of the first pages gives a rather forcible statement of the condition of instruction at the college at that time. He says: "Educated in the old manner, and whipped, from our earliest days, into an acquaintance with the languages, mythologies and histories of the ancient nations, we have been obliged to remain in utter ignorance in respect to most other departments of literature." And in another place he indicates again the reaction that was going on during the early portion of this century against the frigid classicism of the preceding century. He says: "We seldom style the moon Diana, even in our verses; have dispensed with the society of Cupid; and never think of asking inspiration from Apollo or the Muses."

There is a curious article on "College Life" in the volume. Its thesis is this: "Our situation here is utterly unnatural; necessarily so, perhaps, but that it is so - that four or five hundred youth, collected from their homes, far and near, and housed together for four years, to read books and forget the world, are in a forced and unnatural state, is obvious." A thought that might seem startling, if one did not reflect that the same objection has stood for two centuries, and Harvard has not yet seen fit to abandon her theory of college organization. The writer characterizes the "dig" or "hard student, with absorbed look and unelastic step, the probable consequence of his labors and his watching," and then the sport, "the neglecter of his lesson, with his fine clothes, his gay air, and genteel manners, and the fame of his merry-makings." Dismal are his conclusions drawn from the contrast. The author treats his text under the following sub-heads: 1. "We are an insulated community;" 2. "College is a place where the great purpose of all is apt to be forgotten, and their most valuable possession - i. e., time - to be unappreciated;" 3. "We live here in an undomestic and unsocial state." On the second head he says very finely: "This great purpose is study. Now this is much more difficult, and requires much more moral exertion to devote one's self to, as an object, than the more active duties of after life." And, on the third heading, he says forcibly: "Indeed, although youth is called the age of sentiment and enthusiasm, I know no less enthusiastic or sentimental place than college; no place where there is more shyness in the expressing of lively sensibility. . .This trait of our character, I trace to our being undomesticated."

An "Anacreontic" that appears on page 205, quoted from the poems of Rufus Dawes, (Boston, 1830,) has a fine ring; the first stanza is:

Fill again the mantling bowl,

Nor fear to meet the morning breaking!

None but slaves should bend the soul

Beneath the chains of mortal making.

Fill your beakers to the brim,

Bacchus soon shall lull your sorrow;

Let delight

But crown the night,

And Care may bring her clouds tomorrow.

Dr. Holmes' account of the "Mysterious Visitor" who entered into chapel one morning and

Fast by a gray-haired senior's side

He sat him boldly down,

And

When all around him rose to pray

The stranger did not rise,

And who afterwards invaded the college commons and ate so voraciously - is irresistibly funny.

It is said in one place of a man who was expelled: "He carried away with him all the good wishes and good opinions of his fellow classmates; if we may infer it from the fact that he left none of these commodities behind!"

A stanza of Holmes' "Graduates' Song," on page 282, may be quoted:

"It's I that is a bachelor, though married to the Muse,

I talks with all the gentle folks, and flirts with all the blues;

It's I that looks as knowing now as any body can,

For once I was a sophomore, but now I am a man.

I keeps a little puppy dog, I has a little cane" -

But this may be getting almost a little too personal, so let us cease.

"Momenta Lankiana," a series of biographical papers, afford some very creditable specimens of Yankee humor, and are very readable; indeed, the entire volume is readable, and, spiced throughout as it is by Dr. Holmes' wit, is very enjoyable. Solid articles have their due share of space, however. The volume is ended by a poetical "Tail Piece" by Holmes.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags