News

Harvard Law School Makes Online Zero-L Course Free for All U.S. Law Schools Due to Coronavirus

News

For Kennedy School Fellows, Epstein-Linked Donors Present a Moral Dilemma

News

Tenants Grapple with High Rents and Local Turnover at Asana-Owned Properties

News

In April, Theft Surged as Cambridge Residents Stayed at Home

News

The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

THE PRESS

The Admirable Copey

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Tonight at the Harvard Club in New York city is held the annual dinner of a group which might fairly declare itself unique. From the four winds of Heaven these men assemble, their common tie being their respect and affection for the man who, in college, taught them English literature and composition--as well as other things equally if not more important. They call themselves the Charles Townsend Copeland Association. They are, simply, friends of Copey.

Breathes there a graduate with soul so dead as to have forgotten how, in those first few weeks of frightened freshmanhood, the one thing he had in common with other scared freshmen, the one thing which gave him a sense of "belonging" amid the vast impersonal vacuum of a great university, the one voice and note of pervading human personality in which everybody had a share, was Copey? Meeting classmates whom you didn't know from Adam there was one way you could always make conversation, one platform on which you could always get together, and that was your huge relish of Copey's jokes. They passed around the college from tongue to tongue with the dizzy speed of village gossip. Copey's epigrams were, and are, the folklore of the college.

Then came the night in Sever when you first heard him read. They had told you that it was going to be good. But, like Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, nobody had given you the least idea of how good it was going to be. There were the usual alarums and excursions about the windows--which ones should be up and which down, and, if up, how far up, and, if down, how far down; and the hallowed stage-properties of reading-lamp, watch and glass of water, the last two of which did duly in the grave-diggers' scene. But these were only the comedy relief. Copey began to read. Bless us! what sonorous organ-tones rolled out of that little body seated in the swivel chair. And what was the witchcraft that he used? Vanished worlds arose from the graves of time to live again in pomp and pageantry. Homer's heroes exchanged ringing blows on the windy plains of Troy. Armored knights spurred in quest of the Holy Grail. Lear went raving over the heath. A tramp steamer careened across the Indian Ocean shearing spray off her bows, and the dawn came up like thunder.... And on the hard wooden chairs sat hundreds of boys, young barbarians, fascinated, spellbound, many if not most of them realizing, perhaps for the first time in their lives the delight of great literature, the majesty of the English tongue and the might of the human imagination....

All this you did for them, Copey; yes, and more. For some were fired with an ambition to voyage those roaring oceans of the imagination in caravels of their own; and some there were who aspired to master the stops and manuals of this great organ of the English speech until they could send wave on wave of music pealing through the naves and transepts of that most vast of all cathedrals--the Cathedral of the Human Spirit.... And these little flames of talent Copey, the lamp-lighter, tended faithfully (albeit somewhat brusquely on occasion, yet with his Jeremiads over a bad sentence over savored with Attic salt.) And the flames brightened and kindled other flames, as the Divine law of life is; and their lamps moved hither and yon, bringing into places that had been dark before, light and joy and high intelligence and immortal beauty.

And so this life went on, broadening and brightening like sun-glinting circles in a blue water on a Summer's day, and so shall it go on and on even after the physical body which set going those waves of light in the pool of time shall have sunk out of sight into the gulfs of eternity. They promote him to the rank of full professorship "Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory." But he promoted himself, years ago to a higher rank full professor of that finest of the fine arts, the art of nourishing creative talents.

And now the gray little gentleman (whose health is no longer any too robust) who dwells in the top of Hollis Hall and whom some might be disposed to pity because he has no family of his own?

No family of his own! His family numbers by the hundreds, if not the thousands a huge, ever-young family of boys, the pick of the land, loyal and affectionate to the godfather of their minds and the friend of their youth. Uncle Dudley in the Boston Globe.

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

Tags