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Musings On the Charles

By Richard S. Lee

Moments seem hours as we lingering dwell,

Yet shadows deepen, and the loftier spires

In white array send back their last farewell

As sinks the orb, and parting day expires,--

Yet not to instant darkness leaves the scene;

Around its couch a bright effulgence pours;

The clouds above, opposing hills between,

Far up the skies the tinted radiance soars,

And shapes suggestive that forever change

Heap up in graceful forms their semblance strange.

--Thomas C. Amory, The Charles River: A Poem

There is some special synergy between this river and its school. In September, when fresh faces, bubbling and exuberant, eagerly gaze toward the upcoming term, the river responds in kind, painting its boughs bright crimson hues, gurgling while it playfully licks the boats that caress its surface. In March, when lazy students, recently finished with midterms and theses, shed their cares, the river reflects that restful aura, sparkling quietly beneath clear blue skies. In May, the busiest of times, when students must hustle and bustle, move and commence, the river, too, shimmers with activity, shooting rays of light that blind those moving along the water's side.

But today, in the dead of January, the Charles sits silent and still. Its waters are buried deep beneath winter's frigid glaze. The night is dark, the wind blows cold. No feet dare tread upon its cracking face, no rays will warm that icy place. The foolhardy may venture along the river's banks, but always to return with socks dripping and hearts hanging. There is something melancholy to be found here.

Perhaps the Charles does, after all, reflect our thoughts. For us, winter exam period is often the bleakest of times. The steady stream of papers and exams, like a thick snowstorm, chills our souls and buries our wills. In the end we, like the river, can do nothing but wait meekly for the sun to break.

The river offers us its sympathy, and in return we give it our thanks. It is a particularly heartfelt thanks from those of us who are departing, and might never again witness our river in its wintery state.

In time, all seasons must come and go, and this period is no different. The ice will thaw and the snow will melt, and a short week from now, the new term will be upon us. Then the waters of this great river will be free to run and leap again. In time, a new guard of fresh faces will lounge upon its banks, underneath its bright crimson boughs, and bask by its shimmering sheets.

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