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George Moses Horton

(1797 - 1884 / Northampton, North Carolina)

On The Pleasures Of College Life


With tears I leave these academic bowers,
And cease to cull the scientific flowers;
With tears I hail the fair succeeding train,
And take my exit with a breast of pain.
The Fresh may trace these wonders as they smile;
The stream of science like the river Nile,
Reflecting mental beauties as it flows,
Which all the charms of College life disclose;
This sacred current as it runs refines,
Whilst Byron sings and Shakspeare's mirror shines.
First like a garden flower did I rise,
When on the college bloom I cast my eyes;
I strove to emulate each smiling gem,
Resolved to wear the classic diadem;
But when the Freshman's garden breeze was gone;
Around me spread a vast extensive lawn;
'Twas there the muse of college life begun,
Beneath the rays of erudition's sun,

Where study drew the mystic focus down,
And lit the lamp of nature with renown;
There first I heard the epic thunders roll,
And Homer's light'ning darted through my soul.
Hard was the task to trace each devious line,
Though Locke and Newton bade me soar and shine;
I sunk beneath the heat of Franklin's blaze,
And struck the notes of philosophic praise;
With timid thought I strove the test to stand,
Reclining on a cultivated land,
Which often spread beneath a college bower,
And thus invoked the intellectual shower;
E'en that fond sire on whose depilous crown,
The smile of courts and states shall shed renown;
Now far above the noise of country strife,
I frown upon the gloom of rustic life,
Where no pure stream of bright distinction flows,
No mark between the thistle and the rose;
One's like a bird encaged and bare of food,
Borne by the fowler from his native wood,
Where sprightly oft he sprung from spray to spray,
And cheer'd the forest with his artless lay,

Or fluttered o'er the purling brook at will,
Sung in the dale or soar'd above the hill.
Such are the liberal charms of college life,
Where pleasure flows without a breeze of strife;
And such would be my pain if cast away,
Without the blooms of study to display.
Beware, ye college birds, again beware,
And shun the fowler with his subtile snare;
Nor fall as one from Eden, stript of all
The life and beauty of your native hall;
Nor from the garden of your honor go,
Whence all the streams of fame and wisdom flow;
Where brooding Milton's theme purls sweet along
With Pope upon the gales of epic song;
Where you may trace a bland Demosthenes,
Whose oratoric pen ne'er fails to please;
And Plato, with immortal Cicero,
And with the eloquence of Horace glow;
There cull the dainties of a great Ainsworth,
Who sets the feast of ancient language forth;
Or glide with Ovid on his simple stream,
And catch the heat from Virgil's rural beam;
Through Addison you trace creation's fire,
And all the rapid wheels of time admire;

Or pry with Paley's theologic rays,
And hail the hand of wisdom as you gaze;
Up Murray's pleasant hill you strive to climb,
To gain a golden summit all sublime,
And plod through conic sections all severe,
Which to procure is pleasure true and dear.
The students' pensive mind is often stung,
Whilst blundering through the Greek and Latin tongue;
Parsing in grammars which may suit the whole,
And will the dialect of each control.
Now let us take a retrospective view,
And whilst we pause, observe a branch or two.
Geography and Botany unfold
Their famous charms like precious seeds of gold;
Zoology doth all her groups descry,
And with Astronomy we soar on high;
But pen and ink and paper all would fail,
To write one third of this capacious tale.
Geography presents her flowery train,
Describes the mountain and surveys the plain,
Measures the sounding rivers as they grow,
Unto the trackless deeps to which they flow:
She measures well her agriculture's stores,

Which meet her commerce on the golden shore,
Includes the different seasons of the year,
And changes which pervade the atmosphere,
Treats of the dread phenomena which rise
In different shapes on earth, or issue from the skies;
She points in truth to Lapland's frozen clime,
And nicely measures all the steps of time;
Unfolds the vast equator's burning line,
Where all the stores of heat dissolve and shine;
Describes the earth as unperceived she rolls,
Her well-poised axis placed upon the poles.
Botany, whose charms her florists well display,
Whose lavish odours swell the pomp of May,
Whose curling wreaths the steady box adorn,
And fill with fragrance all the breeze of morn.
Through various means her plants are oft applied,
Improved by art, and well by nature tried;
Thro' her, the stores of herbage are unroll'd,
All which compose the vegetable world;
Even the sensitives, which feel and shrink,
From slightest touches, though they cannot think,
Not yet rejoice, void of the power to fear,

Or sense to smell, to see, to taste, or hear.
Zoology, with her delightful strain,
Doth well the different animals explain;
From multipedes to emmets in the dust,
And all the groveling reptiles of disgust;
She well descries the filthy beetle blind,
With insects high and low of every kind;
She with her microscope surveys the mite,
Which ne'er could be beheld by naked sight;
Thence she descends into the boundless deep,
Where dolphins play and monsters slowly creep;
Explores the foaming main from shore to shore,
And hears with awe the dshing sea bull roar;
Traces enormous whales exploding high
Their floods of briny water to the sky;
Desribes the quadrupeds of ever shape,
The bear, the camel, elephant and ape,
And artful monkey, which but lack to talk,
And like the human kind uprightly walk.
Astronomy, with her aerial powers,
Lifts us above this dreary globe of ours;
Throughout the realms of ether's vast expanse,
Her burning wings our towering minds advance;
Measures her tropic well from line to line,

And marks her rolling planets as they shine;
Describes the magnitude of every star,
And thence pursues her comets as they roll afar.
But nature never yet was half explored,
Though by philosopher and bard adored;
Astronomer and naturalist expire,
And languish that they could ascend no higher;
Expositors of words in every tongue,
Writers of prose and scribblers of song,
Would fail with all their mathematic powers,
And vainly study out their fleeting hours.
Sir Walter Raleigh, Pen and Roberson,
With Morse and Snowden, who are dead and gone,
They all were, though mused their lives away,
And left ten thousand wonders to display.
And though the fiery chemists probe the mine
The subterraneous bodies to define;
Though melting flames the force of matter try,
Rocks mix'd with brass and gold to pieces fly;
And those who follow the electric muse,
Amidst the wilds of vast creation loose
Themselves like pebbles in the swelling main,
And strive for naught these wanders to explain;

Galvin himself, the monarch of the whole,
Would blush his empty parchments to unroll.
These different branches to one ocean go,
Where all the streams of life together flow,
Where perfect wisdom swells the tide of joy,
A tide which must eternity employ;
A boundless sea of love without a shore,
Whose pleasure ebbs and flows forever more;
Volume Divine! O thou the sacred dew,
Thy fadeless fields see elders passing through,
Thy constant basis must support the whole,
The cabinet and alcove of the soul;
It matters not through what we may have pass'd,
To thee for sure support we fly at last;
Encyclopedias we may wander o'er,
And study every scientific lore,
Ancient and modern authors we may read,
The soul must starve or on thy pastures feed.
These bibliothic charms would surely fall,
And life grow dim within this college wall,
The wheels of study in the mind would tire,
If not supported by thy constant fire;
Greatest of all the precepts ever taught
Maps and vocabularies dearly bought,
Burns with his harp, Scott, Cambell, and their flowers,

Will shrink without the everlasting showers;
Theology, thou sweetest science yet,
Beneath whose boughs the silent classics sit,
And thus imbibe the sacred rays divine,
Which make the mitred faculty to shine;
O for a gleam of Buck, immortal muse,
With elder Scott and Henry to peruse;
These lines which did a secret bliss inspire,
And set the heads, the hearts, the tongues, on fire.
Such is the useful graduate indeed,
Not merely at the bar in law to plead,
Nor a physician best to heal the flesh,
But all the mystic power of soul and flesh;
On such a senior let archangels smile,
And all the students imitate his style,
Who bears with joy the mission all divine,
The beams of sanctitude, a Paul benign;
Whose sacred call is to evangelise,
A gospel prince, a legate of the skies,
Whose bright diploma is a deed from heaven,
The palm of love, the wreath of sins forgiven.

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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