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Half-Century Annalist Letters

A Tryst With Time
Poem of the Half-Century Annalist

Clinton Scollard, Class of 1881

Delivered: June 1931

Our College once I likened to a rose
Upon a morn three lustrums gone and more,
A rose that Kirkland planted on these hills,
Planted and fostered on a distant day
Above Oriskany of the singing shore.
We are the fading petals left of those
Who flowered here five decades past. These sills,
These walls, these lawns, these trees that toss and sway,
And welcome us in the old cordial way,
Are sacred to us, for we feel at heart
That we of them are still a vital part
Though we pass soon into the long decay,
As must each petal of the mortal flower
That drifts to meet its first immortal hour.

If I should conjure up before us now
The men who nurtured us, who should be first?
“Old Greek!” I hear you say, upon whose brow
Sat Sophoclean wisdom, who was versed
In lore they learned who sat round Plato’s knees
Amid the groves where swift Eurotus flees.
The honey of Theocritean bees
Fell from his lips as from a honeycomb.
Next he who with tense Euclid made his home,
Whose face was crossed with geometric lines
Like his own cubes and tangents and co-sines.
And we should see, among those avatars,
The one who held close converse with the stars
Night after night, and roved the purple voids
Musing on planets and the asteroids.

I still can mark benign old “Prexy” Brown,
And “Hops” take on his taciturnian frown;
Behind his glasses I watch “Gouty” blink,
And I observe the polished poise of Frink;
“Buff” sits serene, despite the awful smells,
Amid retorts and curious crucibles;
Then he strides by with whom we held dispute
Who bore with us the tuneful name of “Tute,”
While “Johnny” Mears, of metaphysic mind,
Discourses upon language and mankind;
And one may not forget the college pastor,
With his umbrella for a walking stick;
Urbane and spectacled, a crafty master
At begging for the college—this was “Nick;”
And lastly memory views small Peter Blake
With Peter Kelly marching in his wake.

Dear recollections crowd about us here
In this our Fiftieth Anniversary year.
If we incline a little to forget
The present, and our faces backward set,
Forgive our trespass, we whose heads are gray,
(If we indeed have any hair at all.)
Give us our happy dreams of yesterday;
Let us be Sophomoric for awhile,
Drift down the past as to some happy isle,
Dismiss the motorcar and radio
That rule today, and hold the youth in thrall,
And let us go, just for the moment, slow
And climb the Hill in “Bill Rob’s” hack or shay!
Let us have laughter, and the lemonade
That once at “Dan’s” was plentifully purveyed!
Let us have back the singing at the “Sems,”
“Chip,” White and Houghton which we thought were gems!
(Where are the girls, those fascinating girls,
Who wore their hair in braids or bangs or curls?)
Let us slip out like flitting ghostly shapes
And in the midnight sample Spencer’s grapes,
Or taste the tempting tang of Powell’s vines,
Deep-hued concords, ambrosial muscadines,
And listen to the sharp stentorian call
Upon the field when Bumpus cried, “Play ball!”

Beneath this self-same roof—remember how
With shaking knees we made our virgin bow!
And what a mad commotion, what a crush,
When some bold spirit framed a chapel-rush!
How cannon-crackers gave, with roar and wrench,
Un-Gallic accent to the classroom French!
How cider from the presidential still
Wet other throats than those ‘twas meant to fill!
What trepidation—and it was no sham—
Through the long lamp-lit hours before “exam!”
I love to think with what breathtaking thrill,
As though on pinions we whirled down the Hill
Upon those keen and cloudless winter nights
When up the heavens flamed the Northern Lights,
And love to dwell, and shall unto the end,
On the congenial hours of friend with friend;
And this I know, though far we may have fared,
We oft have turned to what we once here shared,—
The struggles and the triumphs and the joys
When we were comrades and were college boys.

Although, as round we let our vision range,
And note with pride the magicry of change,—
Halls statlier far than any that we knew,
Many and varied now and then how few,—
The quiet, green, hedge-girt God’s-acre still
Looks toward the sunrise from our hallowed Hill,
While toward the Mohawk swift Oriskany sings
As in our distant undergraduate springs;
And though the stately poplars march no more
The elm trees sway, umbrageous as of yore.
The noble campus that we, care-free, trod
Preserves the yielding velvet of its sod;
The water of our cool Pierian well
Keeps for the thirsty lip its olden spell,
Though now no Freshman some autumnal night
Receives from it his post-baptismal rite;
The mellow-measured chapel-bell one hears:
May it peal on down long uncounted years,
Calling the classes that are yet unborn
To work and worship morn on opening morn!
To those who have already kissed the Grail
Across the tides of Time we send our hail;
To all the living sons of Eighty-One,
Our loyal love—and love for Hamilton!