Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
Columbia College, 1796 (abridged)
By Josiah Shippey, A.B.
 
“Antiquam exquisite matrem.”

COLUMBIA College! Alma Mater! well
Do I remember, and the time could tell,
When first escaped from pedagogic rule,
To thee I came fresh from a grammar school
From five long years well stored, at all events,        5
With English, Greek, and Latin rudiments.
And how I profited thy books can show,
Placed number four, with twenty-eight below.
What change to freedom from tyrannic sway!
No time can chase the pleasing thought away.        10
No more our minds with six tail’d strap appall’d,
Blockheads no more, but generosi call’d.
And then, at home, our studies to pursue,
’Twas charming sure, for it was something new!
And now thou view’st us scattered o’er thy green;        15
Here are the gay, and there the thoughtful seen.
’Neath spreading trees we either stand or sit,
And on each other exercise our wit;
Or some are conning o’er the task assign’d,
To keep it fresh, when call’d for in their mind.        20
While some their fellow on swift foot pursue,
With noise and shouting make a vast ado.
But hark! the lecture bell! when all at once
Rush up the stoop, the scholar and the dunce,
Enter the room, in silence take our seats,        25
Then each vicissim, the word “Here” repeats;
The roll is call’d, the absentees are fined,
Lecture commences, all composed each mind;
Our every eye on the professor darts,
Each ear drinks in the learning he imparts.        30
But some distrustful of their mem’ry power,
On paper pen the teaching of the hour.
The lecture ended, all rush down the stairs,
And each to his own dwelling place repairs.
Morning and evening found the students all,        35
For prayers assembled, in the common hall.
Our good old Pres. in pulpit mounted high,
With specks on nose, and on his book each eye,
He reads, while he a cheerful aspect wears,
In solemn tones Episcopalian pray’rs.        40
On the concluding day of ev’ry week,
Some compositions bring, some pieces speak.
Our intermediate studies to repeat,
To some, no doubt, would prove a grateful treat.
But to remind thee of some things were vain,        45
So oft transacted o’er and o’er again;
From time almost a century ago,
Thou know’st them all, and part of them I know.
Oh happy College hours! though now ye seem
As but the remnant of a fev’rish dream;        50
So many sorrows, joys and griefs and fears,
Have filled the lapse of nearly fifty years:
.    .    .    .    .    .    .
But let me mention first thy gala day,
When all thy train came marching down Broadway,
It was a show not framed for war or fight,        55
It peaceful was, a real classic sight.
Freshmen and Sophs, Juniors and Seniors abreast,
Pres., and Professors, Janitor, full dress’d,
In long and flowing gowns of sable hue,
They look’d like Preachers to the admiring view!        60
Then there arrived, into St. Paul’s they press’d,
And I, thy joyous son, among the rest;
Then up the aisles we pass’d with silent feet,
And each located in his proper seat.
Fill’d was the House of God, below, above        65
Music—and beauty, beaming looks of love.
The music still’d, and now commence by sign,
Those acts in which each speaker tries to shine;
Speeches in English, some in Latin too,
Salute, farewell, sparkling with wit, span new.        70
The speaking o’er, th’ assembly wait to see,
Each graduate take his separate degree;
Conferr’d by Pres. in Latin on the whole,
A.B. or A.M. with a parchment roll.
Pray’rs ended, now th’ assembly all retire        75
To censure some, while some applaud, admire.
Among the A.B.’s ranks thy humble son;
Mother, these acts in ninety-six were done!
 
 
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