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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (July 5, 1885)
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theologian will be versed in science as well as in his Bible and
with a mind thus enlarged he may be able to unfold the mys
teries of earth and ipon each new truth Christianity shall dis
cover the seal of divinity."
Following the oration came a song by Dr. Palin Saxby,
"The Stories the Stars Could Tell." Thiswas of Mr. Saxby's
own composition and we arc assured by competent critics that
it is a musical gem.
The only girl graduate, Miss Mary L. Jones, then read an
essay on the "Influence of the English Ballad." Her ap
pearance was charming, and she read with composure and
considerable force, though, as is gencraly the case with young
ladies, her tones were not sufficiently strong to reach the back
rows of scats and the persons standing up against the wall.
The following synopsis will give a faint idea of the ex
cellencies of this most pleasing exercise:
The ballad marks a stage m the literary dcvclopemcnt as
certainly as docs the stone or iron age mark an era in the in
dustrial growth of a people. English literature has not re
sulted from evolution. The Elizabethan writers were the re
sult of a violent revolution instead of a national growth.
Originally the ballad was not a native of English soil. The
Saxons were not an adventurous people, or if they were,
they possessed little imagination to turn their exploits
into verse. But with the advent of the Danes came the min
strel and ballad.
The Northmen possessed the vivid imagination necessary
to appreciate the poetic in their exploits, and to turn them
into the rinc'mg rhyme of the ballad. Wherever they pene
trated there the minstrel followed, singing first the songs of
his native land, then the deeds of the conquered race.
The ballads of the middle age perfectly mirrored the emo
tional life of the people, whose feelings were not yet deadened
by cruelty. The clear, ringing note of the ballad was martial
music to the warrior, exciting him to higher, nobler deeds.
The ballad is pre-eminently the poetry of feudalism, chival
ry and the crusades;. The wild raids of feudal warfare were
its very life; and when these ceased and a more peaceful civ
ilization settled upon England the minstrel passed out of na
The middle ages arc looked upon as a blank in English lit
erature, and so they arc as far iw formal expression is con
cerned . The Greeks arc the only people who passed from the
simplicity of the ballad to the philosophy of Socrates. The
nature of Shakspeare is not the nature of the ballad, but in
fact a nature with whole centuries of civilization behind it.
A brilliant literature was kept up from Milton, but it lacked
Through all the years of artificial culture civilization was
steadily advancing. Social and political growth was accom
plished by mental progress. The cultured circle was increas
ing, now and then including one who still held the ballads
of his fathers fresh in his hands.
The group of history in the eighteenth century was not so
large but that one vigorous mind could effect all. The four
teenth century literature could not be engrafted on the
eighteenth century civilization. The law of nature was at
work in England not less than in France, and Scott was the
first to advance the new ideas. In poetry Burns and Words
worth completed the transformation. Poetry is no longer a
display of intellect; it is the literature of the emotions, and
nowhere does it send such a thrill through the heart as in the
short, crisp tones of the ballad.
A piano and organ duet "La Favorita" by Miss Cochran
and Dr. Saxby followed. It was an artistic and enjoyable
performance. Conway G. McMillan then gave his oration on
"Robert Burns," which may be summarized as follows:
There was a time one hundreds years ago, when reforms of
every nature were characteristic features ot the period, Poli-
tics, religion, social states were changed. At this time, too,
English literature received an impetus in a new direction.
The poetry which had so long satisfied the popular craving
now became intolerable and reform was demanded. Tope
and his school had inflicted their unnatural, bombastic verses
upon the people until such writing and style clogged upon
he appetite of eycry reader. Nature had been disregarded.
The river of verses had been flowing through artificial groves,
but had never reached the virgin forests. Cowper and Burns
appeared as leaders of reform. Burn however was the real
front of the opposition to artificiality. The environment of
Burns' poems gives a clue to their popularity. Freedom,
with nature unknown before his time. He drew his inspira
tion from the humblest sources, but succeeding in creating
marvclously beautiful superstructures upon unpretentious
foundations. Bums' poetry evidences his sincerity. Every
word is born from truth. What Burns says he believes;
what he advises has served as his own guide. There is no
hollow sham of theatrical scntimcntalism about the verse of
the Bard of Aycrshirc, Carlylc tells us that a sincere man is
always respected. This utterance found an example in Burns.
He was not only natural and sympathetic, but strong in his
mental make-up. Although not a scholar he knew how to
use the tools of language, and that, too, more artistically than
many of those who had better advantages than himself. Thus
the genius of Bums is seen to be broad and allcompassing.
Mr. A. G. Warner's subject was an unusual one "The
Lack of Brains" and he treated it in his characteristic and
muscular style. A vigorous, eloquent speaker on all occa
sions, he fairly out-did himself on this his last appearance as
a student of the University. An idea of the thought of his
oration may be gleaned from the appended skeleton:
The good to be derived from each new reformatory move
mont is over-estimated, because of the enthusiasm of its cham
pions. This has been the case with the various religions, the
strong government idea and the belief in the social omnipo
tence of liberty. The latest alleged panacea for all social
evils is the reason, supplemented by the work of education.
It was at first supposc.l the reason of the "natural man"
could of itself accomplish all things; but that this was a mis
take was shown when a courtesan, crowned asa goddess of
reason, lead the mob on a devil's dance through Paris, and
the failure might have been anticipated from the mental
awkwardness which even the keenest intellects had displayed
when handling even mathematical problems.
Kctormcrs now preach education as the one thing needful,
but education is only a "drawing out" and if there be
nothing but folly in a man the best education can do him lit
tle good. There graduate from our colleges many fools. The
public schools contain many thousands of children who have
not brains enough to understand long division. The rcr.son
ing powers, like all the rest of man's faculties are in an un
completed state. The struggle for existence now takes a form
which makes life itself depend upon intelligence. No such
thing exists as a conflict between labor and capital. It is a
struggle between the mentally weak and the mentally
The survival of the fittest implies the extenuation of the un
fit. Nature does not believe that all men arc equal and re
morselessly accomplishes the killing of the mentally weak,
contending against this elemental law, reason assisted
by education must work slowly, painfully, unsurcly. This fac
may as well be acknowlcdcd for though some benefits may
result from delusion, delusion is not a benefit. Realizing the
boundlessness of the work to be accomplished, man will be
better circumstanced to do what he is indeed fitted to per
form, and though he no longer expects to come up to the ho
rizon, nor lay hands upon the rainbow, though like an unde
ceived Columbus, he knows that the world is larger than his
imagination had ever pictured it, yet he feels that the un
known land of the future is beautiful and bounteous, having
beauties to cheer and riches to reward all noble efforts.
Each graduate received a small cart-load of flowers, books,
and other favors, besides compliments enough to turn the
heads of ordinary individuals.
Mrs. Grace B. Dales closed the programme with an ex
quisitely given song, after which the usual degrees were con
ferred upon the graduates. In addition, Hon. A. W. Field
and Mr. H. H. Wilson were given permission to attach M. A.
to their names, and the degree of B. A. was given Miss
Madge Hitchcock, who was a member of the class of '78.
Immediately after the sound of oratory in the Opera House
had died away the procession re-formed and returned to the
campus, where the cornerstone of the chemical laboratory
was laid. Speeches were made by the Chancellor, C. H. Gere,
C. A. Holmes, A. W. Field, and Prof. Bessey, Prof. Sherman
read a poem, the band played stirring airs and the artillery
squads fired a number of guns in honor of this important event
in the history of our University.
equality, naU'.re, manhood,' were the leading ideas of the time
At such a moment the whole world welcomed a writer who hour by students and friends of the University who were bid
embodied such ideas in his verse. Burns had a sympathy ding adieu to each other and to the college year of 1884-85!
The most pleasant and successful Commencement ever held
here was agreeably brought to a close by theChancellor's
levee in the senate chamber. The hall was filled until a late