Dowd's oration offers tributes and a farewell to fellow students,
the faculty (pausing to eulogize Prof. Elisha Mitchell), the president, the
trustees, and his fellow graduates.
Morning is the time to smile and run after the imagination, when in
its purity, it points to the joyous life ahead and prompts to pursue the
"narrow way." Morning the time, when prospects brighten and nobler
purposes fill our bosoms. Oh! that happy morning would last forever! Then would
life be a fairy dream: age would lose his whitened locks: Spring his chilling
storms and hopes their cruel disappointments: friendships would be unbroken and
associations lose the terror of a close, Oh! that morning would last forever!
But the "time to weep"2
to fright our hopes, dispel our vain
imaginings, and spread the gloomy silence of Solitude around us. Night is
fearful, darkness filled with spectres, broken by the cry of the wanderer and
the howlings of the devourer.
Fellow Students: But Fellow Students: our morn is past: the dark
night is brooding over us: the bright ideal star of Commencement, to which our
life has long been directed, is swiftly fading from our vision: it hangs no
longer in the distance, but sinks behind the hills. School-days are gone and we
linger only to say Good bye. Now we have attained the end of our race and find
all is not bright beyond, we hesitate to rush into the scenes untried and abide
this hour to review our pilgrimage. Memory paints anew the festive scenes in
which we took a part and all along our fading pathway, days and deeds arise
'round which our fondest recollections cluster. Fond Memory: sacred goddess as
thou art: thanks for the bright pictures thou dost paint! Events long neglected
or forgotten, thou hast preserved untarnished; the ills and errors thou hast
concealed and only the joys and pleasures revealed. Happy life we'v'e spent in
College—never to be forgotten! Fixed on thy tablet, it shall live to
cheer us in the hours of sad old age. The memory of our bygone years! Tis sweet
to think of their consolations and forget their cares. But, melancholy thought,
that excites each tender heart and starts a sympathetic tear! those years now
close and number themselves with the Past. We say Farewell and part.
You have shared with us the inspiring waters of this
fountain of Learning, but our friendships now hasten to be broken! Borne away
by adverse Fates or weighed down by life's direst calamities, our memories will
recur with rapture to you, who cheered us once and added to our pleasures. Be
good friends to each other as you have been to us: envy not those, who are
foremost in the race but love them more, and if one fall, raise him to your own
high position and make him worthy of your love. And think not you will be
forgotten. Our eyes will ever rest upon you, watching how the
and how you love the
mindful of the changes which mark your brief career!
The Poets gave to
he might live their god long as the mountain stood. But
sinks slowly beneath the sea to become ere many cycles, the sporting ground of
sea-monsters or the base of a coral reef! The Vestal flame, of ancient days,
floated on the breeze and was caught up to the skies. Long did the Virgin think
to perpetuate the name of her Mistress by solemn rites and morning sacrifices!
But the Temple is destroyed: the place of the altar forgotten and history tells
not the story of their follies. The age of Mythology is passed away. Change is
a decree of Deity. He has shown his visage here and broken our little circle.
Some have fallen away from us, who sleep in the silent
Cemetery, watching still perhaps, the progress of their
deserted friends! Learn from their fate to be wise. Prepare now to meet them in
peace and dwell with them in communion with the blest. For we too, soon must
part: soon hear the long Farewell!
Much loved Faculty: I come to pay you a tribute of earnest
gratitude. Our hearts swell with deep emotions as we
behold you and think we may never see you all again. Alas! we do not see you
now! Where is that familiar form, once mingling
in scenes like these? I look in vain for him the foremost and the best. He was
devoted to us and he never had a class, who loved him more than we.
When we saw him last, he was buoyant and active and so had he won
our hearts, that many had already expressed the boundless sorrow, that would
pervade our hearts if he should fall ere our course was run or he had given us
his passport into active life!
He slumbers amid the mountains he went to explore: in the
State to which he devoted the distinguished services of his life: amid
the rocks and hills—a teeming Laboratory of the science to which he was a
Martyr! He died a member of the
University, his name will it perpetuate to all time.
Spirit of the honored dead arise, and meet the class, who loved you so. Come to
tell us farewell, ere we part to meet no more! Tell us of the world, thou hast
visited, tell us how to live and die for Eternity! Bid us prepare for the
Spirit-land and when we fall, bid us welcome home! He comes not: he is in the
bosom of the
last farewell was given to the hills and was hushed by the deep blue waters!
High above these lowly vales may his body sleep quietly when discordant
passions disturb the harmony of these States: high above these humble
Cemeteries, may he be the first to catch the sound of the final tramp, the
first awake and ascend to Heaven!
But you, who remain, took us by the hand, slow to learn, reluctant
to obey and led us through all the Sciences. Our ignorance excited your
compassion and animated you to "love us to our duty" by parental care
and tenderness. Emotions of deepest gratitude swell our hearts and prompt us to
come humbly before you and reviewing our pilgrimage, now hastening to a final
close, make a full expression of thanks for every kind word and favor. But we
can not linger: the hour bids us haste. We are reluctant to say Farewell. 'Tis
sad to forsake so worthy parents, beyond whose guidance we must hereafter act
our part as men.
Ever will our memory run back and consecrate you the guardians of
our youth and shapers of our highest destiny.– Accept the thanks of
my classmates. No common offering do we bring: for we love you more than any
ever did before. 'Tis surely a time to weep and say Farewell. How I'm driven to
take the final step! Adieu. Adieu!
To you, much loved
: we owe a special tribute Upon our hearts
perpetual thanks and praises kindle. Memory has embalmed your name and we go
forth to tell of the good you have done. You told us of the errors of men: how
they failed of a knowledge of the mind and built false theories of Eternity:
taught us to remember
and to use the
: taught us the laws of our country, that we
may be better citizens: armed us to enact with power the salutary principles
imbibed: make our country more prosperous and happy: taught us the laws of
, to be better
and fight more vigorously for Virtue. May our
gratitude ever cheer you. May a kind Providence pour upon your head the dews of
his grace, and crown you in his courts at last! Farewell!
All around me are sad and melancholy, weeping to sever the tender
associations recently formed, reluctant to forsake friends and these sacred
groves. We have learned to love the
Institution you have established for the youth of all
ages, and as adopted sons, turn to you, in this hour of trial, when none comes
to arrest the sentence—Depart—and none gives relief to our regrets.
You come from the busy world: tell us of its joys and hopes. Is not living
there a pleasure? Brings it not sweet consolations? Welcome us to a happy life
beyond these walls and tell us that going hence will be but the beginning of
pleasures. Let some comfort us! But none will smile. Sadness sits upon your
brow, troubles have furrowed your cheeks and labor found a place at your quiet
homes! The external world has no consolation, cold and selfish, without a kind
word for a weary pilgrim! You come to visit the
University, established by the generosity of those you
represent, and dignified by your talent. Its numbers enlarge: its good name
extends. Thanks for the fortunes we have even beneath its protection and when
leaving this our home and you our adopted parents our hearts are filled with
mingled sadness and gratitude. Long may the advantages of your
University be extended to our youth, and may your names
ever be linked with hers, unsullied as her present fame! Farewell!
But this bitterest cup is cruelly reserved till the last! My
dearest Classmates: we too must part: we were strangers when we began our
career, jealous of each other's honors, careless of each other's woes. A cold
world had taught us not to confide in our fellows. But drinking at the same
pure fount, kneeling at the same shrine has
softened our hearts and knit them into one. The Genii, who guard this
, have banished Discord and the Furies, and from their homes
in the clouds send down Love and Amity. The gods have been propitious and our
Instructors lavish of praise. No bonds were ever so closely formed nor their
severance more worthy of a classe's flowing tears.
We forsook the innocent sports of boyhood when first we bowed at
these shrines and devoted our lives to Learning. The bonds were broken which
united us to those, who loved us amid our early reverses. A long Farewell to
childhood! Would that we could breathe again its pure air and feel its
innocence! And now alas: the hours of College life are
numbered with the gloomy Past!
The orb of day makes haste to hide his face from our sorrows. No more we obey
the summons of the College Bell: no more the encouragements of our Teachers: no
more we glide leisurely along these shady groves, nor call up the spirits of
our absent friends to converse in the moonlight: no more we arise and haste
away to see the first rays of the morning sun stealing over the hills: no more
we hear the familiar Roll: no more the minister with a fervent prayer give our
guidance in the day. All these are gone! Farewell to the brightest hours of my
life: Farewell sweet memories, bright hopes! Our delightful course is run: its
pleasant tasks ended: its merry pastimes fled. We part: some to take the
course, which leads to emoluments and live in all the splendors of wealth: some
the course that secures a worthy name. Here are distractions and dangers.
Heroic is the fortitude that braves them: worthy he, who wears the crown at
last: some to live in retirement: find perchance all the pleasures of life,
miss its ills and fall in the grave sustained by the
hope: some indeed to proclaim the wisdom of
and win an
unfading crown! Our College course has been uniformly happy. All down the
journey each day rises before my vision, bright with some special token of the
joys it gave. Oh! this race is too short: too soon the golden chain is broken!
Do we bid adieu to quit these quiet walks, and leave this time-honoured retreat
to meet no more?
I would gladly seize each loved one by the hand and pledge
ourselves to live our lives away amid these shades! But we can not here make
our permanent abode: these scenes must fade: ourselves must pass away. We can
pledge however, an enduring friendship. Let us consecrate this place a common
altar to which our memories shall recur with transports in all time to come:
upon which we will sacrifice our jealousies and offer our prayers for mutual
happiness. But Time bids us haste. Oh! cruel time, to sever us so soon! to
drive us away, away! I would check thy march, the Sun should be turned back one
hour and this last scene be prolonged! But the light is swiftly fading; your
hearts bleed to obey the mandate: I am reluctant and sad. Farewell my brothers,
a long, long Farewell! Heaven's choicest blessings attend you, and
our King unite
at last the little band he has this day broken and gather us up to live in
Senior and Junior Orations (1858)
The oration is undated, but a draft housed in the
Carey Dowd Papers, SHC
, bears the date "June 1858." Commenting
on the 1858 Commencement ceremonies,
reports, "The reminiscences by the
of the excellence of
, and the apostrophe to his spirit as still hovering over us,
struck the hearts of the audience" (1:687
). Valedictory orations of the
antebellum period follow a similar format, the speaker delivering a series of
farewells to the students, faculty members, the
, and members of the graduating class.
graduated with first honors and received an ornate
combination pen-pencil engraved with his initials that is housed in the
Carey Dowd Papers, SHC
3:4: "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a
time to dance."
, who had joined the faculty in 1818, died on June 27, 1857, on
in his honor in 1881), when he fell down a waterfall and
drowned in the pool below. He had returned to the mountain to verify his claim
that it was the tallest peak east of the
. First buried in
was reinterred on top of
on June 16, 1858.