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THE WINTER DREAM.
A DREAM of beauty; of the laugh of waves
And the bright rushing of a swollen brook; Its bursting into light from sunless caves
Under the network of a woven nook,
Silent and dark within its shadowy rest
Of lady-fern, and moss upon its breast;
A dream of spring-time; of the sunny light
And the swift melting of the mountain snows;
When hearts grow calm, and half forget their woes:
Curling the foam-wreaths in the brook's bright spring,
Clearing the air of many a golden wing,
A spot of solitude; yet legends tell
Of years long past, when many a joyous throng
And woke its echoes with light laugh and song:
Bear record still of each forgotten name,
But now, alas ! for constancy and fame! Vainly these faithful oaks their memory save, Whom human love hath yielded to the grave.
Yet the bright waters spake not of decay,
Nor earthly shadow, nor the blight of grief;
Of the fair drooping willow's silver leaf,
On the swift stream, and floating silently
What king could boast a richer argosie ?
The vision fled, with summery sight and sound,
And the stern Real ruled the heart at will:
The kingly river in his fetters still :
Winter and storm; the city's mighty mart;
These were instead, and darker, gloomier yet,
That dream of light, with all its vain regret?
That erst had drooped above that fountain's urn.
REMINISCENCES OF COLLEGE LIFE.
Our general title will thrill many hearts and moisten many eyes. Potent as the magician's wand, it will transport the man of business, the man of leisure and the man of books back to the days of auld lang syne.' It will awaken feelings which for years have slept beneath the cares and anxieties incident to active life. Memory will start in her secret recess, and hasten to ponder over the hours by-gone, while joy, which may have long been dormant, will arise and clap its hands in ecstasy. Associations whose name is legion will rush from their cell of long imprisonment and throng every chamber and avenue of the mind. Thought, abandoning for a while the tangible and matter-of-fact entities of the present, will wing its way into the dim domains of the past, and dwell with a pleasing sadness on its never-to-be-forgotten scenes. The enchantress Fancy, escaping for a brief period the thraldom of reality, will wave her sceptre and charm us back to youth, when we listened to the syren song of hope, and exulted in the bright prospect of the future. In short, these words, more powerful than the Open, Sesame' of the Arabian tales, will unclose every portal in the town of Mansoul, and strong emotions will enter in tumultuous tides, and for a time at least bear sway. Those were the days when life seemed to stretch before us like a boundless Eden, full of fruits and flowers, where we might wander at pleasure, culling the sweets that surrounded us at every step of our progress; where no cloud ever obscured the bright sky, and no storm ever overtook the loitering traveller ; where the past was linked with no regrets, the present with no sorrows, and the future with no fears.
We remember how college appeared to us in the distance, when we were as yet in a course of preparation; perchance under the care of some pedant, who was the pedagogue of another Sleepy Hollow, as far removed from the whirl of the world's activities as that where Ichabod raced with the Headless Horseman. In our crude conceptions, it was the hot-house where genius sprang spontaneously into being, and grew rapidly, and almost without culture, to luxuriant matu
rity. The very atmosphere was impregnated with the essence of wisdom, which flowed into the mind as readily as the electric fluid passes from the positive to the negative pole of a battery. The walls were eloquent in their gloomy silence, and the very shades, so deep and venerable, breathed inspiration into the soul. Once resident there, we flattered ourselves that dulness and sloth and ignorance would give place to quickness of apprehension, energy and erudition, as easily as darkness yields to light. Alas ! how was this pleasing illusion dispelled by one flash from the searching torch of experience! Genius was still found to be the inheritance of the few, wisdom still eluded the grasp of all who did not seek her with unwearied application, and inspiration was evolved only amid the mighty throes of intellectual gymnasticism. As yet, however, these were secrets, to be learned only after initiation, and we therefore admired and enjoyed the picture which our own lively fancy had painted, not caring to inquire as to its correctness or its conformity with facts.
At length the long dreaded, yet impatiently expected day arrived which was to transfer us from the kindly influences of home, where we had been nurtured with all tenderness, to the halls of learning; when the helm, which had so long been in the hand of others, was to be taken by ourselves; when the parental nest must be abandoned, and we compelled in some sense to pick up our own crumbs; the day on which the boy was to expand into the man. The trunk was packed with maternal circumspection, the thread, needles, yarn and cake not being crowded out by things more substantial; the indispensable testimonial to scholarship and moral character was stowed away in the safest corner of the pocket-book ; the good-by was said- or rather, in some cases, looked — the parting hand pressed, and soon the blue hills which girded the village of our boyhood faded in the distance.
Now for the first time responsibility pressed heavily upon our spirits. Hitherto every thing, even to our thinking, had been done for us, and we had literally fulfilled the Scripture by taking no thought for the morrow. Now every thing depended on our own efforts. It was as though the universe had in one instant been pitched on our shoulders; and, Atlas-like, we nerved ourselves to the task of upholding it. We were at once transformed from mere human machines into self-active natures, and while weighed down with a load of care we exulted in the exercise of our new freedom.
Here we are, on college ground; the goal of years, and the centre of a thousand hopes! There rise the gray old buildings, with their spires and towers, which stood out so conspicuously in our day-dreams! There wave the classic groves, beneath whose shade we have reclined so often in imagination! There glide by us the veterans in science, whose reverend forms have long been familiar objects to the mental eye! But the duties immediately pressing summon us from the depths of reverie, and we hasten to present ourselves for admission. This is the dreaded ordeal; this the fiery trial whose terrors have haunted us for months previous! The candidate for the Eleusinian mysteries did not approach the temple where the initiatory rites were performed with more reverence than that which filled our breasts as we marched to the place of examination. The victims of the Inquisition alone can appreciate our feelings as we were ushered into the hall of intellectual torture, where the thumb-screw must be applied to memory, the brain racked, and in some cases perchance the conscience seared as with a hot iron. The patrons of Charon do not tremble with so much anxiety before the infernal trio who preside at the tribunal in Tartarus as made our knees to quake in the presence of the Rhadamanthus, Minos and Æacus with whom rested the decision of our fate. But the trial went on, each individual being the only witness in his own case. Some attempts were made at brow-beating, and the cross-examination often put the witness to his wit's end for an answer. The jury consulted together for a few moments without retiring; the sentence was pronounced by the presiding officer, and we were condemned to four years of confinement and hard labor.
The examinations for admission present scenes of very opposite character. Numerous are the strange interrogatories, and more numerous the strange replies. Some who, in technical language, have been * crammed' for the occasion, have manifestly been sorely troubled with mental dyspepsia, since their intellectual pabulum seems neither to have been digested nor assimilated. Some who have explored the depths of ancient philosophy and think themselves familiar with the lore of antiquity, cannot name the capital of a neighboring state, and have not kept up with the march of conquest and annexation so as to be able to tell the number of sovereignties in this confederation.
Alas for the luckless wight who, weighed in the balance and found wanting, is compelled to turn his face homeward and meet the inquiries of friends, and perchance encounter the secret contempt of enemies ! He in his soul curses colleges and all connected with them; a philosophic imitator of the fox in the fable. The stereotyped excuse under these circumstances is, that he was not questioned on the things he knew ; 'which indeed cannot be denied; reminding one of the story of the under-graduate at Cambridge, who, being examined for his degree and failing in every subject upon which he was tried, complained that he had not been questioned upon the things which he knew. Upon which the examining master, moved less to compassion by the impenetrable dulness of the man than to anger by his unreasonable complaint, tore off about an inch of paper, and pushing it toward him, desired him to write upon that all he knew.
The wags of a university have not permitted such a favorable opportunity for indulging their humorous propensities as an examination presents to pass unimproved. Among the green and unsuspecting applicants for admission they sometimes reap a harvest of fun, which is stored away to serve as the food of pleasant recollection in after years. The following used to be one of the tricks in the programme of performances on such occasions. A few of the knowing ones, whose heads are more full of roguery than their hearts of feeling, having selected a suitable room, disguise themselves in wigs and spectacles and other paraphernalia adapted to their respective parts in the play to be acted. Musty tomes in black letter and barbarous dialect are piled on the tables before them. A master of ceremonies having been chosen, a
student in his usual dress is sent forth to perambulate the college grounds. In a twinkling the spider falls in with a fly, who inquires the way to the place of examination. The spider either very politely offers to conduct the fly, or more usually proceeds to direct him to No. where his companions are seated in solemn conclave. He is received with becoming gravity, and plied with questions of the most ridiculous nature, all which he answers with the humility and promptness proper in such august presence. The most private affairs of himself and family are brought on the docket. At last a half-suppressed titter, a simultaneous roar of merriment, the good sense of the dupe himself, or the entrance of a bonâ-fide dignitary, ends the laughable farce.
The rocks and shoals and quicksands of examination being safely navigated, the senior tutor, a consequential functionary, piloted us to our future domicile. I have a distinct recollection of my own feelings at that interesting hour, and therefore beg leave to abandon the plural form while I attempt to draw my own portrait, well assured that the picture will find its original in the person of many a one who has had the same unenviable experience. The door of the back middle room on the ground floor, or more correctly the floor under the ground, opened to receive me, and I sunk down upon my trunk, which was the only article of furniture that served to dispel the cheerlessness of the apartment. Surely, thought I, a ray of the blessed sun never straggled in here, for chill-loneliness can be felt in the very air. The cracks between the planks of the floor gaped a full inch apart in some places ; the windows creaked mournfully with every blast; the dingy walls smelt mouldy, and the aperture in the wall for the stove-pipe was the only thing that suggested the idea of comfort, a negative idea indeed! There I sat, how long I know not; there I meditated, on what I know not distinctly! As the shadows of evening began to to deepen around, I started to the consciousness that preparations must be made for passing the night, and for rendering the appearance of things less gloomy and repulsiye.
The hour for retiring came and we slept, and few of us slept without dreaming. Having heard of ventilation, pumping and smoking, we imagined ourselves the centres toward which the four winds gravitated with tremendous power, or that we were practising hydropathy under the falling thunders of Niagara ; or that we had been metamorphosed into hams, and were suspended by the heels in a huge smokehouse. And if either then or on succeeding nights, we had a dream of this kind, which was not all a dream,' we consoled ourselves with the sentiment of the pious Æneas, `Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit.'
In our next chapter we shall introduce the reader into that miniature world, called a college, giving him a notion of its manners, customs and laws; the character and occupations of its inhabitants, and other matters of general interest.
EPIGRAM ON CAPTAIN ANTHONY,
HERE the ashes lie