A Meditation on Founders
Founders' Day, 1963
By Chad Walsh
They knew all the proximate anxieties -- where would they money come from
To roof Middle, how best to moderate the frivolity of youth --
But the ultimate certainties were theirs,
Twin Fonts of revelation, Scripture and the Yale curriculum.
In the Archives Room you can see them, or rather
They see you. Frozen in a slow exposure of time,
A trinity of three professors, coeval and coeternal.
Bushnell, Adlai-bald, nose incisive as Euclid's theorems,
Emerson, bearded like General Lee, eyes more piercing
Than Socrates' reply to the demagogues on Mars' Hill,
Chapin, full-manned, with the far look of the divine economy in his eyes.
They are not there. Their voices are silent in Middle College.
All is flux. Colonnaded Middle is not the gaunt temple they built and prayed in,
Plain as high thinking and simply living, start as South College.
One never steps twice into the same river.
Pictures remain, names linger.
Men come and are gone.
Where is that other trinity, Peet and Hooker
Who parted their hair on the left
(The latter distinguished by a floral vest),
Collie who parted it on the right
And wore a bow tie with a swallow's wings --
Class of 1851 -- where are they? In a lithograph by B. W. Thayer & Co., Boston.
Let us honor all trinities, each in due measure,
But, stranger (and all men are) if you seek
Bushnell, Emerson, Chapin, Peet, Hooker, Collie,
Look around you.
They are not in mortal brick.
Are they anywhere at Beloit?
Nowhere, if not in you.
The anguish of this knowledge will not abate.
No magic voice of the past whispers answers when we cry out.
They lived, they willed the present to us.
In the terror of certitude we know
We are most faithful to them when we look briefly into their eyes,
Say thanks, and turn away
Into the future of our own breaking or making.