June 20, 2012

Where Knowledge and Science are known!

When the University of Virginia turned 150 years old, alumnus Daniel Bedinger Lucas wrote a long dedicatory poem. He read the poem, "Semi-Centennial Ode," in front of the Society of Alumni on June 20, 1875. After referring to the school's founder Thomas Jefferson as "The Greatest American" and "Apostle of Reason" who had previously written the "Charter of Treason" (better known as the Declaration of Independence), the Virginia-born Lucas poetically claims that Jefferson was moved by a spirit which commanded him:

Build me a Temple of Learning, said she,
   Build me a Temple of stone —
Build for all ages: assuredly,
   Build for a man's Reason a throne;
For Freedom and Truth shall prosper
   Where Knowledge and Science are known!

That same spirit dictates the study not only of science but also of languages, philosophy, and more. Lucas also includes a very Americanist stance by calling for "Reason" as "the weapons of native power" and demands students never "bow to the alien pen!" He references only a couple of famous alumni, including fellow author Edgar Poe ("the harp of our Poe is unstrung"). Ultimately, Lucas claims that the 150-year old school is still young ("As this is her youth, I sing of her birth... For an Hundred years is a day upon earth, / And Fifty a morning in time"). The poem concludes:

From pillar, rotunda, arcade,
   From lecture-room, statue, and fane,
And landscape, and scholarly shade,
   And comrades saluted again,
And professor, and classmate and friend,
   And library, tome upon tome —
The beams of old memories lend
   New light as they welcome us home:
O, Mother! Fair Mother! refresh us,
   In the scope of thy bounteous dome!

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