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MUSIC IN THE SCHOOLS.
A SPEECH MADE AT THE SCHOOL FESTIVAL IN BOSTON, JULY 27, 1858.
I HARDLY know, ladies and gentlemen, what I can find to say in the brief moment which I feel at liberty to occupy this afternoon, more especially after so much has been so well said already, — which will be in any degree worthy of such an occasion as the present; or which will not rather seem like a rude and harsh interruption of the melodious strains which we are here to enjoy. I cannot but feel that a mere unaccompanied solo, from almost any human voice even were it an hundred-fold better tuned and better trained than my own must sound flat and feeble when brought into such immediate contrast with the choral harmonies to which we have just been listening.
But I could not altogether resist the temptation, so kindly presented to me by my valued friend, the Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, to identify myself, even ever so humbly, with this charming festival, — the first of its kind in our city, -- and I cannot refrain from thanking him and his associates, now that I am here, for counting me worthy to be included among those whom they have. selected to supply the brief interludes to these delightful performances of the children. I am afraid I have no great faculty at firing a minute gun, - not even so much as I once had in playing on that trombone to which my friend has so pleasantly alluded, — but I am sure I shall have fulfilled every reasonable expectation, if I may have aided in breaking the fall for this noble choir, as they pass along so triumphantly from key to key, and from choral to choral.
Seriously, my friends, among all the numerous reforms which have been witnessed in our community of late years, I know of none more signal or more felicitous none with which any one might well be more justly proud to associate his name — than that of which this occasion is the brilliant and beautiful inauguration. I would not disparage or depreciate the annual school festivals of the olden time. I have not forgotten, I never can forget, the delight with which, more years ago than I might care to specify in precisely this presence, I myself obtained a medal-boy's ticket to the old Faneuil Hall dinner; nor how proudly I filed off with my cherished compeers behind the chairs of the Fathers of the city — after the cloth was removed — to receive their recognition and benediction, before they proceeded to their speeches and sentiments, and to the discussion of their nuts and wine. I rejoice to remember, in passing, that the Mayor of that daythough to my boyish eye he was even then a venerable person still lives to adorn the community over which he so worthily presided, — still walks erect among us to receive the daily homage of our respect and affection. You have all anticipated me in pronouncing the name of the elder Quincy. But how poor were even the most sumptuous viands of those occasions, shorn, as they were, of the best grace of every modern festive board, deprived altogether of the participation or the presence of the mothers and daughters of our city, and prepared only for the satisfaction of the mere animal appetites, - what “funeral baked meats” they were at the best, when contrasted with the exquisite entertainment for eye, ear, mind, heart, soul, which we are this day enjoying! I have only to regret that the amiable and accomplished Minister from Great Britain (Lord Napier), whom we had all hoped to welcome on this occasion, should have been prevented by engagements at Washington, from lending to the occasion, as I am sure he most gladly would have done, his genial presence and eloquent words.
And now let us hope, my friends, that the inspirations of this hour and of this scene will not be lost on the young hearts which are throbbing and swelling around us. We are too much accustomed to speak of the future as quite beyond all human control or foresight. And it is true that no consultation of oracles, no casting of horoscopes, no invocation of spirits, will unveil to us the mysteries which lie beyond this sublunary sphere. But we may not forget that the immediate future of our own community is before us — visibly, audibly, bodily, before us — in the persons of these young children of the schools. These boys, I need not say, are the men of the future, and, under God, the masters of. the future. The ever-moving procession of human life will pass on a few steps, and they will be on the platforms, and we shall be beneath the sod. But to-day we are not merely their examples and models, but their masters and moulders; and these schools are the studios in which, by God's help, they may be formed and fashioned and shaped as we will. Yes, my friends, not by any idle rappings on senseless tables, but by simply knocking at our own honest school-room doors, and asking how many boys and girls there are within, and what is their mental and physical and moral and spiritual condition and culture, we may find a revelation of the future, hardly less sure or less exact than if it were written in letters, of light by the pen of inspiration.
I have somewhere seen it recorded of England's great hero, the late Duke of Wellington, that on some visit to Eton School in his old age, while gazing upon those well-remembered scenes of his boyhood, and when allusion had been made by some of his companions to the great exploits of his manhood, he exclaimed, Yes, yes, it was at Eton that Waterloo was won.' And not a few of you, my young friends, will one day or other be heard confessing to your own hearts, if to nobody else, that the best victories of your mature life have been virtually won or lost at school.
There was, indeed, a deep significance in the arrangement of that old choral trio, which has come down to us in the history of the ancient Lacedemonians, — for even the sternness of Sparta did not disdain the employment of music in their festive celebrations. They are said to have had three choirs, corresponding to the three periods of human life. The old men began,
« Once in battle bold we shone:” The middle-aged replied,
Try us; our vigor is not gone;" But the boys concluded,
“The palm remains for us alone."
· Yes, young children of the schools, the palm remains for you alone. To you alone, certainly, it remains still to strive for it and to win it. By too many of your elders it has been won or lost already. But for you the whole course is clear; the whole competition free and open; and you are invited to enter upon it under such auspices, and with such advantages, as were never before enjoyed beneath the sun. May the inspirations of this occasion go forth with you to the trial, encouraging and animating you to higher and higher efforts for success :-“Excelsior, Excelsior," the motto of each one of you! Above all, let not the praises of God be the mere lip-service of an anniversary festival, nor the love of your fellow-men and of your country the true harmonies of the heart - die away with the fading echoes of a jubilee chorus. And while you strive to fulfil every duty to your neighbors and yourselves, and to advance the best interests of the world in which you live, may you ever look forward with humble faith and trust to that day, of which you are just about to sing, when other palms than those of mere human triumphs may be seen in your hands, and when, with a multitude which no man can number, you may be permitted to mingle in other and nobler songs than any which can be fully learned on earth!
THE MEMORY OF THOMAS DOWSE.
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THOMAS DOWSE BY THE
MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY, BOSTON, DECEMBER 9, 1858.
It may not be inappropriate for me to remark, ladies and gentlemen,- in the brief opening which is all that belongs to me on this occasion, - that four times only during the nearly threescore years and ten which have elapsed since their original organization in 1790, — that four times only, I believe, have the Massachusetts Historical Society been assembled, as they now are, for any purpose of public and formal commemoration.
On the 23d of October, 1792, a discourse was delivered before them by the Rev. Dr. Belknap, on the completion of the third century since the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
On the 22d of December, 1813, a discourse was delivered before them, on the 193d Anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, by the late venerable Judge Davis.
On the 29th of May, 1843, a discourse was delivered before them, on the second Centennial Anniversary of the old New England Confederation, by the late illustrious John Quincy Adams.
On the 31st of October, 1844, a discourse was delivered before them, on the completion of the first half-century since their own incorporation, by Dr. John Gorham Palfrey, who, we are glad to remember, is still living and laboring in our chosen field, and whose history of New England we are at this moment awaiting from the press, with so much of eager interest and expectation.
And now, once more, we are assembled here this evening, with these distinguished and welcome guests around us, to listen to our honored associate, Mr. Everett, while in our behalf, and in kind compliance with our request, he pays a tribute, such as