Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I Heard the Bells of Harvard Yard

Back on December 19th, Inland Empire Girl wrote about the background to one of her (and my) favorite Christmas Carols, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." She told how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to this carol during the Civil War in 1964 while he was reeling from the death of his wife and injuries to his son who was wounded while serving in the war. In the weeks that have followed, I thought about her post every time I heard the song (which was fairly often during the holidays). The words meant so much more to me knowing the story behind them.

Today, I had to go into Harvard Square to take my niece's cello bow to be repaired. I figured since I was there, and since I'd paid for an hour of parking, I might as well take advantage of being in one of the most storied places in this most storied city I live near (Boston...although technically today I was across the river in Cambridge). The bowmaker's shop was two stories above the Curious George book store (you can read the fascinating story of the authors here). It didn't take me long to drop the bow off, giving me some time to explore before I had to be back to my car.

Of course I had to stop in the book store and browse through the thousands of wonderful children's books there tempting me. I only bought one, though, and that was the beautiful Beatrix Potter: A Journal which Amazon. com describes this way: "This lavish, illustrated journal describes Beatrix Potter’s life as a young woman in Victorian England as she struggles to achieve independence and to find artistic success and romantic love. Using witty, observant commentary taken from Beatrix’s own diaries, the journal features a wealth of watercolor paintings, sketches, photographs, letters and period memorabilia to recreate the world in which she lived."

From there, I crossed over to Harvard itself and wandered through the famous Harvard Yard (pro- nounced "Hahvahd Yahd" if you are a true Bostonian). It was bitter cold, and the sky had a gray overcast to it, but it was still awe-inspiring to walk through the campus thinking about all the amazing people who have walked those same walkways. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to think that I've been one of them, albeit only for one class. It's inspiring and daunting at the same time to sit at the feet (in my case the bare feet) of the one who wrote the book you are learning from!

On my way back towards Boston and home, I passed by the home of Henry W. Longfellow on Brattle Street (hence the connection to the opening to this post). (Longfellow, by the way, started the first Modern Language Department at Harvard after doing the same for his alma mater, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.)

While I stood there contemplating the words and melody of that beautiful carol all over again, the bells of Harvard began to ring out the 12 noon hour. Can't get more serendipitous than that!

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"


La Tea Dah said...

Lovely, lovely post --- scattered with bits and pieces of the past --- hopeful for the future ---- but absolutely solid in the reality of the present. I enjoyed it very much.

Happy New Year!


sunny said...

What a beautiful experience.
And beautiful words to describe it
(that goes for your comment too, La-tea-dah).

Heidi said...

Hahvahd Yahd. Ahh, that almost makes me homesick for Massachusetts! I only visited Harvard once, but just hearing about it brings back memories. Just walking on the campus makes you feel smarter (somehow). Considering the brrr weather you have right now, I'll stay on my coast and let you have your coast!

Patty said...

things look the same there. I used to hang out at Harvard Square a lot. Longfellows house looks exactly the same as it did last time I saw it, which was a long time ago