Page:Essays and Addresses.djvu/618

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607
The Universities and the Nation

In conclusion, I would only venture to express the earnest hope that this summer meeting may prove no unworthy successor, in every benefit and enjoyment which such an experience can afford, to the meetings which have preceded it; and that our visitors, whom the University so warmly welcomes, may find here, in the temporary home of their studies, something of that mysterious influence which nowhere does its spiriting more gently than in a venerable seat of learning,—the genius of the place. True it is that in these ancient courts and halls, in the cloisters and the gardens, the charm which one feels is inseparably blended with a certain strain of melancholy. How often, in the long course of the centuries, have these haunts been associated, not only with the efforts which triumphed and the labours which bore lasting fruit, but also with the lost causes and the impossible loyalties, with the theories which were overthrown, with the visions which faded, with the brave and patient endeavours which ended in failure and defeat! Nevertheless, this place speaks to us of a corporate intellectual life which has been continuous; not always, indeed, free from the incubus of superstition or the heavy hand of external despotism; not always exempt from a depressing lethargy within; yet always preserving some secret spring of recuperative vigour, and thus linking the present with the past by a tradition which has in a great measure run parallel with the fortunes of England. And now, when these scenes, so dear to those whose life is passed among them,