Nathaniel Rogers’s Valedictory Oration

Commencement, 1652


IN a recent volume of our Transactions (xxviii. 16–24) is printed a Salutatory Oration delivered at the Harvard Commencement in 1662, and now our President has unearthed among the remnants of the Leverett Manuscripts preserved in the Ewer Manuscripts in the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society another Harvard oration that is quite as interesting as his former discovery. It was delivered by a clergyman and was of a valedictory nature. Both these facts appear from the exordium. “It has come to be an established custom,” the speaker informs us, for some minister to “put the finishing touch” to the Commencement exercises by an address of “gratulation,” and now his turn has come after several years.

The manuscript, which is contemporary but not autograph,555 records neither the date of the oration nor the name of the orator, but both are easily ascertainable from internal evidence. The speaker enumerates the four young men on whom the degree of master of arts has been conferred at the exercises which his address brings to a formal close. These are, first, “my own,” whom he does not call by name; second, Samuel Eaton; third, Urian Oakes; and fourth, John Collins.556 “My own,” then, must be John Rogers; for Rogers, Eaton, Oakes, and Collins (in this same order) received the bachelor’s degree in 1649. The father of John Rogers was the Reverend Nathaniel Rogers, of Ipswich.557 Mr. Rogers, therefore, was the orator on the present occasion, and the date must be 1652, three years after these four young men graduated. The internal evidence is substantiated by a second copy of the oration (in President Leverett’s handwriting) preserved among the Leverett Manuscripts in the Harvard College Library (referred to hereafter as the Leverett MS.). This copy informs us, in the heading, that the address was delivered “in Harvard Hall at Commencement, 1652, by the Reverend Nathaniel Rogers, the eminent pastor of the church at Ipswich.”

Of himself Mr. Rogers remarks that “before he came to these shores he was, in the words of the lamenting Psalmist, ‘counted with them that go down into the pit, free among the dead.’” Yet now the Lord has vouchsafed him “not only a greater enjoyment of life, almost, than he could have prayed for, but this leisure, these comforts of the heart, these delights of the eye.” He thanks God that to the settlers in this wilderness have been granted not only fields and homes and gardens—not only churches of the faithful—but also “an illustrious School of the Prophets for the bringing up of youth, a nurse and seminary of foster sons who, imbibing learning and piety every day, are able to irrigate and bless the garden of God.”

After enumerating four masters of arts, Mr. Rogers proceeds to commend President Dunster as a model of piety, learning, foresight, and humility. Then, after complimenting the Overseers, he eulogizes the late pastor, Shepard—“a Pastor not less in fact than in name and function.” Thus he puns solemnly on Shepard’s surname. “Him we had—alas that I have said ‘We had’! But cheer up, we have his successor, descended, as it were, from heaven, and worthy, for his age, of the same tributes. Thus we can say, as the Sibyl said of the Golden Bough,

Primo avulso, non deficit alter

Aureus, et simili frondescit virga metallo.

Shepard, the blessed dead, is succeeded by Mitchel.”

The orator’s characterization of three of the four young masters of arts—Eaton, Oakes, and Collins—contains some items of interest.

Second, Mr. Samuel Eaton—not akin to that flogging Orbilius and turncoat Jesuit—not, at least in his conduct—but the true and genuine offspring of the acute and sagacious Governor of New Haven, and, for his own part, after his acquisition of no small outfit in the arts, abundantly equipped with the fluency and eloquence of the orator, so as to lead our minds as it were with a golden chain.

Third, Mr.—not Urianus but in very truth Uranius [i.e., heavenly]—Oakes, a man of rare erudition, not merely an eager student but a ripe scholar, whose breast is protected by truth and virtue as with armor of proof.558

Fourth, Mr. John Collins, a man estimable on many accounts, a second Pericles, who by the force of his oratory seemed to strike and pierce the minds of his hearers as with a thunderbolt. The oration that he delivered when he took the degree of Bachelor gave promise that he would become a distinguished preacher, so very remarkable was it for variety of matter, elegance of style, weightiness of ideas, warmth of feeling, and the fidelity of a tenacious memory. Nor is our good hope deceived in its forecast.—Him I judge worthy, not of the mere degree of Master, but to be presented with the civic crown, for he saved a fellow-student who was in utmost peril of his life—saved him as if by miracle and, as they say, by magic. May the Guardian of Israel preserve you, ὦ φίλον κάρα, and grant that henceforth you may be the savior and liberator not of bodies alone but of souls—that may He grant who took Peter from his fishing and said, “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men!”

Mr. Rogers’s reference to “that flogging Orbilius and turncoat Jesuit” to whom Samuel Eaton was not related “in conduct” is very curious. Orbilius, we remember, was Horace’s plagosus schoolmaster, and this modern Orbilius was Nathaniel Eaton, the first Master (not President) of Harvard College, who lost his position in 1639 on account of his brutality.559 He was a brother of Theophilus Eaton, the Governor of New Haven, and was therefore the uncle of the Samuel who received his master’s degree at this Commencement in 1652. Cotton Mather likewise compares Eaton to Orbilius in a characteristically lively passage in the Magnalia:560 “. . . one Mr. Nathanael Eaton [or, if thou wilt, Reader, Orbilius Eaton]561 a Blade, who marvellously deceived the Expectations of Good Men concerning him; for he was One fitter to be Master of a Bridewel than a Colledge.” Mr. Rogers calls Master Eaton a “turncoat Jesuit,” and this accords with Governor Winthrop’s remark: “He had been sometimes [i.e., formerly] initiated among the Jesuits.”562

Mr. Rogers’s eloquent exhortation to the four masters of arts deserves quotation for its own sake as well as by reason of a very curious reference to the vice of smoking.

Let no one say the sons of the prophets are proud, frivolous, drunken; dice-players and wine-bibbers; Nazarites only by virtue of their long curling locks; night-wanderers, wasteful of their own good hours and thieves of the good hours of others; drinkers of smoke who, not prompted by ill health or in obedience to a physician’s prescription, but enslaved by their own unbridled appetite, drink tobacco incessantly and breathe smoke as much as they breathe air, as if they were celebrating the festival of the Palilia every day of their lives.

Thus Mr. Rogers in 1652. Three years later he died—a sacrifice to his own scruples of conscience. The “Distemper which at last ended his Days,” writes Cotton Mather,563 “was a Flood of Rheum, occasioned partly by his disuse of Tobacco, whereto he had formerly accustomed himself, but now left it off, because he found himself in Danger of being Enslaved unto it; which he thought a thing below a Christian, and much more a Minister.”564

In printing the oration I have followed the manuscript in its eccentricities of punctuation, its freakish use of capital letters, and its occasional vagaries in Greek script. Three or four obvious slips of the pen I have corrected, recording the change in a footnote. The other notes furnish such Biblical and classical references as I have been able to supply. A few variant readings are given from the Leverett Manuscript.

G. L. Kittredge


Comitiis Cantabr. Nov-Anglorum habita Anno Domini 1652. Perorataque à Revdo Nath. Rogers. Ecclesiœ Ipsvicensis Pastore Eximio, in Aulâ scil. Harvardinâ565

EA jamdiu invaluit nee vituperanda consuetudo,566 (Patres venerandi, totaque spectatissima auditorum corona) ut Presbyterorum aliquis (non dicam Benedictionem, sed) Gratulationem Comitiis hisce literariis, tanquam Coronidem imponat.567 Atque ita Demum annorum plurium decursu divini Numinis favore comparatum est, ut ad me deuentum sit hodiernum dicendi munus; ad me, inquam, qui priusquam has oras appulerim reputatus sim cum descendentibus in sepulchrum, & inter mortuos liber; ut olim ingemuit Psaltes.568 Quam gratiarum actionem569 D.O.M.570 possum rependere, qui non modò vitæ usuram571 ipsis ferè votis majorem, sed & hæc otia,572 hæc animi solatia, has oculorum delicias mihi indignissimo concesserit?

Non opis est nostræ grates persolvere dignas.573

Beatus Elias, summus Propheta & Thaumaturgus ultimum suum vale terris & populo suodicturus, Phrophetarum scholas visitabat; profectus ὡς ἐν κύκλῳ Gilgale Bethelem, Bethele, Ierichuntem, inde mox Iordanem rursus; Quo peracto itinere, cœleste petiit Cœnobium Sanctorum, in Theologiâ non Inceptorum sed Perfectorum.574 Nullas quippe ædes in regno Israelitico sibi magis charas habuit Vir Dei, nec ipsi cœlo propiores.

Nec non Elisæus ipsius muneris & spiritûs hæres,575 magno studio simul & oblectamento Θεοσοφίας alumnorum res curabat: nec tantum de eruditione sed & de eduliis & ædificiis lubens eis prospexit. Ita ut nec præ annonæ caritate (in communi fame) nec domiciliorum angustiâ, divina illa pietatis Asceterica,576 & Symposia Philosophica [2] in publico illo Religionis funere jacere sit passus.577

Interroganti Sauli, Ubi est Samuel & David? respondit quispiam, Ecce Naiothis in Ramâ;578 Hic nimirum suavissimum consortium, & tutissimum receptum & asylum sibi meritò pollicentur. Naiothis, inquam, Amœnissima nempe & jucundissima sunt ista habitacula,579 ubi in literarum, presertim sacratiorum studia incumbunt580 Prophetæ ac Prophetarum filii. Quæ non tantùm Dei cultoribus fuerunt sacra, sed quæ Philistæi Israelis hostes infestissimi Doctoribus & Discipulis integra & intemerata permiserunt.581

Kiriath Sepher Canaanæorum Academia fuisse videtur; quâ literati literas & libros quoslibet docebant; Adeóque omnium antiquissima, quas in sacrâ paginâ legimus. Hujus tria nobis occurrunt nomina. 1. Debir, quasi Oraculum Sapientiæ, vel quod in eâ Eloquentia rectéque loquendi ars doceretur. 2. Kiriath Sepher, Civitas literarum sive librorum. 3. Kiriath Sanna, Urbs acuminis, in quâ scilicet acutè de rebus disserebatur,:582 referente Cornelio a Lapide.583

Lacedæmoniis Atheniensium Civitatem funditus evertere statuentibus ab Oraculo Consulto est respo[n]sum τὴν κοινὴν, ἑστίαν τῆς Ελλαδος μὴ κιυεῖν, tradente Eliano.584

Quod cùm communi omnium suffragio, Scholas bene institutas inter prima Rei p. ornamenta & emolumenta adnumeranda585 esse, sit comprobatum: Nos igitur miserecordiarum in Christo Patri gratissimi benedicamus,586 quotquot in sacrum istud Athenæum convenimus, Patres ac Fratres ornatissimi, qui pro summâ suâ munificentiâ non agros, non domos, non hortus, nee tantùm fidelium Ecclesias in hac solitudine nobis paravit & conservavit. Sed & Scholam Prophetarum illustrem, ἀγαθὴν, κουροτροφον,587 nutricem & seminarium alumnorum doctrinam & pietatem quotidie imbibentium, qui ho[r]tum Dei588 irrigare Beare possint:

Grata quidem ac læta nobis affulsit lux hodierna; [3] quæ ita oculos oblectavit, aures demulsit, animos recreavit.589

Ecce almam matrem Cantabrigiam, venerandam vere & decoram! En pulchram prolem! quorum ora venusta, exercitia limata, ingenia polita: Spem gregis Dominici; quadrigas exercitus nostri Israelis;590 filios pubescentes ad matris suæ χειραγωγίαν & sustentationem instar Obedi591 in sacrâ, aut Scipionis592 in Romanâ historiâ laudati, modo cœlesti spiramine afflaverit animis Christus Pater æternitatis.593

Habuimus Candidatorum chorum; quorum nomina sigillatim recensere, mihi volupe vobis non grave futurum spero.

At primum prætereo, quia meum est & ejusdem cum cæteris dignitatis non socium: nec fallit Regula, Primum enim in unoquoque genere est excipiendum.

Secundum D. Samuelem Eatonum, non plagosi illius Orbilionis594 & Iesuitæ versipellis κοὐ εθη,595 affinem; sed sagacissimi solertissimique Moderatoris Noviportensis filium germanum, genuinum: Hunc ipsum post artium supellectilem non mediocrem, oratoria facundia & eloquentiâ tanquam aureâ catenâ flexanimâ596 affatim exornatum.

Tertium D. non Urianum sed αληθως Uranium597 de Quercu, virum reconditioris literaturæ;598 non φιλομαθῆ sed πολυμαθῆ nec tantum doctrinâ, sed & modestia omnibus inclarescentem & apprimè charum; cujus veritate & virtute firmatum pectus quoque robora fiunt.599

Quartum D. Johannem Collinium,600 virum multis Nominibus colendum, alterum Periclem qui orationis impetu ceu fulmine quodam ferire ac penetrare mentes aud[i]entium videbatur:601 Cujus oratio cùm Baccalaureus evasit,602 egregium eum concionatorem fore promittebat; utpote quæ varietate rerum verborum elegantiâ, sententiarum pondere,603 ardore [4] pectoris, & tenacis memoriæ fidelitate, summopere pollebat: Nee

Fallitur augurio spes bona nostra suo.604

Hunc non Magisterii titulo dignum, sed civicâ coronâ donandum censeo;605 qui socium in extremo vitæ discrimine ὡς ἀπὸ μηχανῆς606 & divinâ (quod aiunt) virgulâ607 servavit. Sospitet te custos Israelis, cuisoli gloria ὠ φίλον κάρα608 et dehinc non corporum modo, sed et animarum servatorem te et liberatorem det ille, qui a piscium capturâ dixit Petro, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ανθρώπους ἔση ζωγρῶν.609

Horum Patrem habemus D. Præsidem, non desidem, nee κενοδοξίας aucupio laborantem, nee αὐθαδείας vel Arrogantiæ typho turgentem: sed pietatis, eruditionis, prudentiæ, & (quæ Christiana vox est) humilitatis ἔνδοξον παραδειγμα; virum quidem nostro præconio majorem. Habemus Inspectores hujus Phrontisterii illustres, graves, perspicaces, undequaque Spectabiles.610

Habuimus Pastorem non re minùs quàm nomine & munere;611 Pastorem, inquam, vigilantissimum: qui ut olim Iaacobus, perdius & pernox612 oves & agnos in hac caulâ præsertim decumbentes animitus totus curabat; summo cum labore pabulum conquirebat, conficiebat, condebat & εὐκαίρως καὶ ακαίρως613 turn dicendo turn scribendo omnibus aut singulis expromebat: Cujus conciones singulari virtute & Spiritus Sancti ἐνεργεία non conversos tantum sed concionatores etiam præclaros effecerunt, efformarunt.

Ah quòd dixi habuisse614 nos! Sed favete oculis615 ἀγαθοὶ δ’ ἀριδάκρυες ἄνδρως:616 Habemus enim tanquam e cœlo delapsum617 iisdem elogiis pro ætate dignum successorem. [5]

Eximia Dei Benignitas & Ecclesiæ & Academiæ & nobis omnibus causam dedit Sibyllinum illud de sacratæ arboris ramo usurpandi,

primo avulso non deficit alter

Aureus: & simili frondescit virga metallo.618

Shepardum τον μακαριτην excipit Michellus619 in re literaria vir quantus!

Sic usque & usque vivat, vigeat, subolescat Mater Academia. Cujus vos filios turn veteranos tum tirones hortor, tali hospitio dignos vosmet exhibeatis: talem parentam tám doctrinâ quám moribus condecoretis. Vos præsertim alloquor, qui nova Magistrali dignitate insigniti estis ut non tàm vobis gradus quàm vos gradui sitis ornamto. Apostatico Israelis regno summum hoc χάρισμα620 in emendationem indultum quod ingrato populo probro dedit Phropheta. Excitavi e filiis vestris Prophetas, & ex juvenibus vestris Neziræos:621 hoc est Stellas in caliginoso eorum Cœlo622 sapientiæ & sanctimoniæ fulgore coruscantes.623 Prophetas scil: populum Dei consilii Divini traditione docentes: Neziræos purioris vitæ exemplo ducentes: Illos ad Religionis veræ Doctrinam, Hos ad morum ἀκριβεστέραν Disciplinam institutos.

Hæc, quas in plerisque nulla, in nonnullis singula & mediocria; in vobis summa & conjuncta reperiri humillimis votis exopto. Sic Charites (non fictas) cum Musis,624 cum scientiâ conscientiam individuo Nexu consocietis.

Hæc a me studiosissimè sed brevissime vobis commendata, dulcissima sapientiæ progenies, ut piè [6] ac religiose auribus & animis excipiatis obsecro625 & obtestor.

Quod ad primum; Non vobis satis sit linguarum vel artium rivulos primis labiis delibasse,626 imò nee aliquanto pleniùs imbibisse: sed totius εγκυκλοπαιδείας & πολυγλωσσίας oceanum exhauriatis. Ut de quoque vestrū, quod de quodam, prædicatum sit, Βιβλιοθήκη ἔμψυχος καὶ Μουσεῖον περιπατοῦν.627

Et licèt hæc tempora (proh dolor!) odio infestissimo & contemptu literarum indigno flagrant,628 ita utscientias intermorituras, humanitatem discedentem, veritatem exulantem & barbariem ingravescentem videre videamur: Vos tamen bono animo estote; Deum enim habetis patronum, qui honoris ergô testatur Mosen eruditum fuisse in omni Sapientiâ Ægyptiorum, potentem in verbis & operibus suis.629 Qui etiam Danieli & collegis notitiam & intelligentiam in omnibus literis & sapientiâ dederit.630 Cuj etiam μόνω σοφῶ631 complacuit per viros tàm humanâ quàm Divinâ literaturâ, imbutos, hæreses profligare, veritatem propagare a cunis turn Nascentis turn renascentis Ecclesiæ.

Omni igitur molimine contendite multa legendo, multa meditando, & plurimùm orando ut vos in ætate vestrâ veritatis non modò cultores sitis studiosissimi, sed testes ac vindices fortissimi.

Sed Musas oportet esse virgines, ipsâ Ethnicorum mythologia: Et vos verè Samueles esse pervelim, non prophetas solùm, sed & Neziræos632 cordis puritate; vitæ munditie & incontaminatâ sanctitate nitentes; Deo sacros, mundo & peccato mortuos;633 [7] nè impuritate morum infamem reddatis fidem, & bonis literis propriam armetis malitiam: quod de illo dicitur, Neronis non erudiit indolem Seneca, sed armavit sævitiam:634

Ἕκας· ἕκας ἔστε βέβηλοι·635

Odit Deus & arcet ex hoc sacrario profanum vulgus,636 ignavum pecus,637 Epicuride grege porcos,638 & Academicos Circæo poculo in immundissima cujusque generis animalia transmutatos.639 Nemo dixerit Prophetarum filios elatos esse, vanos lascivos, temulentes,640 aleatores, ὀινοπότας, nihil minus quàm Neziræos Nisi quòd cincinnati sint, & comati;641 Noctivagos, bonarum horarum suarum prodigos, alienarum fures; Fumibibulos,642 qui nulliusmorbi Necessitate, Nullius medici authoritate adacti sed inordinati appetitus imperio mancipati, perpetim Nicotianam hauriunt, nec magis ipsum aerem quàm fumum spirant, tanquam quotidianum Paliliorum festum peragentes.643 Nos autem, (Charissimi) qui e Christiano sumus Peripato, ὡς ἐν ἡμέρα εὐσχημόνως περιπατήσωμεν· ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρέσκειαν.644

Sed ut brevius dicam; quod diutius hæreat;645 omissis præceptis, exemplaria vividissima vobis proponam, juvenes juvenibus, literatos literatis; Samuelem priùs laudatum, qui alter Moses a priscis nuncupatur; Danielem virum Desideriorum;646 & Timotheum, Pauli delicias: hosce intuemini, imitamini, & saltern, ὀρθοποδοῦντες647 sequimini, si non ἰσοδρομοῦντες assequamini.

Nil jam nisi vota supersunt.648

Valeat igitur, etiam athleticè & pancraticè649 illustre hoc Gymnasium. Semper audiat, quod Themistocles de Alexandrinâ Academia παντοίας παιδεύσεως ἐργαστήριον.650 [8] Sit velut Turris Davidis ex quâ omnis armatura fortium & mille clypei pendent.651 Et quod summum est, sit ei Nomen Iehovah Shammah, Hic requies esto:652 His mandet benedictionem, ἐν σωματοκοῖς μὲν αὐτὰρκειαν ἐν δὲ πνευματικοῖς περισσείαν.