I cannot help but consider the relationship between a student’s journey at the University of Dallas and William Wordsworth’s poem, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”
In this poem Wordsworth reminisces about the glory of youth. He recalls that it was a time in which everything was “apparelled in celestial light.” As an older man, he is no longer able to see things in the same glorious respect.
The poem continues to lament about the joy of youth and the despair that comes with age. Wordsworth exclaims his horror over a child who is irritated by his mother’s coddling and rejects his early stage in life. Wordsworth cannot fathom why a child would want to escape from the heavenly sphere of childhood.
The poem concludes with Wordsworth’s recognition that he can return to a youthful joy through the faculty of memory, and thereby recover pieces of the radiance that once surrounded him. In addition to these memories, Wordsworth realizes that with age comes both a development in faith as well as a philosophical mind.
Wordsworth’s wisdom is applicable to every year of college. Freshman year is filled with a sense of youthful joy: being away from home is exciting and freeing, and even the overwhelming workload becomes bearable when you see 300 other students with their heads tucked inside “The Iliad.”
It is the year when you grow oddly accustomed to celebrating Thursdays and Groundhog Day. Freshman year is truly the time when everything, “every common sight,” is “apparelled in celestial light.”
Freshmen, I encourage you live fully this year — take advantage of living in the freshman dorms and being two doors away from your best friends. Take as many different classes as you can, because right now is the best time to discover what you like. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people in every social and academic sphere.
Sophomore year embodies “the glory and the freshness of a dream” as students are shipped off to Rome to spend four months in a city that truly feels like a dream. At what other time in life will you be able to spend four months travelling across Europe, making wine from grapes, and attending a Papal audience with all your best friends? My guess is never.
Additionally, sophomore year is when you begin to recognize everyone you pass on the Mall, and Dallas genuinely begins to feel like home.
Sophomores, I encourage you not to lose your fervor for the lessons and opportunities that the university has to offer. It may seem like you still have an eternity until graduation, but the next three years go quickly, so savor every second.
Junior and senior year is when one starts to feel a bit like Wordsworth, as the glory and bliss of college begin to fade while exhaustion and boredom steadily set in. The anxiety of choosing a major and mapping out post-graduate life is daunting.
However, I encourage you to strive like Wordsworth and surround yourself with both the memories of freshman and sophomore year as well as acknowledge the intellectual gift that UD has to offer. It is unlikely that you will find yourself in another setting where everyone around you considers “Stacy’s Mom” as magnificent a masterpiece as Homer’s “Odyssey.”
What we have at UD is special, and though the idea of graduating can be terrifying, we have been adequately prepared for the life ahead of us.
Juniors and seniors, I encourage you to grasp onto the memories UD has given you so far and look forward with an openness and anticipation for what this next year has to offer us. It is sure to be a good one.