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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

The College Pump

Zvon Song?

March-April 2003

"Your wooden arm you hold outstretched to shake with passers-by."

According to the Moscow Times, the monks of the Danilov Monastery in Moscow are preparing a formal petition to Harvard for the return of the clangorous Lowell House bells. The bells were taken from the monastery by the Soviet government in the late 1920s, but were then bought by plumbing magnate Charles R. Crane, LL.D. '22, and given to Harvard "to save from the anti-religious zeal and melting-pots of the Soviet at least one of the characteristic Russian peals or zvons," wrote the late former master of Kirkland House Mason Hammond '25, G '32, LL.D. '94 (see http://lowell.student.harvard.edu/Bells/index.html).

"The tones of the bells are based not upon a western but upon an eastern scale, a combination, perhaps, of Byzantine and Tartar influences," Hammond continued. At first, when they were played, "invariably the undergraduates reacted with cat-calls, alarm-clocks, saxophones, tin-pans, etc...."

Although over the years Harvardians became tolerant—even fond—of the odd tintinnabulations, evidently certain Russians have yearned constantly for the bonging of these bells. Now Patriarch Alexy II wants them back. "The patriarch wants to return the bells in order to restore historical truth and correct a historical mistake," Father Alexei Polukarko of the monastery told the Times. "To transport the bells will be difficult, but if people can fly to Mars then it's possible." (The biggest of the bells weighs 13 tons.) Father Roman Ugrinko, the current ringer at Danilov, complains of the "weak sound" of the replacement bells now in use. "But to ring the original bells," he says, "that would be a pleasure. They are the bells Gogol heard. They are the bells that called our forefathers to worship."

Stay tuned.

Prayer before study. Tacked up in one of the spiffy new study carrels in Widener Library, this translation of part of Saint Thomas Aquinas's "Ante Studium": "Pour forth a ray of Your brightness into the darkened places of my mind; disperse from my soul the twofold darkness into which I was born: sin and ignorance....Grant to me keenness of mind, capacity to remember, skill in learning, subtlety to interpret, and eloquence to speak."

Curricular possibilities. After the stock-market surge last October, the Baltimore Sun quoted Robert Mewshaw, a money manager in Lutherville, Maryland, who offered this caution. "Stock prices will not continue their upward march because the economy is not healthy, and isn't likely to heal itself anytime soon, he said. Mewshaw allowed that he could be wrong on that point, but he doesn't think so. 'It's possible we're in a recovery...,' Mewshaw said. 'But it's also possible Mike Tyson could start teaching women's studies at Harvard University. Anything's possible. But it ain't likely.'"

Section men in spring. When Dorothy Kruskal, now 90, was a first-year student in the Radcliffe College class of 1934 and living in Mrs. Kearns's boarding house at 32 Avon Street, she composed the following song, which was performed for their own amusement by the girls in the house. Recently her son, historian Richard D. Brown, Ph.D. '66, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut and director of its Humanities Institute, recorded the song from his mother's mouth. He points out to Primus its relevance in the annals of grade inflation. (Someone at Harvard had publicly described Radcliffe students as "docile," Brown's mother told him, a remark she had not appreciated.) Here is "Springtime," to the tune of "Good Night, Sweetheart, Till We Meet Tomorrow."

It is springtime on the Radcliffe campus.
All our students do their best to vamp us.
From them we cannot get away.
All they want is B+ or A.
Though they are as dumb as Hell,
they smile at us so sweetly,
We are underneath their spell completely.
Though they're "docile,"
We don't move a muscle.
We're Radcliffe section men!