Adams Going Global

Adams House and the FDR Suite Foundation are tremendously proud to present the stories of two remarkable young scholars, the 2013 inaugural Franklin Delano Roosevelt Global Fellows: Charlotte McKechnie ’15 of Adams and Ty Walker ’14 of Mather.

This non-partisan, Adams-based scholarship program has been a resounding success in its first year, and is something no other House has even dared attempt. Help Adams continue its tradition of leading by showing the way. Our motto is, after all, alteri seculo: He who plants trees, does so for future generations.

You may donate safely online using a credit card with the button below, or email Michael Weishan directly at michaelweishan at fdrfoundation dot org, or call 617.633.3136.

For more information, please visit: FDRFOUNDATION.ORG/global-fellowship


Student Profile: Santiago Pardo ’16

The immaculate Claverly desk of Santiago Pardo ’16. The Adams House Underwood is to the left; the referenced Skyriter to the right

GC: I understand you’re in possession of a certain historical typewriter, part of an obscure Adams House tradition. Please explain.

SP: Well I had just moved into the House and my sophomore advisor, Tim Smith, emailed me saying that he had something special to show me. I meet him in the House library and there on the table was an Underwood No. 3. He told me that a recently graduated senior [Antone Martinho ’13, past GC contributer –Eds.] had given the machine to him to pass on to a new sophomore. According to the senior, the typewriter had been passed down since the House’s founding. There is no documentation so the story is probably apocryphal, but thanks to the serial number, I was able to find out that the typewriter was produced in 1924!  

GC: Still, regardless of the myth’s veracity, this particular typewriter has found a good home. We’re told you are quite a collector of antique typewriters, are you not? What’s their appeal?

Santiago Pardo ’16
at the family plot of
Co-Master Sean Palfrey in Mt. Auburn Cemetery –
the resting place five generations of Palfreys
(the sixth is in the Old Burial Yard)
one of the many stops on this year’s
Adams House Sophomore Challenge.

SP: Typewriters are not standardized across models and that’s beautiful to me. Each model had a different function and it’s reflected in the machine. For example, up in my room in Claverly, I have a Smith-Corona Skyriter. It’s a perfect example of how the demands of post-war America led to new typewriters. Airline travel was becoming more common and young businessmen (or their assistants) couldn’t be flying around with those gargantuan typewriters used back in the office; so in comes Smith-Corona with the Skyriter—a sleek modern typewriter that fits perfectly under the airplane seat.

GC: But yours is more than just an attraction of function or form, is it not? You’ve refered to your “harem.”

SP: Back in high school, I had to write a blues song for a class. I ended up writing a rather salacious tune in which my typewriters were my various mistresses—each with her own needs and personality. One line went something to the effect of “you love it when my hands grab your…brass!” I’ve kept the mistress motif alive because I unfortunately cannot pledge myself to monogamy, at least when it comes to typewriters. I prefer to travel in search of new concubines for the typewriter harem that has become my room.

GC: Young man, We’re thinking you should consider yourself very lucky that parietal rules are no longer in effect. Just how many “ladies” have you stashed up in Claverly?

SP: Only two (soon to be three) at Adams, but eight more in my bedroom back home. A relatively small harem, as harems go.

GC: Somehow, Santiago, you strike us as not-your-average Adams House sophomore. Well, let’s rephrase: “even more unusual than your average Adams sophomore.” Tell us a bit about your background.

SP: I was born in Colombia but I’ve grown up in the suburbs of Atlanta. My parents have always been of the belief that traveling is a critical part of education so I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to many countries. It’s on these trips that I have acquired many of my typewriters. I bought my first typewriter in a small village in the south of France and since then I make it a point to always come home with a typewriter much to the annoyance of the TSA and customs agents.

GC: You’re something of a passionate historian, and a bit of a political activist as well. Tell us about it.

SP: I am a slave to passions but the one that captivates me the most is history. Here at Harvard, I am concentrating in History and the professors that I have been exposed to have shown me that history is a beautiful art that must be shared with the world. I have many muses in my life, but the one I find myself invoking the most is Clio. If it were up to me to set the curriculum (Mr. Obama, please don’t hesitate to call), I would make comprehensive historical study a core tenet. As for politics, I am on the board of the Harvard College Democrats and am an unabashed liberal. The existential question that keeps me up at night is whether I would rather have a walk on the beach at sunset with Bill or Hillary. The Harvard Dems have had great successes in helping to elect strong progressives and I have made some of my closest friends in the Dems.

GC: Your call for the next election? The match-up?

SP: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

GC: We’re placing our bets on Hillary and Chris Christie, but we’ve been known to be wrong before. Still, can’t imagine Jeb Bush. Care to place a small wager? 5 bucks?

SP: Sure

GC: We’ll expect a typed check.

Jesus Falls a Second Time

If there is a train to Manomet, then I was on the train to Manomet when it happened. I was drinking straight vodka from a hip flask offered by a gypsy who told me it would make my dreams go away. Because I was plagued by dreams of former lovers sadder than poetry or love songs, and because I was at an age where it didn’t make sense for my lovers to be dying, I took the gypsy’s drink without question.

The dreams did not stop after the vodka, but the gypsy was gone, along with my wallet and cufflinks. My neck had been stiff for days, I was burning up with fever. I decided to call an old friend because I wanted to hear her voice again, even if she hung up fast when I said hello. When she did not answer I went in search of the meal car.

There were little round tables draped in cheap gingham, fistfuls of lily planted in squat glass vases at the center of each. Far on the left the vendor perched behind the low counter with a leather Bible open on his lap, reading glasses down near the tip of his nose. He pretended I wasn’t there.

I asked if he had any sandwiches. He closed his book very slowly so I could hear the pages touch. The reading glasses had a terrible magnifying effect. When he didn’t say anything, I asked him again did he have any sandwiches.

The train passed a string of shirtless boys sitting trackside, beating the ground with sticks. Some were shouting, hurling pinecones and fist-sized rocks at the train; others sat very still, serious-faced, hawkish downturned noses made black with dirt and grease, eyes glinting with heat.

“Did you hear me?” the vendor said. “Hello? Hello?”


The summer after graduation I only took calls from my girl in San Jose. My parents were on sabbatical in Bangladesh, my old roommates had consulting jobs in New York and Seattle, or else they were playing farmhand or teacher in places like Montana and Wyoming, because they’d lived their whole lives in New England and felt stifled.

With a bit of savings, I’d managed a three-bedroom walk-up near Central Square, above the blinking neon of the all-night convenience, across from a playground famous for its razorblades—in the sandbox, on the slide, gleaming grins of razor keen to carve the shins of unsuspecting children. Usually it was overrun with kids in sleeveless jerseys, flashing in the sun like junkyard scrap. They ran around like animals. They didn’t care about razors, and no one cared that they didn’t care.

I shared the place with two other guys, both working specialized lab jobs at the university. They wanted to work in pharmaceuticals, or else software engineering, and they had very strong opinions about innovation. They’d gone to school in California and they brought home free bottle-openers and shot glasses from places called Synageva and Genzyme. Their teeth were furiously clean, their smiles vicious flashbulb detonations.

At night they smoked up the deck. I joined them once but their words stopped my ears like cotton. “So you’re writing, huh?” the one called Win said. He squinted like he was trying to make something out in the dark.

“Two thousand words per day,” I said. Someone in the triple-decker next door was cooking pot stickers. The whole block smelled of pork.

“That’s not too much,” Win said, winking at Pierre. Pierre pinched out his cigarette and ground it to ash. I took one of Win’s cigarettes and lit it.

“We’re just screwing with you,” Pierre said. “Hey, Win—maybe he’ll write about us. Come on, take a good look.” He grabbed Win by the shoulders. “You can be our biographer when we break the Valley. We’ll develop an app that makes fat people invisible. We’ll sign over the rights tonight. All you have to do is ask.”

“All you have to do is ask!” Win hooted, and the two of them laughed up a storm. “For fuck’s sake why does it smell like pork all the time?”

“Pot stickers,” I said. “The little Vietnamese woman next door is making pot stickers again.”


Miss Kendra ran the all-night convenience and lived in the small apartment below ours. Her face made men anxious and sad. She kept a Rottweiler called Xander, and after sundown he rubbed against the chain-link fence like he had an itch. The night jangled.

Miss Kendra was always threatening to put him down. He’s old, she’d say. He’s in such horrible pain. He’s a pain. He whimpers when it thunders, barks at odd hours, and when he’s content, he purrs like a wind-up machine.

The tenant upstairs hammered copper pots all day. Because I had nowhere to be, and because any distraction promised deliverance, I lay on the sofa and listened to the man’s hammering. Sometimes he swore loudly and hurled his toolkit across the room, his little hammers tap-dancing across our ceiling. I imagined him a dead man sent to haunt the three of us that summer. Win and Pierre sometimes took a broom to the ceiling, slammed the butt end into the cracked plaster and shouted rude things. The dead man shouted ruder things straight back.


I had a girl waiting for me in San Jose. We spent hours each night chatting about her work at her father’s law office, and I imagined her lounging on her father’s day bed with the clean cream-colored sheets, the one by the windows overlooking the cabana, the pool, the jacaranda trees. In the daydream she is wearing a little pink negligee tucked to form—the sort of thing she’d never wear—and her father doesn’t exist. We’d joke about the names she had to enter into her father’s databases. She’d give me three and I’d have to guess the fake.

“I bet you’re scaring up the men of San Jose,” I’d say. “What’s a pretty girl like you doing in San Jose?”

We traded lines we’d learned from movies and songs. It was a game. Everything that summer was a game.

“You know he’d give you a job,” she’d say. It was true, her father and I got along. He told me stories about his first wife, and his second, like it was something I wanted to hear. He owned several apartments around town, and he always said we could take whichever one we liked. They all had big south-facing windows, lots of light, never any shadows. “We could start everything right now.”

After hanging up I’d watch the moths bat against our kitchen light. Not the pretty kind with marbled wings but the dull thin ones with cigarette-bodies. I repeated my lines to the kitchen table: What’s a pretty girl like you doing in San Jose? My lips felt swollen and thick, wax dummy lips. What’s a pretty girl like you?

When we first started seeing each other, my girl began skipping Sunday mass. I felt triumphant, as if I’d stolen something from her, from her father, from his grinning bearded face with the jubilant Father Christmas eyes.

But I’d gone with her, once, to the church near campus, the one with the bells that tolled our days every quarter hour. It was a small side chapel across the graveyard marked with bright Roman crosses and gray-faced tombs. We entered through arched double doors heavy with shellac and religion and good wood. Under the low-vaulted ceiling, rows of cheap chairs padded with imitation leather; a dais at front; a dimpled disk of holy water, shining like a coin, and little papers tucked behind the chairs like bibs, halved to fit the thin wood slits in back.

Along the wall were placards showing Jesus in the various stages of his crucifixion. The only one I read was labeled “VII: Jesus Falls a Second Time,” and a man with a cat-o-nine stands with his arms raised, whips flailing like a mop head.

There was furious talk of grace, redemption, rebirth, but soon the words went cheap and limp as guppies. There were women in overlarge sunhats, fanning themselves with prayer sheets, and tired husbands resting on piled chins, and boys and girls in good Sunday clothes with shiny black shoes and copper buckles.

My girl whispered something in my ear and smiled, but I couldn’t hear anything at all. I wanted redemption, like anyone else.


There was a robbery at the convenience one night. The hooded man shot the blinking neon sign behind the counter as Miss Kendra counted fives from the register. Before leaving, he shot the head off the life-sized Virgin Mary in the corner, a tea light burning in her outstretched palm. The neighborhood froze up.

Miss Kendra was inconsolable. She’d spent years preparing for the moment. “I’ll look him in the eyes,” she told me once over Chablis on her back porch one night when Win and Pierre were at a party in Boston, dressed like comic book villains. “I’ll smack him with my cane and tell him to scram!” With the last word, she popped her face forward, fierce and powdered, like a jack-in-the-box.  “That’s what I think about at night. I think about robberies.”

When the moment arrived, she lost it.

The next day, I brought Miss Kendra a bouquet of lilies wrapped in orange tinsel that caught the light like fire. “How lovely,” she said quietly, as if truly in awe of the display. Perhaps she was. The whole thing was still a mystery to her. She placed the lilies in a tall cobalt vase on the buffet by the open window, and in the afternoon breeze they seemed to whisper of all the good things headed our way.

I spent a lot of time that summer at Miss Kendra’s but I know less about her than anyone. We sat and talked about the weather and old lovers, and still I don’t know where she’s from or what her full name is or why she runs a convenience store. I don’t mind.

Win and Pierre left after the robbery, but Pierre left first. For several weeks, Win and I sat around packing and unpacking Win’s boxes. In the end he decided to leave everything except for one suitcase of good clothes. We rearranged the living room furniture—most of which belonged to the previous tenant. Some nights we pretended we were friends and watched late-night television together.

Win and Pierre had jobs lined up in the Valley at competing start-ups, and I’d agreed to a job in San Jose, at the law firm. I imagined the family barbeques: wives furiously coiffed, glibly drunk, winsome; children loud and red-cheeked—water guns, horseshoes, archery; wine in dark bottles, a pool, marimbas, club music, everything smelling faintly of chlorine and char, little grinning hot dogs roasting on the grill. I said I’d be in San Jose in one week’s time.

In college, my girl never liked parties, though she attended many. Sometimes she’d tell me about them, bring me along, other times I’d see photographs later, another man tangled round her, but I never said anything about it, and she never said anything, either. Sometimes I wondered if I should’ve said something, if that’s what both of us were looking for, in the end.

I hadn’t told Miss Kendra yet that I was leaving. I put an ad for new roommates in the local paper, but she said it didn’t matter. She thought I’d be there through the fall, even the winter. She said, “Take as much time as you need—you’re doing the real work,” and gave me a very serious look before we burst out laughing. She thought we had time. There wasn’t any hurry—that wasn’t Miss Kendra’s way.

After I left Miss Kendra, I started riding trains. I went from Boston to Minneapolis to Tucson and Carson City. It didn’t matter where. I slept and woke to the land speeding under me. But I don’t mean it like that—it wasn’t an adventure. It wasn’t anything holy, or beautiful, or fun. Sometimes I thought I heard the dead man hammering pots. I’d wake baptized in sweat, with the feeling I might never shake him. But I did.

It was only after leaving that I wondered if it was Miss Kendra or Xander I’d heard at night, wandering the yard, running her hands along the fence, keeping everyone up.


The sandwich vendor and I eat chicken pesto sandwiches. Outside, the country: curious, hay-colored, implausible—a child’s drawing of the world. He asks do I believe in God.

“Read me something,” I say, nodding to the leather Bible. The gilt on the cover winks in the light. “I’m open to conversion.”

“I only just found it—a beautiful woman left it behind.”

“Oh yeah?”

“She had this big white sunhat,” he says. “Big white sunhat and killer legs. Ran off at Rye but look what she left me.” He raps the leather front. I think to ask if he saw her face. What of hooked noses, cheeks marled with freckle? What of unbeautiful girls and their unwise admirers? “I’ll keep it forever, remind me of that beautiful woman.”

The train stops. We’re on the inland branch, and several hundred feet to the east a juniper hedge downslants to ravine. Three harried men in oil shirts rush the compartment. The sandwich vendor, accustomed to such interruptions, does not make anything of it until the shouting begins. The men scuttle through again, faster this time, and order an evacuation.

An accident—whispered the way schoolgirls gossip of boys, excitedly, and not without trepidation. They found a train ticket in the front pocket, a wallet, cufflinks, and soon they are saying my name. I start to say how my wallet was stolen, how I am still alive. I ask after the victim, but I already know how the scene will play, and anyway they wave me off, tell me to take a seat in the next car. “Wait your turn,” one man says.

Instead I find the bathroom between cars. I spit into the toilet bowl and rinse my hands. I take too many towels from the paper towel dispenser, and more after that, and more, until it’s empty. I line the sink, perfectly sized, and fill it with water. In the mirror I count the blue smudges under my eyes, the gold pinpricks of stubble. The sound of the whispering men fills me with despair. I don’t know if my fever’s better or worse. I’ve stopped knowing the difference. I think of Jesus emerging from his tomb, the flood of light, mean and sharp, and the horrible shock of sky after three days in the dark.

Unthinking, I hold my head under water.

There was only one other time in my life that I felt I was drowning. I was very young and there were three older boys and we were trying to win the attention of Becky Meyers, the lifeguard. She wore an orange one-piece with a white cross on her midsection. Mornings her boyfriend often came by with coffee. Years later he’d die in a wreck (black ice; visiting his newest paramour, not our Becky), but at the time we were envious of his power over her, the way she looked distractedly from the pool, from us, when he ran late, the way she tapped her flip-flopped feet on the middle rung of her watchtower. Even underwater we heard the tapping. It haunted us, sang ceaselessly of her love for another man.

One day we said we’d pretend to drown, all at once. She wouldn’t know what to do. Once she got in the water, we’d take turns: one of us would exaggerate his struggle, and at her touch revive, then the next, and the next, and so forth. But when the day arrived, I was the only one there. Becky waved and smiled. As I walked past the watchtower I caught the scent of her melon sunscreen. She glistened like a pearl. She said, “I’ll have to watch you extra hard today.”

I don’t remember what happened directly before or after, but I remember the diving board, and the moment I decided to stop breathing. My eyelids danced with blue light. The floor came from under me, everything moving very slowly, I thought I heard tapping. Then her arms around me, every bit as tender as I’d dreamed. And the vomiting, the blinding sunny concrete, the wet trunks slipping, her hands on my sternum softly pressing, and the perfect circle of ambulance window, traffic parting like the Red Sea, the siren overhead and the noise everywhere, not receding or swelling like I’d always heard it, but good and constant. And me, in the ribcage of the beast, rushing toward St. Marguerite’s, left with the memory of her arms, still tender and burning, the happiest I’d ever felt, the happiest I would ever feel.

In addition to being the Gold Coaster’s undergraduate editor and concentrating in English, Chris Alessandrini somehow finds time to pursue his own writing projects. His story Charade won the David Rice Ecker Short Story Prize for Freshmen in 2012. He hails from Lexington, Massachusetts, and is fortunately rarely found on trains.

The View from Apthorp

Brave New World

This past year at Adams, we have been holding discussions with the tutors, students and the Senior Common Room about Global Citizenship. Today’s college students are globally connected in ways that no one has ever been before. Many of our students have lived for significant parts of their lives outside the US. Students travel extensively, especially in the summer and January breaks. It is not usual for us to have a conversation with a student who has been to three continents in a year. Students email and Skype with their friends all over the world and keep in contact about social and political events in an immediate, day-to-day, hour-to-hour way. We have indeed become, as Franklin Roosevelt predicted, “Citizens of the World.”

With this new global awareness comes global responsibiltiy – a topic that fits perfectly under the umbrella of the FDR Suite Restoration Project. Our intent in restoring the Suite has always been to create programming that would both be informed by the life and work of FDR and have 21st-century applicability. The highly successful FDR Global Fellowships have launched us in this direction, and this coming January, during Harvard’s new WinterSession, we intend to hold a week-long program for undergraduates on Global Citizenship. The seminar will allow students to interact one-on-one with Harvard faculty, Adams SCR members and others affording them a chance to view issues such as health, education, governance and human rights – which they may know only from a micro local, or national level – on a new and truly global stage. It’s an exciting tribute to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a remarkable step for Adams into what is truly becoming a brave new world.

Judy and Sean

(To get a sense of how House Masters are playing their own ever-increasing global role, click HERE for the Harvard Gazette’s fascinating look at Judy’s efforts to help the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Chile. –Eds.)

Letter from Cambridge

This issue of the Gold Coaster marks something of a transition. It’s the first to feature two video stories: the 7-minute film we produced detailing the summer adventures of our inaugural FDR Global Fellows, as well as a wonderful piece the Harvard Gazette did on Master Judy Palfrey’s efforts to help the victims of the disastrous 9.0 earthquake Chile suffered in 2010. It’s also the first to profile a House resident – the inimitable Santiago Pardo ’16 – a feature many of you have long requested as a way to get some sense of House life today. Even more strikingly, this issue is the first to publish a piece of student fiction, a story we commissioned from one of Adams’ most talented up-and-coming writers, Christopher Alessandrini  ’15, who this year just happens to be the next-door neighbor of the FDR Suite as well as the new undergraduate editor of the Gold Coaster – an extremely handy proximity for us in terms of assignments, but less so, we fear, for our hardworking assistant.

This all comes at a time of change for the FDR Suite Foundation, and for the House. While we continue to expand our curatorial and preservation efforts, the physical restoration of the FDR Suite is largely complete, and we, as an organization, have begun to turn our efforts to a broader set of educational and philanthropic issues. I’ve previously contacted many of you in regards to our new Adams-based FDR Global Fellowship program. Our just concluded first year was a spectacular success, and we are now in the last phase of round-one fundraising, having reached $35K of our $50K target. I’ll be making one last appeal to all of you to help push us over the top before the end of 2013, and I’m confident we can achieve our goal. In her piece View From Apthorp, Master Judy Palfrey mentions another one of our newest endeavors, The FDR Global Citizenship Initiative, which will produce a week-long seminar at Adams this coming January for students from across the College interested in learning how local and national themes translate to the global arena, and vice versa. Nobel Laureate and Adams Senior Common Room member Amartya Sen will be one of the speakers, and it’s our intention that this programming will become an annual event, making our gilded halls a nexus for undergraduate global studies and cross-cultural communication for the 21st century. Things never stay the same at Adams, that’s a given, but it is fascinating and hugely gratifying to watch as this grand ol’ girl of a House nimbly dips and pirouettes to the beat of the times, always managing to remain poised, upright and relevant for yet another generation of grateful Adamsians.

That’s something we can all be proud of, because we’ve made it so.

Seamus at Adams

Harvard can be a strange and difficult place for a newcomer, freshman, professor, or poet.  I remember a new colleague telling me that although everyone was friendly and polite, he could not find the center of the place.  He always felt lost.  That was not Seamus.  Seamus had his own center.  He also had his own home at Harvard.  When he first came to the university in 1979, the English Department welcomed him warmly as Visiting Poet, but it was in 1981 when he moved into I-entry of Adams House that he became one of us, a neighbor, a friend, a member of the family.

The guest suite in I-entry was not a five-star accommodation. These rooms  were only a step up from the days of the founding Puritan Fathers.  There was indoor plumbing, electricity, a bed, a desk, a table, and a few chairs.  A visiting professor who had arrived near midnight some years earlier phoned me to say that the place had no door and she was afraid to go to bed.  Buildings and Grounds had been working on the room and had not quite finished the job.  I told her to pile furniture at the threshold and try to get some sleep.  We did install a door before Seamus arrived.  In any case, he never complained.  In fact, I think he liked the spare simplicity, the convenience, the company when he wanted it, and the solitude when he needed it.  When Marie came for visits, she put flowers on the table and said it made them feel like newlyweds. 

Seamus in front of the B-entry Fountain. Photo: courtesy Sean Palfrey Seamus came back every year for one semester.  It soon seemed as though he had always been there with us, taking meals in the dining hall, chatting with someone in Randolph Court, reading poetry and listening attentively and with evident pleasure to students reading their own poetry in the Common Rooms.  Like any true survivor at Harvard, Seamus learned how to disappear and do his work, but he also loved celebrations and a good party.  One of his favorite Adams occasions was the Saint Patrick’s Day Tea at Apthorp House.  He often brought Irish friends who could sing or play the penny whistle.  Students tried to dance something resembling an Irish jig.   He would stand on a chair and recite poems, beaming all the while, not for the attention he was getting but because of the attention poetry was getting.  When he was informed of the Nobel Prize, he was travelling in Greece.  He phoned to say he  couldn’t keep the astonishing news to himself.  It was during a Tea, so I announced it to the assembled crowd of students who cheered so lustily he could hear them in Athens. 

Seamus was a great storyteller as well as a great poet.  Among the many he told, there are two stories about Ireland, poets, and poetry that keep coming back to me.  One night when he was driving alone through the Irish countryside after an event—a wedding or banquet—he was stopped by a patrolman for speeding.  The patrolman seemed tired, wet, and angry:  “Show me your driver’s license,” he shouted as if to a deaf man.  Seamus began fumbling around his pockets, realizing that he may have forgotten to carry it with him.  The patrolman shone a flashlight into the car as if looking for contraband.  “Can you identify yourself?”  Seamus noticed an envelope with his name and address on the empty seat next to him.  “Will this do?”  The patrolman shone his light on the name, looked up and said, “The poet?”  Seamus nodded modestly.  “Drive on,” said the patrolman.

The other story is about a poet looking for a poet who was not an Irishman.  Seamus loved the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.  He knew that Hopkins had been sick, lonely, and unhappy in Dublin; that he died there; and, though an Englishman,  he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetary where Irish patriots had also been laid to rest.  One day, Seamus decided that he wanted to visit Hopkins’ grave.  In an almost Shakespearian scene, the young Irish poet got lost among the tombstones, unable to find his way to Hopkins until he came upon two gravediggers.  “I’m looking for Gerard Manley Hopkins,” he said.  “Who?”  “The poet.  Hopkins.”  The first gravedigger shrugged and looked at his mate, “Have you heard of a Hopkins?”  The second gravedigger scratched his chin, looked at Seamus, and said, “Oh, you mean the convert!”  And then glanced over his shoulder and said with a nod, “He’s over there.”   

I hardly need to say that Seamus loved Ireland.  But like those ancient Irish monks who sailed off in their currachs  and made themselves at home all over the world, Seamus was a hardy traveller and, through his poetry and generous disposition,  his was a welcome presence and voice in many parts. 

I have saved till last my most treasured memory and a copy of a message from Seamus to Harvard—to all of us—that most of you will not have read or heard.  In the spring of 1982 Adams House celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding.  Throughout the semester there were festivities—an original opera, an art show, poetry readings, concerts, and finally a banquet.  Seamus, of course, was there.  As a surprise, he composed a poem and dedicated it to Adams House.  I now hear it as a toast to Harvard, a thank you note to all of us, and a light-hearted, but serious reminder of what we can be at our best, why he liked being here and, though he doesn’t put it that way, why we loved having him with us.

“For Bob and Jana with much gratitude,” Seamus

 Anniversary Verse

Master Kiely, guests and friends,
Tutors, tutees, alumni, students,
     You stair-case dwellers
Whose amplified hard rock and reggae
Resound from every dormitory,
You fiftieth anniversary

Ye maids and swains of Adams House,
Ye actors, athletes, sexy muses,
     Ye gilded youth-
I rise to rise to the occasion
And not disgrace my art or nation
With verse that sings the old equation
     Of beauty and truth.

I rise as one who comes and goes
Beneath your storied walls and windows
     A visitor,
Part tourist and part faculty,
An ethnic curiosity
Dubbed by grace of poetry
     Guest lecturer.

Inspire me then, occasional muse,
With verse to cure the exam blues
      And banish care,
To greet old academic ghosts
Who once caroused on the gold coast
Whose love of learning vied with lusts
     For flesh and beer.

That I may briefly celebrate
Community, half-collegiate
     And half-domestic,
And say a word about the way
A scholar’s personality
Can keep its health emotionally
     Yet stay scholastic.

The diapers we first were dressed in,
Our graduation gowns of ermine,
     Which, would you say,
Will mean more to us in the end?
Those powdered folds pinned tight around
Our little backsides, or that grand
     Scholar’s regalia. 

All of us are amphibious
Between our universities
     And where we come from.
No one gets born in a campus bed.
Even the trendiest school of Ed.
Has never weaned or bathed or breast-fed
     Or wiped a bum.

No co-ed dorm supplies the joys
Of an attic full of dusty toys
     And old dolls’ houses.
No faculty of engineering
Repeats the thrill of tinkering
With model planes, that hankering
     To fly with aces.

It seems illiterate solitude
Is the first place that the true and good
     Awaken in us.
The later freedom we call leisure
Cannot supply that buried treasure
Which is the basis and the measure
      Of personalities

And which we name imagination,
A word I cite with much elation
     And some unease
Because it can sound slight and airy,
An entry in the dictionary,
A bubble word.  Yet while I’m wary
     I realize

All need its salutary power.
All men and women must beware
     Who would deny it
And go against their childhood’s grain
And dry up like earth parched for rain.
They’ll grow mechanical and then
     No drug or diet,

No health farm, clinic, yoga course,
No mantra, om, no Star Wars force
     Will compensate
For what is lost when the mind divides.
Even science now concedes
The brain has two conjugal sides,
     The left and right,

That have to marry intuition
To the analytic reason
     For psychic balance.
Head sleeps with heart, begets a creature
Free yet cornered in its nature.
To be your whole self you must mate your
     Brains and glands.

Which is why I bless the atmosphere
Of Adams House; and toast our master
      And his wife.
I toast good nature in the staff,
The way that nothing’s done by half-
Those who work hard and still can laugh
     Are the spice of life.

I like your hospitality,
Your literate vitality,
     Your casual styles.
The way that love of liberal arts
And loves inspired by Cupid’s darts
Have educated all your hearts
     Is in your smiles.

So all together, gaudeamus,
Because as sure as my name is Seamus
     To-day’s the day
For intellectuals to play.
On your fiftieth anniversary
Rejoice, and as the jazzmen say,
     Take it away.

(We are delighted and honored that this ode to Adams House by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney appears here for the first time in print, with our thanks to Bob Kiely for rediscovering this forgetten gem. –Eds)