This question is in reference to the enduring New England aphorism "where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God." I arrived at this question after reading A.M. Juster's fascinating article in Light poetry magazine, "Historical and Hysterical: Cabots, Lowells, and a Quatrain You Don't Really Know":

This toast, in turn, may owe its initial inspiration to a line that appears in many Williams College songs: “Here’s to old Fort Massachusetts.”

The question regards the Williams college song in which the line "Here's to old Fort Massachusetts" - site of a frontier siege in which the British colonists got whupped during the French and Indian Wars - appears. Does this song still survive, or is it lost?

1 Answer 1


No, it's not lost.

The toast is preserved here on the Internet Archive, in A Handbook of New England (Volume yr. 1921) by Porter Edward Sargent. An excerpt:

One of the first landholders was Colonel Ephraim Williams, Jr., later commander of Fort Massachusetts nearby, who was killed at the Battle of Lake George in 1755. Lamenting "his want of a liberal education," he left a bequest on which augmented by a lottery to upward of $72,500 the Williams Free School was built in 1790 and named Williams College in 1793. The town was named for him in compliance with a proviso in his will. The founder perished in the skirmish pre- ceding the Battle of Lake George, in 1755. His memory is kept green among the students by the following toast:

"Oh, here's to the health of Eph Williams,
Who founded a school in Billville,
And when he was scalped by the Indians,
He left us his boodle by will.
And here's to old Fort Massachusetts,
And here's to the old Mohawk Trail,
And here's to historical Pe-ri,
Who grinds out his sorrowful tale."

The last lines refer to the Williams historian, Prof. A. L. Perry, father of Bliss Perry, who occupies the chair of James Russell Lowell at Harvard; another son is Principal of Phillips Exeter Academy.

I can find up to six lines of this toast in other documents on the Internet, including one where the last two lines are replaced by something more salacious (not surprising, considering the customs of college students).

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    We appear to have come full circle. I arrived at this question while reading the only just released "Memoirs" by Robert Lowell, great grand-nephew of fireside literary light James Russell Lowell. Thanks a mil! Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 8:34

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