On the river Charles this week, between the shores of Cambridge and Boston, the rowing shells are loaded with rhythmic crews (opposite), the sailboats are freighted with barebacked racers, and ashore the banks are full of students and their girls, playing, posing or just plain drowsing in the sun. It is spring in New England, the kind of spring that comes late and is enjoyed to the full only by those who have endured the New England winter. Emerson knew the joys of walking along the Charles in the spring, and so did Thoreau. So did Justice Holmes and, going back a bit, John Adams and John Hancock. Before that came John Smith, who got the river named for his prince ("That fairest reach, the Charles") and before him the Algonquins, who had traced it to its source west of Boston (25 miles as the crow flies) and named it Quineboquin, or "meandering one," a perfect name since in its leisurely way the Charles covers 60 miles to the sea. In its course the Charles runs south of Walden Pond, wanders gently into the outskirts of Boston, out again and back in again under the dozen bridges that connect to Cambridge; past fair Harvard, meticulous MIT, bustling Boston University; finally, paralleling Commonwealth Avenue, it drops into the Atlantic. Here at the mouth an occasional yacht plies the waters that have borne the tea clipper, the whaling schooner and the dreadnaughts of a very young U.S. Navy. Now that progress has taken us into space, the Charles no longer carries commerce, but the young on her banks will soon be steering their way, and their nation's way, through the new age. At present, however, they are quite properly taking time from their work to enjoy sport—and the sun and the smell of fresh grass. All these are pleasures which ought to be enjoyed and which fill needs that do not change even though men may reach out and seize new worlds.
Four-oared crew strokes smoothly upriver past Dunster House, their poised oars and mottled reflection reminiscent of an Eakins painting.
The Charles, like a small Mississippi, brings summer's indolence to staid Boston schoolgirls and scholarly Harvard men. Along the grass of the left bank, students find time to fish, photograph or just sun. Sailboats (opposite) from MIT and the Community Boating club drive gaily ahead of breezes blowing over Boston's John Hancock building and right-bank brownstones.
Chasing through the grass by Anderson Bridge, some Harvards play a brisk game of Frisbee between classes. Below: the sun warms amateur scullers setting out from Newell Boat House for a leisurely row down the sparkling Charles.