I took a walk along the Genesee River at lunch today and came upon the Swinburne Rock. It is named for Thomas Thackeray Swinburne who attended the University of Rochester and was a member of the class of 1892. Although Swinburne took classes up until his senior year he did not complete his degree. Yet he was voted Class Poet by his cohort and made many literary contributions, including poems, articles, and editorial work in the student newspaper. Later, Swinburne was named City Poet during the city’s 1912 centennial celebration. At one gala that year he read a 30-stanza poem that featured a chat between the Genesee and the statue of Mercury that was atop a downtown building.
Swinburne owned a printing company and published many books including some that featured his own poems. One book was called Rochester Rhymes. Published in 1907 the book was dedicated to his sister Rose. Sadly, Rose passed away in 1926 and Swinburne, distraught by this loss, took his own life by jumping into the river’s icy waters in December of that year.
The Swinburne rock is a memorial to this poet. It features a large plaque with his poem The Genesee. The poem serves as the alma mater of the University of Rochester. It was later set to music by Herve Dwight Wilkins. The memorial plaque is affixed to a large glacial boulder. The plaque is made of bronze, now tinged green, with the words of The Genesee boldly inscribed. Overlooking the river next to the University’s Interfaith Chapel, the memorial has a timeless feeling. It is nice to take a moment, breathe the air, and read the words.