The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, September 1926
Past Students' Section
Past Students' Section
Looking through the forty-ninth number of the "Spike," I am astonished at the vigour of my former puny child. Its birth was humble and somewhat laborious, but it has grown into a sturdy manhood of marked independence of character. In turning over the pages I am glad to see that the clever little woodcuts at the head of each article are still retained. These were the work of Miss F. Smith, one of the most brilliant and versatile students we have ever had. She and Mr. F. A. de la Mare were my coadjutors in the work of organising and publishing the first number. We recognised that it could only be accomplished with the aid of advertisements. Mr. de la Mare and I spent a wet Saturday afternoon on Lambton Quay procuring these, and in two hours we obtained £20 worth of advertisements, which made the thing possible. As the first editor I can claim the merit of realising my limitations as a writer. The editorials were all that I attempted. A good deal of the writing in the first numbers was done by Mr. de la Mare and Miss Smith, both of them writers with a sparkled students which we then had. It was surprising how much we and it was also our aim to search for talent among the 250 found—among them one genius, Seaforth Mackenzie. The College must have some five times the number of students to-day, and there must, among so many, be much latent talent. You seem to have quite a number of poets. Even in the first number we had more material than we could use, and the work of elimination was often difficult. What I like best about your forty-ninth number is the spirit of daring freedom of thought and opinion which pervades its pages. This is exactly the outlook on life which I should have wished to encourage in all my children. It is the spirit which should pervade every University worthy the name. It is not only the right but the duty of every thinking human being to dig his own well and find truth for himself. I am glad to think the "Spike" has done something towards fostering this spirit. I am afraid that it has sometimes shocked the minds of a section of our community, particularly during the war, when reason was more obscured than usual, and Hell had no fury like the non-combatant. But it is the spirit which every University needs, and which every country needs which has the ideal before it of making it a better and happier place for our children and successors.
—H. H. Ostler.
A Sussex Fairy
In the dusk
Down the lane
Skipped a fairy
"Glint" by name.
On he came.
He did not notice me, of course.
I stood stock-still like the trunk
Of a tree,
On the bank with the primroses
Thick in the grass,
Quiet as a wary bird
Watching him pass.
He was green-gold bright
Like the sun through trees;
Although it was dusk,
And the shadows on-crowding.
Like a gleam he danced,
And he capered and pranced,
Answering back to a blackbird's whistle,
Taking his height by a tall-growing thistle.
The happiest thing that ever I've seen,
And I leant with a laugh from the leafage green.
He was still in a trice,
But I must have looked nice
For he blew me a kiss from his finger-tips,
A wee kiss plucked from his golden lips;
And was gone into air
And nothing was there
But the things of the day
Growing dim in the gray
Of the on-coming night.
A Non-Crossword Puzzle
One of our past student contributors obviously has exalted ideas of the intelligence of the 1926 editorial staff. He writes: "I enclose a contribution for the Jubilee 'Spike' It suggests a problem: What is the correct course for an Editor, receiving a contribution from an ex-Editor, written at the Editor's request, which, if the ex-Editor had been Editor, the ex-Editor-Editor would have edited to the limbo of the forgotten?" We had braced ourselves for the task, and were about to draw down our encyclopaedia and logarithm tables when we noticed his next ungenerous remark: "No prize is offered (by me) for the correct solution." Needless to say, the problem did not engage our attention further.
Good Advice from Invercargill
Thanks for your request for a contribution. I have been sitting, this wonderful spring morning, in an old-fashioned garden, hoping—but in vain—for the Muse to sing again after years of silence. Suspicions of colour can be felt in the English trees, the pussy-willow is a-hum with bees, and the silver poplars shower a cascade of tassels behind. There is a yellow blaze of daffodils on the sward below, terminating in a vasty sweep of rhododendrons, where precocious red buds are dotted here and there. Beyond, the cedar holds its ever-drooping leaves, the tall Lawsonianas sway their fern-like branches, and the clouds drift slowly past the background of pines. For the moment the world of mortgages and probates and writs is a thing apart.
There are many great joys of which I could write you—of the bivouac on the Hump, watching the sun rise over a sea of mist, with the Princess Mountains towering in pink glory above the whiteness; of a week's camping in the glades of Manapouri; of the mosses and lichens of the fairy-like track to Doubtful Sound; of the long arms of Te Anau; of the Milford track, with its miles of cascades, towering peaks, and rumbling glaciers; and of the mirrored waters of Milford and the greenstone of Anita Bay. But without the leisure I cannot do it justice, and can only advise your readers to come and tarry awhile in this beauty spot of New Zealand.
Yours, with happy memories of V.U.C.,
F. G. Hall-Jones.
The King Dies Royally
The King dies royally; he sinks
Lost in a silver-golden fire,
Like some old Viking chief who went
Adrift upon a blazing pyre
Beyond the lost and desolate
Edge of the grey and ancient sea,
While all the sky burst into flame,
And flaming faded utterly.
Ah, thus may fall the ultimate sun
When all the world is bright with death,
When all man's passionate race is run—
So royally he perisheth.
Bass Strait, 22/8/26.
An ex-Editor's Memories of the Future
Hell—a device of theology
To frighten the fools and the dolts.
When a man's at Victoria College, he
Imbibes Free Discussional knowledge, he
Knows that this Hell's poor mythology
Against which an agnostic revolts.
Heaven—the ancient Elysium,
Where for poets there are pence without kicks;
Where the finding of rhymes won't dizzy 'em
With Charon right there to tin Lizzie 'em
By the Ford or the Ferry o'er the Styx.
(That's not heaven surely, that Hades
Where the leafy Vallambrosan shade is).
But heaven—you just ask the ladies:
Will their Rudolf be there or Tom Mix?
There, men just recline at their leisure
With girls waiting round them all day
To dance and to sing for their pleasure,
Whilst they gargle the ages away.
Their favourite gargle is nectar
(Diana tried some but it wrecked her,
And she did what they didn't expect her—
Oh that Brook had been there to correct her!)
I learnt all of this from John Rankine,
Professor and scholar and classic;
You can see how profoundly we drank in
The Falernian spirit and Massic.
Lastly, there's Earth where Goliath,
Philistine, by Dave was laid low.
(None knows what he can till he trieth,
Each's oppo will come ere he dieth;
Be like David and don't let it go.)
Have the Philistines now any giants?
But we're getting away from Earth:
Earth, the haunt of the sly ants,
Of beetles, and lawyers and clients,
Of Melody, money and Mirth.
For money I care not a title—
Whatever a title may be—
And Melody's worth very little,
But Mirth is the music for me.
Yet, of Mirth
There's a dearth.
When the "Spike" Was Very Young
Dear Mr. Editor,—
As one of the Sub-Editors of the first number, I am very proud to be judged worthy to contribute to the fiftieth number of the "Spike." It is a far cry to the days when I read the first proof-sheets and listened to the howls which greeted the name on that famous night when, in the passage-ways of the Wellington Girls' College, the first distribution took place. The critics said that the name was unworthy a University; that our high estate was degraded to the dust; that such a selection could not endure. Some were in deadly earnest, and some said they were. I remember in particular some promising lads from a neighbouring boardinghouse—A. H. Johnstone, A. Tudhope and J. A. Brailsford—who were offensive to a degree. But alas! These prophets! The old "Spike" has knocked up a sound half-century, and is still going strong.
I have no doubt, sir, that you will insist, with whatever authority you have, upon a contribution from the first Editor. His name, of course, is Ostler, J. If there should be any discrepancy between his testimony and mine you will please note that he was appointed to your "chair" because of a certain vogue he had as a raconteur. A course of history under F.P. (or John Beaglehole) is one of the several advantages denied him.
It does not appear that the "Spike" was ever christened, although it appears to have been registered within the prescribed time. If there is any obloquy attaching to the omission the responsibility is joint and several. The meeting of the Editorial Committee at which the name was chosen was held at "Kenilworth" in Hill Street, then the abiding place of the Editor. We were of one mind, that the worst fate which could overtake us was the dullness of conventional respectability, and we were determined that, if we could, by the name, establish a character, that character should lack neither point nor freedom. We hoped—not vainly, I think, that a good point could be kept clear of poison. So the decision was made.
The first number contained the first Capping songs of Victoria College, and amongst them was "The Song of Victoria College." It was to me that Professor Rankine-Brown handed the manuscript of "Aedem Colimus," and I remember the delight the characteristic emphasis with which the author construed the Latin and underlined the points for my edification. This song is but one instance of the generous interest taken by the first professors in the life of the College.
It is to be regretted that the first Editor had, in 1902, no personal experience of "the New Zealand tradition" in regard to Capping songs. As a result of information with which I helped to supply him he wrote several Capping songs, all of them conspicuously subversive of good order and discipline. Possibly they contain the germ of that "Bolshevism" which some recent observers have associated with the College. The famous "Alma Mater" (Solomon Levi) song would have landed the student body in dire disgrace had it not been for a conspicuous instance page 11 of presence of mind on my part. The first three verses dealt comprehensively and unambiguously with foundation professors. In the fourth verse poetic license gave way to wild mendacity (due, of course, to ignorance of tradition and careless instruction), and the Editor ventured upon his disquisition concerning "Two on a library chair." No wonder the Chairman of the Board, Professor John Rankine-Brown, immediately rang up in protest. He approached the subject with great and laudable circumspection. When, at last, I gathered the strength of the charge, I was filled with noble resolve. "But, sir," I said, "the verse to which you refer is in no way a reference to a Professor, it refers, on the contrary, to a student. In point of fact, I am advised, and verily believe, that I myself have an action against the Editor for a very false and malicious libel." I cannot, at this distance of time, remember whether the sound I heard at the other end of the telephone was a chuckle, a sigh, or a fragment of a Latin prayer of thanksgiving. Suffice it to say that the crisis had passed and that, to this day the details of my private vengeance have eluded the vigilance of the newspapers.
Those who take an interest in the "cause of woman" will be not unprepared to know that the woman sub-editor of the first three years, Miss F. Smith, was not least amongst that happy company as a source of inspiration. Through fifty numbers her strong and characteristic humour has held its place, for the years have not improved upon the block headings drawn by her twenty-five years ago. In June, 1926, eight of the nine headings are from her pencil.
I was Editor during 1903 and 1904, and those years are memorable for the discovery first, of Seaforth Mackenzie and, in the latter year, of Siegfried Eichelbaum. In those years was laid the foundation of "The Old Clay Patch," "The Ode on the Laying of the Foundation Stone," published in October, 1904, would have given distinction to any University magazine in the world. On my way to the printer I dropped in at the University Office, where John William Joynt was wont to sit in judgment. Mr. Joynt delighted to bestow his measured praise on the work of promising youngsters, and he did not disappoint me then. The "Ode" was only one of a series of poems which enriched the pages of the "Spike" during its first decade.
How we had to chase Mackenzie for his "copy" But he invariably struck gold. He was gifted with the rare critical faculty which goes with clear and balanced humour. His approval was as final as his condemnation, and his appreciation was unstunted and wholehearted. His delight at the "Slaughterman's Chorus" of "The Golden Calf" clings to my memory. This succulent morsel had, of course, been handed over to Eichelbaum with the final injunction, "Blood, Ike, Blood!"The first verse set such a standard of sanguinity that we feared for the rest. Then came the second verse:—
"From the meadow to the coop, from the shambles to the soup,"
And Seaforth's chortle would have brought joy to the heart of a stone.
The work of Siefried Eichelbaum is so well known to all who take an interest in the College that one is apt to take it for page 12 granted. Eichelbaum is now an old vintage—and a rare one. He is the Master Capping Song writer of New Zealand, "a fellow of infinite jest and most excellent fancy." In his verse-making he has kept a level which is truly remarkable. He has a genius for the "inscrutable" word, and he is dogged by constant self-criticism. His more ambitious efforts suggest that, had his critical faculty been entirely free from self-consciousness and he could have trusted himself to be serious, his work would have approached Mackenzie's on the serious plane as it equalled it on the topical. He has served the "Spike" with unflagging loyalty. An Editor with such Subs, as Miss Smith, Mackenzie, and Eichelbaum was fortunate indeed. Across twenty-five years I give them all "good hunting"
I think it may be said that I have read every number of the "Spike" from cover to cover. I may, indeed, have hurried through the C.U. notes and lingered unduly on" Free Discussion." Still, I have two complete sets, and that ought somehow to give me two votes as to the merit of the "Spike" through the years. I venture the opinion that the University has no reason to be ashamed of it. It has maintained a creditable standard, and many times risen to a very high standard, both in prose and verse. It has done more. It has maintained an open forum and has kept its pages open to work of merit even when unconventional and unorthodox were mild words to describe the opinions of its contributors. I can speak with some authority on this matter as I have myself found vent for pent-up feeling in your friendly pages. I am glad to remember that one article I wrote was published despite very serious pressure and that another, though wholeheartedly accepted by the Editor, was withdrawn by myself because, at the instigation of a friend, I agreed to accept an arbitration. There have been years in which one felt that the critical freedom of youth had been superceded by the complaisance of age, but speaking generally, the hopes of the theologically impossible godparents—"who gave it that name"—have been justified. I like to think that the "Spike" has genuinely represented a verile, critical, free-thinking, and intelligent student body.
I was very glad to see in the "Silver Jubilee" number a statement of Professor Rankine-Brown that the "Spike" with all its freedom had, throughout its history, reflected the cordial relations which had existed between the students and the staff. This, no doubt, says a good deal for both sides. It has been found possible to be frank without being offensive and amusing without sacrificing respect. The kindness and consideration, however, which has characterised the relations between those within the gates has not prevented some hard knocks being delivered against the enemy outside. I, myself, find it impossible to regret, even now, two very offensive articles I wrote concerning University politicians who vexed us in the days of the very beginnings. But that is another story.
I see that I was succeeded in the Editorial chair by an abandoned citizen named W. H. Wilson, who still answers to the name of "Spiky." How are the mighty fallen. I now look to this once free spirit for illumination on elementary points of companypage break
Executive of V.U.C. Students' Association, 1926.
Standing: Miss M. E. Cooley, T. G. Hislop, F. S. Hill, W. P. Rollings (Ed. "Spike"), J. H. Dunn (Hon. Sec.), Miss A Stewart.
Sitting: A. H. Ivory (Hon. Treasurer), Miss M. S. Goodwin (Vice-President), R. M. Campbell (president), I. H. Macarthur, (Vice-President), Miss J. L. Moncrieff.
law and he is a mine of information on all sorts of subjects consigned by a far-seeing Providence to the black insides of the Law Reports. It is for him to carry on the story. But can the fellow now soar to the heights once so natural to him. I doubt it.
F. A. De La Mare.
Or e'er the Silver Cord Be Broken
I think that when I come to that last gate,
Whereo'er there stands the ancient reaper. Death,
I shall go down into the void beneath
Without bemoaning then my poor estate.
Though ceases then all sorrow- and all mirth
Within the shadow where all breath is done,
I shall not go as those whose faith is none,
I, who found worship for the things of earth—
That shall continue still when I am gone
Beyond the water still the snows will lift,
And to the east the rose-clad morn will drift;
The sun will shine on earth as once he shone.
Then thought will die with me for ever where
he crowned clay patch lies on the Kelburn hill.
And where the river is white silver still
By Haywards and by Melling, where the air,
A golden mantle, lies on that blue plain,
And where the kowhai lines the shallow lake
Beyond Wairongomai; I would not wake
And ache to tread their memoried paths again.
Then come, O Death, for silence, not for woe.
I would not wake beyond your deep to mourn,
For love is hopeless, save where it was born.
Heap dirt upon my sleep and leave me low.
Students of Other Lands
"But there is neither East nor West,
Border nor breed nor birth—"
I part from the poet here, with his "when two strong men stand face to face." Why "strong men"? Let any two people with common interests, speaking a common tongue, come together, and, provided they are of open mind, you will find that colour of skin and slope of eye are utterly forgotten. I have discussed things of mutual concern with students and thinkers of India, China, and Japan. With Dr. Hu Shih, the brilliant young Professor of Philosophy at the Peking National University, I tried to thrash out the question of family ties. He was bittter against the large family groupings of China—the occasion of constant bickerings, but we wondered between ourselves whether some better transition from the old groupings could not be made than by the way taken in the Western world—the class struggle. Perhaps we reached no very wise conclusions. But do you imagine we had a barrier of race between us as we conversed? You might as well imagine that your footballer, racing for the line, was conscious whether the temperature was 49 or 51. Of course, I was conscious of a difference of language when my friend Hsia Yung-yu told me, concerning Admiral Sah, "That man has no skeleton," but, after all, the phrase was quite as expressive as" no backbone."
With my Indian friend Sahay, who had travelled in intimate company with "Saint" Gandhi, I compared notes on the prison life of India and New Zealand. We rejoiced together that in both countries the imprisonment of numerous political offenders had revealed the abuses of the system and brought some little improvement of conditions for all law-breakers. Sahay was one of the non-co-operators. He had gone through two years of the medical course at a British University in India when Gandhi called the great boycott. He gave up his studies, to his own great loss and the intense disappointment of his parents. I argued with him that it was a mistake for boys to make themselves political martyrs; he listened, but had never a word save of reverential respect for Gandhi. I thought I understood.
Sahay had had to resort to trade, and was a struggling young merchant in Japan. He came often to our home and delighted the children.
The children played, too, with their Japanese neighbours, and played happily. The only trouble was that the Japanese yielded too readily when any difference arose. There was never a thought of race among them until another English child came to live near, whose parents had taught her that the Japanese were untouchable. Some day, perhaps, parents will be wise enough to allow their children to bring them up in the way they should go.
Among the Japanese I was specially fortunate, for I had learned Esperanto before I went there, and I found it a great help. Naturally, the peoples of the Orient regard English as a page 15 world-language only by conquest and domination, and the young internationalists of Japan are very keen for the simple neutral language, Esperanto. We met on an equality speaking that tongue. We had no difficulty in discussing anything, fro" peanuts to cosmic forces. I heard a little gentle "an named Sasaki tell in Esperanto of his being pinned under wreckage in the great earthquake of 1923, and of his friend calling for hi" and rescuing hi". Such quiet pathos—I was greatly drawn to the man, and we became close friends.
Of course, close friendship and understanding are often difficult to attain even with members of our own race and of our own family. And the approach is sometimes slower with people of other races, because of differences of tradition and training. I readily confess that I a" quite at a loss when an Oriental comes to me in the attitude of flattery. But many of the" drop that readily when they find no corresponding attitude of superiority on our part. I said there must be openness of mind. Some minds are closed, or almost closed, by an assumed attitude.
I often regret that students in New Zealand and Australian Universities have not the opportunities that are afforded to those in America, Britain, and other countries of meeting young "en and girls from the Orient "face to face."
—John A. Brailsford.