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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1919

Capping Day

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Capping Day

Capping day written on mortarboards

The Capping Procession.

The procession is one of the most important parts of all well-regulated cappings. This year we were under the grat disadvantage of having very few men with previous experience of such a procession, as none has been held between the beginning of the war and this year. The organisers laboured under the usual difficulties of revivers, in having plenty of enthusiastic, but few experienced, helpers. Nevertheless, the procession was a great success, and, with the wisdom gained through it, we should be able to make that of next year the sort of spectacle one dreams about after a heavy supper.

The starting point was St. Peter's Schoolroom, from which a move was made at noon. Motor and horse lorries were kindly lent by the G.P.O., Messrs. Curtis and Co., The Colonial Carrying Co., and Munt, Cotterell, Ltd. The procession was preceded and flanked by a cloud of skirmishers—the expression is a hackneyed one, but is used by all good war correspondents, and must therefore be put in—both mounted, as Indians, highwaymen, and cowboys, and dismounted, mainly ballet girls and other varieties of the gentler sex. The procession proper was led by the band, discoursing music which was, at times, distinctly good, and which varied from that to rotten. Its motor lorry was, part of the time, dragged along by Charlie Chaplin by the crook of his stick, but, at other times, managed to proceed under its own power. His Ex. the Gov., Sir James Allen, and Mr. Harry Holland, M.P., chatted amicably in the first carnage. The O.B.E. distributing agency was well patronised, and the writer has heard of a case in which a man, who could not get one in the usual distributions, obtained one from the agency. Fact! The city milk supply was well portrayed, and the departure of the interned Germans by the "Willochra" provided the topic of another waxworks. The crocodile was not worth the great amount of trouble expended on the making of it. While these main items must always provide the backbone of the procession, most of the fun is enjoyed and given by the miscellaneous horde of hangers-on of all descriptions, wild animals, ladies of all degrees of respectability, niggers, our mutual friend Charles Chaplin, et hoc genus omne.

On reaching Post Office Square, the large gathering was addressed by the Governor, while certain irresponsible members of the pocession delivered rival speeches, and a game of football was started. A deluge of rain scattered both mummers and audience. The next couple of hours saw individuals and small groups amusing themselves in various ways, some disorganising "Kirk's" tea-rooms, others amusing the populace in the streets, others again celebrating in the time-honoured way.

On the whole it was a great success, and there should be no doubt that the next, one will be a much greater success. It is not too early even now for anyone who has a brilliant idea, to store it away in some pigeonhole of the brain for use next year.

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The Presentation Ceremony.

If any there be who still regret the depreciation of discipline, and the negation of militarism in our midst, it must have come as a pleasure and a shock to them to behold the decorum and rectitude wherewith the students attended to General Richardson on this most memorable event of modern times—the "Silent Capping" of 1919. Doubtless the uncouth Ennius, in his barbarous verse would, had he been present, have repeated in wonder, "Spernitur orator bonus, horridus miles amatur." As he wasn't he didn't, neither did any of us. The body of the hall was well filled, the decorations in position for the ensuing dance were entrusted with the sole responsibility of adding a festive air to the proceedings, and the platform was occupied by the staff, the council, General Richardson, and Dr. Jenness.

Mr. Clement Watson, Chairman of the Council, was commendably brief. On all sides, he said, efforts were being made to pick up momentum lost during the war. The Council intended to do their part by furnishing a new wing and endowing a chair of economics. A prosperous future lay before the College.

Brigadier-General Richardson was very enthusiastically received. He thanked the students for the honour they had done him and the New Zealand Forces, and congratulated the successful graduates. The war service of all universities was highly creditable. The Army realised the value of education, particularly with reference to reconstruction problems, and here, too, the universities had rendered valuable service. Representatives of Victoria College had gained one V.C., one C.M.G., five D.S.O.s, nineteen M.C.'s, three M.M.'s, and one foreign decoration.

The graduates were then presented to General Richardson in the usual fashion.

Dr. H. Jenness then spoke on the part played by university men in scientific progress, especially in expeditions of exploration. He personally had just returned from an expedition to the far north of Canada, in company with some half-dozen other distinguished scientists. For such purposes, indeed, for fitting men to succeed in every walk of life, university training was invaluable. He wished the old College continued success.

During the evening some songs were rendered by the students in rather worse fashion than usual. Mr. Wilson gallantly did the utmost possible to instil rudimentary accord into their efforts.

The floor was then cleared for the dance.

* * * *

The Capping Dance.

The dance followed immediately after the ceremony, held, for the first time for several years, in the Town Hall, which had been previously decorated for the occasion, to the great discomforture of those who had come to witness the presentation of the graduates. When the hall was cleared, citizens and students danced the night away, and learning proved no bar to happiness.

* * * *

The Graduates' Luncheon.

On Friday, June 20th, the members of the Graduates' Association held a very pleasant little luncheon at the Kelburn Kiosk in honour of the graduates of the year.

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The Graduates. 1919

The Graduates. 1919

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Mr. G. G. G. Watson, speaking on behalf of the Association, welcomed the additions to the ranks of graduates, intimating that he wished, in his welcome, to join with the graduates of the year the students returning from active service.

Professor Kirk remarked that most of the year's graduates were women, and that he thoroughly approved of a general matrimonial bureau on the lines of Mr. Watson's suggestion.

Mr. Wiren then rose to reply on behalf of the year's graduates, remarked that he was too tired to make a speech, and sat down amidst general applause.

Professor Marsden, replying on behalf of the returned men, took the opportunity of bringing before our notice the new degree of Doctor of Philosophy that has been created in universities of the Old Country, and pointed out that New Zealand should not be behind hand in following the lead thus given.

Thereafter, the luncheon being happily disposed of, the newly-capped graduates dispersed in search of hoods and gowns for that great event—the photograph.

* * * *

The Extravaganza.

Now that a capping extravaganza has been produced on a scale, and with all the success characteristic of pre-war days, one's mind naturally reverts to the carnivals of other days in order to set up a standard of comparison. My memory goes back to the 1907 production, and covers in all some nine carnivals, though several of them are but sadly blurred shapes in the memory—"timid ghosts of dead forgotten things." Roughly, the capping productions have grouped themselves into two classes. The first class may be described as the musical extravaganza. In the words of F.A.M. (See "Spike," October, 1908), this was to be "a kind of glorified capping song, or series of songs, on topics of college interest, woven together by one central idea, into a literary unity. This kind of entertainment partook essentially of the nature of tableau vivant. Song, and not speech, was the medium of expression. There was a unity in such tableaux, but it was one of purpose. "Some general idea should be taken, it should be kept steadily in view all the time, and be implicit where it is not explicit." In this kind of entertainment the dramatic was aimed at, but I do not think was ever really achieved. Action, which is the soul of drama, is necessarily excluded from musical tableaux. And that brings me to the second class, one in which the dramatic idea was predominant. Here the authors taking as their material, not current events, but some one event, constructed out of it a dramatic unity. In such a play action and dialogue were all important, such songs as occurred, being merely incidental, not essential, to the purpose of the play. In 1908, in the production of the Hogben brothers, we had the first tentative approach to a play of this kind, and the following year saw a real, dramatic success in "Shackleton Out-Shacked." Curiously enough, in 1910 there was a reversion to the musical extravaganza. "The Bended Bow" was probably the most successful musical extravaganza produced by students of the College. It was also the last of its kind until this year. The years 1911, 1912, and 1913 constituted a period of transition, but in each of the three productions the dramatic idea predominated. Finally, we have in 1914 the most brilliant play of this class—"Boadicea"—by L. P. Leary.

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It is not difficult to account for the different forms which the extravaganzas have taken, and, as the subject must be one of interest to such present-day students as contemplate the production of future carnivals, it would perhaps be as well to state the reason here. In the first place, in the earlier days when the musical extravaganza flourished, the production was the work of a number of students of distinct literary ability. They sought in the capping production a vehicle for the expression of their literary impulse, and such a vehicle they found in the musical extravaganza. Their aim was to make the capping play "literary," and in this they succeeded. But the inevitable reaction set in. As soon as this band of literary workers completed their courses, and went their several ways in the world, their places were taken by a number of students, in whom the literary impulse did not predominate so much as the dramatic. Hitherto the actor in the play had played a subordinate part to that of the author, but now the author slipped out of sight, and the capping play began to depend for its success, not on its literary quality, but on the dramatic ability of the players. The capping plays of 1908 and 1913 were largely the work of law students, who did not seek to be literary, but to amuse. Leary's play, "Boadicea," in 1914, stands by itself. It marked the culmination of the dramatic movement that had been developing more and more strongly in capping productions, just as "The Bended Bow" marked the culmination of the literary movement.

And now, after five years of Armageddon, we have had a capping play once more—"Der Tag." Let me state at once that I have felt nothing but a very large measure of admiration for the play, and a large, if less bulky measure of admiration, for its production. As regards the play, three things have impressed me. The first is this. One of Germany's professed doctrines in the recent war was that Might is Right. This, it is fair to assume, has led the authors to consider the true place of Might (or Force) in the universe, and they have come to the conclusion that force sanely applied may become a mighty instrument of progress. Their gospel is the Sanity of Might, not the Justice of Might. The play ends with Japhetrow (Wisdom or Reason) mounting the ladder of progress, while Force (Satan) stands at the bottom to assist mankind to climb upwards. The second thing to notice is that the play marked a definite return to the musical extravaganza; and, thirdly, in casting their play in this form, and not in dramatic form, the authors acted quite deliberately. Thus not only was the scheme of the play derived from that of 1910—the idea of force was dominant in both "The Bended Bow" and "Der Tag"—but, if I am not much mistaken, there was a strong similarity between the soldiers' chorus—"Trentham to Tauherenikau"—and the scene wherein Leary as a Roman praetor led his soldiers round the stage. Finally, it is necessary only to note that the "Run Through" chorus, and the times of at least four songs in "Der Tag" were adopted from "The Bended Bow." I note these things without any wish or intention to belittle the work of the writers of "Der Tag." No one is more appreciative of it. At the same time, as one who took an active part in the carnivals of 1911, 1912, 1913, and 1914, I cannot help noting with melancholy satisfaction that the most successful scene in "Der Tag"—the Bolshevist one—was also the most dramatic.

In the first scene of the play, E. Evans, as one of "the stunted souls that snuffle," made a popular hit, while Murphy, as page 25 Hon. J. A. Hanan, was so remarkably like Sir Francis Bell, that most of the audience refused to believe he personated the former distinguished Minister. The gargle parade in the second scene was a very happy thought, while Mazengarb's representation of the amiable gentleman, who now represents His Majesty in New Zealand, was a sheer joy.

The third scene was very well conceived, but there was an unduly long wait at the opening before the Monks led on the unhappy Hunter, whose heartbroken mien would, indeed, have wrung tears from the eyes of a bookie's clerk. In the old days one could not have persuaded the glad girls to sing of Hell, and its saucy ways, for all the tea in China, but now they chirruped of the land of brimstone as blithely as a cricket chirps of the spring, tra la! Gad ! it warmed one's heart to listen to 'em. As Duns Scotus Adamson, Miller had a very effective make-up, and was very effective in it, while Low and Pringle were very helpful as the Leader of the Monks, and the Ibesnistic Hunter.

The fourth scene celebrated the return to New Zealand of the Earl of Pukekohe and Baron Bluff. Kun Low (who is on no account to be confused with Mr. K. Low) provided a pleasant diversion, while the dance supplied by Misses Moore and Leitch and Messrs. Day and Watkins was so successful that the audience demanded an encore. I often catch myself wondering how long these Yankee travesties of the valse will be tolerated by the long-suffering British people. But that is by the way. The end of this scene, the entrance of the Bolsheviki, and their forcible conversion of the Labour and Government supporters was easily the most effective of the evening. Mazengarb again, as a well-known Socialist M.P. was right in the picture. He should prove invaluable in future carnivals. In the concluding scene I am afraid the audience's attention was diverted from the serious intent of the authors by the wicked, delicious, dazzlin', by Jove ! saucy, naughty, entrancing takin' appearance of the super-women. Gum! it was great! The scene was a bright and successful conclusion to a very successful carnival. The production must have inspired everyone with confidence for the future of the capping carnivals. A very special word of praise must be reserved for Miss M. Richmond, who was responsible for the designing of the costumes, and for Mr. Evans, who, as stage manager, had to face probably more difficulties than any previous stage manager had encountered. It must be counted everlastingly to his credit that he successfully overcame them.

* * * *

The Undergraduates' Supper.

The undergraduates' supper was the final scene of the Capping Carnival. After the extravaganza all the students (some still in full war paint as ladies and gentlemen of the future) marched along Manners Street to the Marble Bar, and proceeded to enjoy themselves. The orchestra played during supper, and in spite of lack of room there was a little dancing. After supper various healths were drunk, and several speeches made, mostly rendered inaudible by the merry clatter. The toasts honoured were: "The King," "The College Authorities," "The Graduates," and "The Returned Soldiers." After singing some of the old College choruses we broke up, having brought to a fitting end the varied pleasures of the week.

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The 'Orrible Tale of a Corps

It has arrived. With the erection of the new wing the College is complete. It has been re-invested in its old glory. For us "C" Company has ceased to be of interest. For us the Garrison Hall is but a name. The "Dandy Fifth," the old fighting fifth which in 1919 swung into eight hundred strong, has passed from our ken. The demi-gods are raised above the constellations, we have attained the aristocracy of arms—we have an O.T.C.!

It arrived in confusion and a welter of application forms. Its arrival was almost unheralded, and was strictly Spartan in its ceremony. Pompey himself, before his first triumph, could not have been more modest. One officer attempted to explain the inexplicable, another unpacked a valise and—Oddsfish! The College was peopled no longer by inoffensive students but by potential officers though, it was remarked, there was no need to inform other people of this because "what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them."

The evening of the first parade was just like other evenings. We have seen better weather, just as we have seen worse. The raindrops spattered the tennis courts with their usual catholicity, and Venus winked a wicked eye behind the College ventilators. A thin stream of khaki disentangled itself from various satchels, note books and law volumes, and endeavoured to find its way across to the Gymnasium without losing its puttee-strings on the way. There several loud-voiced individuals descended upon the alarmed crowd which strove to huddle itself in various corners of the Gym., and, as the result of some energy and a munificence of bad language, the huddlers were hauled from under sundry forms and tables and forced into three roughly cast groups. An irate person attired in a "Samuel Brown" informed these groups that they represented the Military Law Section, the Topography "Tourists" (who never travel save as Burton in map or card), and the mysterious "No. 3 Section," which at present is investigating at first hand the inner workings of "right turn."

The Military Law Section, we understand, are kept busy explaining why a man should be shot for stealing three eggs from an incubator. Certain members of it anticipate being sufficiently far advanced in 1925 to give an opinion upon the trial of Lieutenant Crampton. The Topography Section are at present engaged in reconstructing the frontiers of Europe in accordance with President Wilson's principles, while some members of it are also employed in what Chesterton calls "that innocent game for children" of painting the map (as well as the town) a brilliant red.

Urgent information has also just been received that the corps is not an officers' training corps, but an experiment. Let us hope that as such it will be a success, though one is dubious of the capability of the Defence Department to repeat, isolate, and vary the phenomena.

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What is a Student?

Amidst the clamour for reform and reconstruction that is rising from all parts of the globe probably the loudest and most insistent cry is: "More Education and Better Education. Innumerable proposals are brought forward for our consideration; behind them all, however, there seems to be one main object—the arranging for a systematic training of every physical, mental, and moral quality that may be used to equip the perfect citizen. The child is to proceed through the successive stages of kindergarten, primary, secondary, and university education, and gradually to rise to the level of perfect citizenship.

Our universities then should be composed of men and women inspired to help their fellow men ? Taking an active interest in all the ethical, social, and religious problems of the day?

* * * * *

A student of our college was heard to say of a motion recently put before the Students' Association: "That's nothing to do with the students; that's a political question."

Could anything be more naively illuminating? Yes! The meeting of the students to discuss the motion was even more illuminating.

We gathered to discuss a question of serious import—one which in the issue may effect not only our own generation but generations still unborn; yet, amid an uproar that would have been a disgrace to a meeting of schoolboys, we discussed it a while, jocularly, and then flippantly tossed it aside to treat of the more important questions of blazers for basket-ball players, and a general subscription for all student clubs.

By all means "More Education and Better Education"!

When we have come to this, it is the duty of every student to ask himself, "What am I doing here? What is a Student"?

Is he one who seeks honour, social esteem, selfish study, or merely money ? If he have no higher aims than these, then rest assured he is doing justice neither to himself nor to his college. He is no student in the fuller sense.

Then, "What is a Student" ? . . . Guess again !


They Shall Not Make Haste

The man who cuts across street corners and spoils the grassy side-walk, in his stupid haste to "get there," what will he do when the inevitable day arrives and he is stranded in an infinity where no amount of cutting corners will serve to bring him nearer the end of the road? The jerry-builder rushing up his pretty villas, with what a fever of energy will he slave in that eternity where the lifetime of his works will be as the twinkling of an eye. The chronic saver of time, how will he spend eternity? For the free and noble spending of time is the gift of the few, by the rest it must be acquired by long practice. And re-membering this, bear patiently the seeming needless slowness of the Senate. It was only in 1910 that University Reform became matter for serious discussion—too short a time ago to count in the long ages that have been and may be. And what can be more unlovely then the breathless haste of the outside world of to-day?