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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, September, 1922



"I love all beauteous things,
I seek and adore them;
God hath no better praise,
And man in his hasty days
Is honoured for them
I too will something make
And joy in the making…"

—Robert Bridges.

Devil hammering nail through mortarboard

"Unfortunately, however, it is wondrously difficult to induce students to write at all."—"Spike," June, 1909.

"We are wayfarers together, O students, treading the same thorny paths of Studentdom."—"Spike," June. 1902.

This is a solemn hour. What editor, crushed and pathetic beneath the burden of his toils and anxieties, but would feel a double awe-inspiring responsibility in ushering forward this adult thing, this forty-second "Spike"? We are trustees for things greater than ourselves. Atlas-like, we bear a universe of thought and feeling on our shoulders; but we groan. We turn our eyes to the hills, whence our help cometh, and we long desperately for help to come. It is an auspicious act, this writing of a note of introduction to this particular "Spike"; would that the pen were worthy of the task. Would that the brain had thoughts to think, and page 6 words in which to clothe them, something adequate to the occasion. For consider—this is no ordinary twenty-first birthday. Students continually come of age, and put up their hair, or go out and buy a safety-razor, but we blink not an eyelash. These are but mundane things; of the earth, earthy. But The "Spike" attains its majority! Great heavens! what fanfarronades should there not be—what booming guns—what purple pageantries? Should not Governor-General and be-robed Chancellor give Vice-Regal and Chancellorian blessings? Should not Professors walk softly and lesser beings bow the knee in adoration? Yet none of these things happen. Instead the "Spike" appears as of yore in simple dignity, white-covered, blameless and innocent, even as the ministering angels of Paradise, wearing still—shall we say?—its tasteful halo of green and gold, its deathless glory. Tread manfully and modestly, O "Spike"; all eyes are on thee! Walk as ever in the ways of virtue and of good report; shun evil men and wicked counsellors; honoured life he thine!

Consider, O reader, this "Spike," what it is… In June, 1902, was it first brought to birth. Those were days of cheerful poverty, of scattered inadequate lodgings, of tragically limited resources, of few and overworked professors, of correspondingly few students. No building of imperishable brick crowned the Old Clay Patch; the Old Clay Patch itself was as yet unknown to fame, undug, un-adorned. There was no Library, no Libr—but enough! There was no James Brook*. No, as it were, nothing. Yet there was some-thing which we of the present generation of students should continually look back to with pride that we follow in the same fellow-ship, with something of envy, and with a striving after the same spirit—there was the feeling common alike to professors and students—unconscious a good deal, we dare say—that they were part of a brotherhood building up something stronger than the years, greater than the lapse of time. We in our comparative wealth, our increase in everything outwardly worth having as a University, owe more than we can tell, more than we can guess, to those early students, those foundation professors. The students are scattered to the ends of the earth, but Professor Brown and Professor Mackenzie we still have with us. Let us sometimes think what should he the due of these men and those they taught. It is not given to everybody to found a University—it is given to still fewer to do what these have done.

On this scene .appeared "The Spike" Its success, as the publishers say, was instantaneous. We see from the second number that the first had to be reprinted immediately to satisfy the enormous demand for copies. Times have altered. The number of students has increased tremendously, but w? don't print second editions. It is dispiriting for the Financial Secretary, that hard-working business man, every year to have to face an almost certain loss. And he does have to face a loss if the size and quality of the magazine is made anything like what it ought to be. We all have our ideals, and a mere sixty or seventy pages twice a year fails to satisfy. When we consider what might he the result if every stu page 7 dent rallied round and took a copy, and all students when leaving V.U.C. put their name down on the subscribers' list, and then think what is the present state of affairs, the editorial handkerchief is hard put to it to wipe away the editorial tears. It is a godless and stiff-necked generation. There is no doubt about it—"The Spike does not get the support it ought to have, and as long as this is so, those responsible for it are very seriously handicapped. Worst of all, it does not get the literary support it should. The search for genius is heartrending. Words are delightful things to play about with, and we, who write these moral reflections, feel rather aggrieved that so few of our contemporaries, out of so many, play to any purpose.

As it is, we still look back to those earlier numbers with a kind of envious despair. Quite apart from literary merit, the managers actually seem to have made a financial success of it. But when we turn to the reading matter, and compare it with a good deal of what is now submitted for publication, we feel like beating our breast and raising a wail of anguish to heaven. What halcyon days those must have been for an editor! Seaforth Mackenzie, Hubert Church, S. E. (mystic initials)—to name only three—were all writing about the same time. It must have been inspiriting to open your "Spike" and gaze on S. S. M.'s Foundation Ode in its nascent glory…

Those days are gone. Once or twice have we, unbelieving, said to ourselves: "Dammit! I don't believe those early 'Spikes' have anything more than a legendary importance. What has been done, we can do again!" And then we have turned up the old files for confirmation of our laudable resolve and our heart has sunk. There must have been something in the atmosphere, some literary ozone, which produced such large quantities of really distinguished verse, to mention only one sort of writing. We may, being: an Editor, he unduly pessimistic, but we sometimes wonder whether V.U.C. will ever again attain those heights. The clouds of glory, perhaps, of the newborn University. It is an astonishing fact, too, that in those early days even the professors seemed to contribute. We have been privileged to read their compositions, however, and we must confess that on the whole they did not possess a very sparkling pen. Nevertheless, it must he confessed that the professors in those days had spirit and ambition. They wanted to shine. And, he it said with subdued yet deep-felt pride, in the second number appeared even an article on Graduation Day by Sir Robert Stout, the newly elected Chancellor of the University. It was a critical yet constructive article. The Chancellor no longer writes for "The Spike."Perhaps—cataclysmic thought!—he no longer reads it!

In the present number will he found no articles by professors, no exhortations to virtue from the Chancellor; but there are a certain number of contributions from old students. Not as many as could he wished—some are scattered and unreachable, some are buried beneath the cares of a life no longer academic, inexorable fate hampers others—but still enough to give this "Spike" something of a special character. We do not believe it is worthy of the occasion: only a number large and stuffed with transcendent genius could make it so; still as far as it goes it may mark a milestone in page 8 the life of one very important College activity. It is something for a University magazine to run for twenty-one years on a fairly high average level of merit, as such things go. No one else—none of our contemporaries—is likely to herald the occasion with superabundant enthusiasm, so we feel justified in stepping forward and blowing a diffident note or two on our own genteel trumpet. And think what times" "The Spike" has passed through! What history it has seen! In what immortal crusades has it borne a part! And on the whole, how blamelessly! Amid the crash of empires and the shaken dust of dynasties, picture" The SpikeS "standing with head unbowed, smiling its customary cheery smile; regarding the staggering world with, on the whole, a very amiable benevolence. Picture it, too, undismayed and untouched by the breath of Humour, that Lying Jade, which has attacked so many of our College institutions. The Debating Society, the Christian Union, the Heretics' Club, that unhappy ghost, what battles, what slanders, what bitter dealings have they not provoked? Thrown on the Potter's wheel of destiny, what poundings have they not received? What dark and deadly recriminations have not been hurled upon them? But "The Spike," what knows it of all this? Is it ever mangled in the daily Press? Does Parliament deliberate upon it? Do select committees into its habits and morals? Nay; rather, far above the battle, gravely pacing the mountain tops of virtue, gathering our innocence about us like a robe, do we commune with lofty Presences and such things as are worthy and respectable. Slung mud soils us not. We are of the Elect…

To change our one for the moment. "The Spike" has filled an important place in College life long enough to have proved its necessity, if proof were needed. It is unthinkable now that it should disappear and go to join the innumerable host of journalistic souls that mayhap litter the other world. But it is also un-thinkable that it should forever stop at its present stage of development. It must go on or petrify; and petrifying, it were better dead and buried. We sometimes, in optimistic moods, have visions of a glorfied "Spike," growing in scope and honour with the advancing years, a mighty force for righteousness and a power in the land. The vision may he light-headed; but at least there is room for in-finite improvement. One does not like to drag in intimate things too often or too roughly; love of College, like love of country or love of woman, is not rudely to be handled, not shouted from the house-tops nor paraded in the market-place—

"For the gentle wind doth move
Silently, invisibly."

Yet while the students of Victoria grow more and more rapidly in number, and her sons and daughters pass through the world n ever-diverging roads, something is needed, and something here should be. some bond to gather in the fellowship, some tie light and strong and willingly borne. We all have our memories, most intangible and strongest of all immaterial stays; yet there seems place for some concrete and continuous expression of that thing which should he in all of our minds at times. We think "The Spike" should he the vehicle for that expression. It is of course primarily a means for encouraging whatever literary talent there page 9 is currently at Victoria, and as such it must be of interest to students who have already passed through. But we should like to receive from old students more often something, some scrap of verse or prose, some witness of interest sustained and affectionate regard. There is no danger of swamping "The Spike" with doddering verbiage. But it is in "The Spike" and such a collection as "The Old Clay Patch" that student thought lives and student thought is after all the life blood, the really vital element, of any University. And anything that can make this thought and feeling in any way coherent, anything that can give us a unity of spirit, is to be fostered with infinite care. After all, as a University we are still in our merest infancy; we have no long heroic past to lean upon; our eyes must he unwavering on the future. Our tradition is still largely to make."We have the beginnings, and it would be a shameful thing to ensure anything of less worth and dignity for the years to come. We are mysterious beings, living in a world of mystery and puzzled gropings; whence we come and where we go we, tritely enough, know not; but one thing we hope we know, that mysterious, we are yet spiritual beings and live ultimately by the things of the spirit. By our dreams are we known. We who are working, however blunderingly, with whatever misdirection and blind struggling, for truth and goodness, can have no lesser support and no grosser inspiration. We may arrive at no end, and find no ultimate salvation—we may, after all, he fighting with fate for a foolish nothing, an imagined poor illusion; yet whatever satisfaction there is, whatever crumb of comfort for our sustaining, we may get from that spirit of vision, the divine flame that burnt m the old German adventurer in Conrad's "Lord Jim"—"In the destructive element immerse!…To follow the dream and again to follow the dream—and so—ewig—usque ad finem…"