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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]

James Hunter Capie — A Respected Member of the Community

page 71

James Hunter Capie

A Respected Member of the Community

He was a man who could always be relied upon
to sum up the whole proceedings
with a polite generality
that meant nothing.
At a birth, marriage or death
he was always expected to speak
to crown the occasion with the wisdom
acquired as an important civil servant
and an elder in the church.

He had one story only
and one quotation from Shakespeare
(it was really from Burns)
and the speech, no matter what the day"—
whether someone had been born
or wed or buried,
whether someone was retiring
and being presented with a clock,
whether someone was launching an appeal for funds
to buy home freezers for the Esquimaux
or scarves for the natives of Sarawak,
whether it was merely the instalment
of a new type of adding machine-
the speech, no matter what the day,
was always the same.

Ladies and gentlemen we are gathered
together for a very commendable reason
(the one and only story here)
and we may be thankful that,
living as we do in troubled times,
we (cough here) have had before us
men who have fought for freedom,
for our freedom, for democracy,
for peace and justice among the nations
page 72 (Shakespeare alias Burns just here)
and perhaps that alone is why
we are able to be here today.
And so (one sip of water) I am sure
that all present will agree with me
as to our debts and obligations
and"—may I say?"—our hopes
which I earnestly trust will be fulfilled.

They always clapped and smiled,
they always nodded with discreet satisfaction
at the way he had fulfilled his obligations
and"—may I say?"—their hopes.
For over fifty years, his platitudes,
like droning bees from hives,
had flown out through his lips
and wrecked a thousand lives.