National Geographic : 1941 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine out, past a verger dusting a rug with a modern electric vacuum cleaner. Across ancient yet vital little Winchester College the shadows of many great Englishmen have fallen; none, dead or alive, ever served his country better than did William of Wyke ham, who founded this famous school. "Man ners makyth man," was his famous motto. Character, here, is above all. Founded in 1382, Winchester has set the pattern for English public schools-which are not "public" at all, in our sense. Entrance to Winchester, in fact, is curiously difficult. In peacetime its pupils, one of the most care fully selected groups of students anywhere, number about 460 (pages 81, 85). Walk through some of the older buildings here, and the atmosphere and surroundings seem more suggestive of a Middle Ages mon astery than of a modern school. Over the main entrance is a 14th-century statue of the Virgin and Child; somehow it escaped the iconoclasts of the Reformation. Near by is the original brewhouse where the college brewer made beer for students. Visitors Greeted in Latin Remindful, also, of monastery life is the ceremony in Chamber Court when distin guished visitors arrive; here the head prefect greets them with a speech in Latin! No matter how bad the weather, nobody below the rank of prefect may cross Chamber Court with his hat on. Up worn stone stairs you climb to see Din ing Hall, with heavy trestle tables whereon "Wykehamists" have supped for generations. Here square wooden trenchers (flat boards) are still used instead of plates from which to eat bread and cheese. They show you, in Old Cloister, the grave stone of one student whose epitaph says, "He went to heaven instead of to Oxford." School, a red brick house, stands west of Old Cloister. Here, before summer vaca tions, the students and faculty meet for "medal speaking," and to sing the old "Dulce Domum," claimed to be the oldest of all col lege songs. Boys from this school who fell in the Great War are honored by a Memorial of singular beauty. Few works of man are so full of symbolism, so perfectly conceived. Set in the floor are stones brought from Canada, India, Australia, Africa, and the ruins of Ypres. On the walls are sculptured reliefs; they picture powerfully the old Empire's vast geographic extent and do honor to her allies. Over a niche in the north wall are the arms of the United States of America. Shown also are the arms of Imperial Russia, of Japan, India, Belgium, and the insignia of France. British trade and cultural relations with the Arabs are shown in Arabia's badge; pack camels, for the ancient Eastern caravan trails; tables of Mosaic Law, and Ankh, symbol of life worn by the King of Mecca. One of many other striking allegorical carv ings is in the Australian corner; graphic sculp ture symbolizes the far reaches of English influence; here a field sown with shells signifies the many islands of the Pacific; here are palm trees, a Southern Cross, fern leaves for New Zealand; battleships at sea, with crane and anchors, and symbols for the great naval bases at Singapore and Hong Kong. Most compelling of all is the magnificent prose poem, in Biblelike language, set in stone letters of Lombardic script, which runs about the Cloister walls some 10 feet above ground. Only a dull mind indeed can read these words without emotion. One powerful sentence says: "In the day of battle they forgat not God, who created them to do His will, nor their country, the strong hold of freedom, nor their school, the mother of godliness and discipline." Subdued by that poem, you step softly out. How significant a place is this tiny school! Like Winchester itself, what a source it has been of English culture and heroism! How much more English is Winchester, in its best sense, than are smoky factory towns, or sea side playgrounds like Brighton. Thinking thus, you cross College Street for a last walk. Sheep graze with quick, eager nibbles, and shades of ancient trees dance over tombs of forgotten men. Inside the vast Cathedral people are singing a long-familiar hymn-"the solemn voice of old England it self." How deeply in old, old towns like Win chester or St. Albans, from whence all earthly glitter is gone, you still sense the pure flavor of England as it was in the beginning. INDEX FOR JULY-DECEMBER, 1940, VOLUME READY Index for Volume LXXVIII (July-December, 1940) of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE will be mailed upon request to members who bind their copies as works of reference.