Swan Song


(Ed. Note--The Crimson does not necessarily endorse opinions expressed in printed communications. No attention will be paid to anonymous letters and only under special conditions, at the request of the writer will names be withheld.)

To the Editor of the CRIMSON:

The chapel controversy, reborn a week ago, has run its course. It has been ignored by the Administration, it has been dismissed by the Boston Herald as a healthy sign of independent thought, it has been damned by the New York Times as the puerile antics of a group of children, it has disappeared from the consciousness of the "average undergraduate"--it is, in other words, on the verge of the limbo for which all student opinion seems destined. Before it passes wholly from sight a few words of valedictory may not be out of place.

It is an unfortunate fact that those over thirty-five treat the opinions of their juniors with as little regard as those under thirty-five treat the opinions of their elders. The opposition to the erection of a memorial chapel in the Yard was conducted by a group of men who firmly believed and still believe in the sound basis of their opposition and who tried in a dignified way to express themselves. They had as little respect for the type of conduct which led to the publication last Friday of an anonymous broadside of sensational character as they had for the type of conduct which made light of their convictions. For any one of a number of reasons already expounded they felt that a mistake is about to be made; and they cared enough for Harvard to say so.

It seems now inevitable that a chapel will be built. But possibly it is not yet too late to influence the kind of a chapel that will be built.

A memorial is, after all, the commemoration of a spirit. Most of the men who died, it may be assumed, died in the firm conviction that they were dying to make the world a better place for their followers to live in a world without war. Any memorial, therefore, which inculcates the spirit that is manifest in the Sargeant murals in Widener Library is a blasphemous sacrilege to their memory. The spirit of the memorial chapel should be one of reverence for an ideal rather than of the flag-waving nationalism which usually infests such buildings. That we may have since lost our illusions about war aims is not relevant; they, it may be hoped, had not.

With this in view, I suggest first that the chapel should be as much a thing of beauty as possible. This can be achieved only if it is built elsewhere than in the Yard, as suggested in this morning's CRIMSON, and only if there is an open competition for design among the architects of the country, rather than a commission to one chosen firm.

Secondly, it should be a memorial to all Harvard men who died in the war, regardless of what side they fought upon. Every inscription should be so worded as to emphasize not the conventional heroics about honor and glory, but the spirit of sacrifice and the pacific intent of those who died fighting, paradoxical though it be. Thus the chapel could be the very embodiment of the spirit of universality, a transcending of cheap nationalism.

I plead, in other words, for a genuine memorial. M. Fred Loewenstein.