When they assemble beneath a burning June sun for the last times together, the begowned seniors do not want to hear pearly phrases about traditions and sonorous sentences about ambitions and goals. As they march past the trees and brick, mellowed by the shadows of the hour, they are properly filled with a feeling at once gay and quiet-a feeling that has its emotion in the moment not in the past.
For graduation is not a time to reflect on one's relation to Harvard with the warm feeling pecular to romanticists ; it is an instant of gaiety at a crossroads of life, a careless laugh at the occasion, and a happy oversight of its significance. Graduation, like tragedy, has its comic element, and its participants accept it undramatically in the way that people experience all great events. Graduation is as simple as the black of the seniors' gowns and the white which their families and friends wear in celebration.
It is difficult to gather four years in one's mind and know it for its worth. Four years in a senior's mind seem now a day at the circus, and another day must pass before the infinite variety of sights and sounds can be related to the happenings to which they rightfully belong, and their meaning thus felt. To the seniors, the Class of '39, who march from Holworthy to the Sever Quadrangle this morning, four years are expressed only in the alternate silence and laughter flowing through the line. To-day they are singularly joyous at a climax of good humor, for tomorrow they break up to be reabsorbed in the currents of the world.
So, hearing Baccalaureate sermons, class orations, and alumni admonitions, the seniors are apt to feel as Laertes must have when Polonius delayed his leaving with a string of paternal advice. They do not care to listen; they want to leave-after the celebrating is over.
But although the mood of graduation is simple and far from sombre, the several hundred Laertes who sit in the Quadrangle to-day cannot fail to carry away something of deeper tone than the note of momentary joy. Will they help achieve what the Class Orator saw as the need of civilization: intellectual integration? Will they contribute to the enthronement of those human values which can be the only means of preserving that balance between the individual and society which is freedom and the only way to insuring democracy? It may be, if in addition to the belief in the goodness of life, natural equipment of youth, the Class of '39 can add the determination to act on the last precept of Shakespeare's wise old man: "This above all; to thine own self be true . . . ." And it must follow, as class must succeed class, that the nebulous goals of commencement speeches will become meaningful aims for each and that four years at Harvard will be understood to have made for that integration of the individual which education in this time must demand.