Sir,—Your readers will be grateful to you for giving publicity to Sir Cecil Smith’s appeal for literary quality in the inscriptions upon war memorials. But we need to be put on our guard, not only against uninspiring inscriptions, but also against religious commonplaces. In some dioceses, with more foresight than others, advisory committees of competent men are already at work with helpful suggestion, and all agree in urging that care should be taken not only as to lettering and right spacing of letters, but also as to the wording. It is, however, very difficult to persuade war memorial committees to break with conventional phrasing. I heard only yesterday that out of 60 applications for faculty—which before appearing in “Faculty Court” had been referred to such an advisory committee by the Chancellor—40 began with the words “To the glory of God and in memory,” &c. Now, why should it not be taken for granted that, if the memorial is a thing of beauty and thought, it cannot help being to the glory of the Great Inspirer of all thought and noble beauty? Why take up tablet place with the commonplace expression of conventional piety which ought to go without saying? Again, is it wise to go to very well-known passages of Scripture to enforce the splendour of self-sacrifice? These passages—not always altogether applicable, as, for example, “Greater love hath no man than this,” &c,—weary us with their constant iteration, and seem almost too sacred for such use. What we surely need is to urge that our heroes gave of their splendid youth for a great cause, that they fought and fell for more than present gain, and that they have bequeathed to us as a legacy of the duty of seeing that they shall not have died in vain. A few weeks ago you published a quatrain by way of an epitaph that was very much to the point. Here is another which seems to carry out the idea expressed above:
These died in War that we at Peace might live,
These gave their best, so we our best should give,
Not for themselves—for Justice, Freedom, Right
They fought, and bid us forward to the Fight.
(Times, 23 June 1919, p. 10)