Wednesday, October 6, 2010

George Bernard Shaw

It is Wednesday, and I am wondering if Poets Week will ever be over. I am thinking back fondly of Typewriter Week. But, I will persevere and finish this week of pictures on Poets. Above we feature a photograph of George Bernard Shaw, taken in 1905.

We feature his poem "Back Kitchen" today. To be honest with you, I don't get it.

If you think George looks  a little sinister in the picture above, that would be because he was in fact quiet sinister. He was a fabian socialist, and an early big thinker in the eugenics movement. He was an early and vocal supporter of Adolf Hitler. He believed that government boards should be set up, and people should be required to go before the boards every five years or so to justify their existence. Those who were deemed to be of little value would be killed. He was very interested in science creating a "Humane Gas" to make the task of killing large numbers of people easier. "Humane Gas" was a term he used, and later used by the Nazis, who in fact did develop such a gas, and used it to murder countless people. Shaw's vision was not so much to exterminate specific races, but believed it should be more on an individual basis, with metrics determined by, I guess, his elite group of friends. I am sure "Poets" would have been deemed to be of immense value to society. An interesting youtube video of him here.

Back Kitchen

In my back kitchen all is quite still, 

I have cooked my food and ate my fill.
Then the dishes in the sink had their say, 
He always eats here but he does not pay.
The empty bottle of fresh brewed beer, 
Said, 'He drained me dry without a tear.'
Then of course the mess he makes, 
To cook a meal the time he takes.
Could he not eat in the restaurant next door? 
They need the money because the Boss is poor.
The only thing that had nothing to say, 
Was the frying pan it was not its day.
The knives and forks were filled with rage, 
He is a messy eater he should act his age.
Picking out bits here and there indeed, 
No wonder he takes so long to have his feed.
Have you ever listened to your kitchen tools? 
Mine complain I am the king of fools.
They say I should go out to eat, 
Order fresh vegetables with plenty of meat.
Not to come home and start to cook, 
I should be relaxing with a good book.
They have no respect for me you know, 
Just because I am old and getting slow.
I wash the pots and pans clean each day, 
Then I carefully put them all away.
I think I will throw them away onto the rubbish heap, 
Except for the sugar bowl that I will keep.


  1. I don't get any of the poems either (I do *love* the melody and imagery of The Raven nonetheless), but I'm enjoying the pictures very much. Yesterday's is my pick of the week so far, with today's a close second :)

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  3. I always think of Shaw more as a playwright than a poet, with “Pygmalion” being my all-out favorite. He certainly led an interesting life - he always scared me a little with his ideas.

    This poem has some of his more obvious social “class-war” views in it.

    OK - now I think that it’s time for some famous women poets like Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, the Emily and Charlotte Bronte, or Willa Cather.

  4. I second SmartGirl 1953 - bring on some female poets!

  5. Reminded me of a couple of customers(brothers) I served, at a snack bar where I used to work. They would order the breakfast special, which was 2 eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns and toast. They really didn't want the hash browns, so they would rake them out onto the table. It always looked like the hogs had ate there after they left. NO TIP.

  6. Shaw was an old twit, but it is unfair to suggest that someone who is a socialist is also a Nazi.
    Franklin Roosevelt had great socialist leanings, but I hardly think that he was a supporter of Adolf Hitler.
    But Henry Ford was. And FORD WAS NO SOCIALIST>

  7. Cactus,
    Did you watch the video?

    It is well documented that he supported Hitler early on, and it is well documented he was a vocal member of the fabian socialist.

  8. Well, since Nazi's were also socialists, some people agreed much of the Nazi party's standard socialist party lines without realizing or ignoring the eugenics and other unsavory aspects. Like many people who admired Soviet Union in the 20's and 30's and visited soviet style 'potemkin' villages, believed everything was working, then found out the truth later. It was a complicated time and we look at it through a retroscope and think it's easier to interpret than it actually is.
    But back to Shaw: yeah, he was a Fabian crackpot, and how! But his plays are full of interesting ideas. He was quite a wordsmith. Lots of food for thought; whether you agree or not, you are entertained.
    Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) wrote an interesting article about Shaw:
    My favorite Shaw play is "Major Barbara".

  9. I'd never seen this poem, and didn't like it. It seems as if someone like Shaw could have done better, although I'm sure the mediocrity was intentional. Still, I'm with you, PJM, on this one: I don't get it. Perhaps the kitchen ware stands for utilitarian people who were unworthy of life. Perhaps they stand for the panel of judges who deems Shaw unworthy of life. It's too much for me!
    What about Robert Frost? Now there's a beloved poet who's not hard to understand.
    Did anyone else think that Shaw looks a little like Rasputin here? Definitely sinister!

  10. Nazis were not socialists, they were fascists (big difference). The "National Socialist Party" moniker was one of the ways they misled the German people in their rise to power.

    That said, I was surprised to hear about Shaw (I also immediately thought of Pygmalion). I laughed out loud when you said "I am sure 'Poets' would have been deemed to be of immense value to society."

  11. My first interpretation was along what SmartGirl said, but I want to try the PJM Literary Analysis Method.

    Ahem. The "kitchen tools" represent the poet's family, always criticizing him. The kitchen is the crucible of his career, the restaurant next door the great stages where he would eventually earn his fame. And the sugar bowl is the cousin once-removed he carried on an longstanding but little-known affair with.

    (These things always work better with a little sex in them, right?)

  12. A+ for flartus.

    I am surprised by the people defending Shaw. Did you not watch the video clip in the link I showed where he is matter of factly suggesting wide spread extermination of people. The video does not lie.


  13. I really recommend the New Criterion article on Shaw. You may need to create a login as a non-paying subscriber. New Criterion offers a lot of free content. I really admire Anthony Daniels and subscribed to New Criterion mainly to read his essays and reviews.
    I wasn't really aware that Shaw was *such* a crackpot, I did think his plays were socialist screeds by an author enamoured of his own wordplay, never the less, the plays are entertaining. Reading Shaw's essays and plays offers a great insight into the mindset of an intellectual elite of those times. Shaw was very much a product of his time. He was also a good writer, so he makes his ideas very clear. And many of his ideas are clearly outrageous.
    Too many people think of Shaw as just "Pygmalion", and often they are really thinking of My Fair Lady. Most people are only familiar with the really tame Shaw.

    Shaw's kind of mindset is still among us: think about the population control extremists in the green movement for one.

  14. Shaw was satirically employing the reductio ad absurdum argument against the eugenicists' wilder dreams.

  15. hehe that photo is quite amusing

  16. PJM, You misread my post. I am not denying GBS's admiration for Hitler; my intent was to not paint each person with Socialist leanings as a Nazi.
    I said that Shaw was a twit--am not denying he was a Hitler sympathizer.
    Social Security is a socialist program, as is Medicare.
    Many elderly tea party protesters who protest govt. involvement in health care are opposed to cuts in their medicare subsidies. This example goes on and on.
    Socialism is not Naziism.
    I dare any GOP politician to CUT Social Security and Medicare--they won't of course because they are 2 Socialist programs that are very popular with the American people. Nuff said.

  17. Cactus Jack,
    Thanks for the comment. Because I am anti-socialist, and anti-democratic party, does not mean I am pro-republican. I am in agreement. Everyone cries for cuts in government spending (as long as it does not affect them). Personally, I believe that DRASTIC cuts will be required. The only question is whether they happen in an organized managed way, or happen through collapse/default. Unfortunately, I fear the country is becoming ungovernable, and no one has the political courage to do what must be done to get the country back on the road to solvency.

  18. PJM, You are a Gentleman and a Scholar. Your comments are well stated. I do believe that reform can be accomplished if the govt. can seek out the "slackers" who receive assistance without actually deserving it.
    This would cut billions from the budget without affecting the "truly needy" as Ronald Reagan once said.
    I do not believe that it would take a great deal of effort to accomplish this feat.
    ALso, if the "silly" spending, such as researching the mating habits of the tstse (correct spelling?)fly, or establishing museums for entertainers, practices of which congressmen of both parties are responsible for, could be eliminated, that too would help.
    As you stated, it will take courage, but perhaps because of the times we live in, it can be done.
    GReat site that you have and I enjoy reading both yours and the readers comments.

  19. Deftgoalie, I think you made a satirical remark of your own there!

    I like the comment about the photo looking like Rasputin - but with a qualification - if Rasputin had a shampoo and styling.

  20. Yes, by all means identify the slackers! It would be most beneficial to start with those in government lest all efforts be for nought.

  21. I hope the lack of a Thursday post is only a picture embargo test and not indicative of any serious problems at the PJM ranch.

  22. "Yes, by all means identify the slackers! It would be most beneficial to start with those in government lest all efforts be for nought."


    It doesn't matter who you vote for, you still get a politician.

  23. It seems to me to be alot about selfishness and each man or kitchen utenil for his own. Survival of the fittest. It would be a "cute" prose in a mocking sort of way, if I did not know about he author....eeeekkk.

    I have enjoyed this week BTW.


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