SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1934. Volume 5. Number 4.
Bernard Shaw's Visit To N.Z
Bernard Shaw's Visit To N.Z.
The great G.B.S. came, saw, and of course took his conquest for granted. Now that the spate of journalistic comment has ceased, may we not expect some more lasting literary outcome of the Great Invasion of 1934?
In a previous generation there came to this country one of equal glory. In due season the visit was commemorated by mention of "broom behind the windy town," and by similar scattered references to our landscapes. On his own admission, however, Mr. Shaw's purpose was not to admire our scenery or even our Maori race—he came to criticise the Pakeha.
Thus the most important literary expectation is, of course, his own dramatisation of his fertile reflections on our society. Will the West End soon be Hocking to see a Shavian Utopia? Will Sybil Thorndike and Company present to the London aristocracy a fable of the far-off Islands of Marx, with their population of vegetarian democrats and their streams of purest Council milk " without money and without price" gushing from geysers in every home—complete with Rotorua waters on tap in every hotel-bar?
Whether or not this be fulfilled, benefit should certainly accrue to our own slender literary store. Kipling's songs merely encouraged a succession of versifiers whose chief stock-in-trade was an assortment of mountain-mists, fern-fronds, and ravishing Maori maidens. Our lake-poets lacked a Wordsworth. But as we know another Kipling whose run " from Cape Town east to Wellington " gave to us the noble human hymn of McAndrew the Engineer, may we not also glean from our latest visitor a harvest of deeper literary worth? Do we not need a glimpse of the Dickens outlook on our social evils? Where shall we find an O. Henry to jingle his gay guitar among the sullen pick-axes of our half-starved battalions of unemployed?—alas! we have not even a " Four Million " of citizens for him to charm and inspire.
The Socratic ridicule of our visitor at times touched deep issues in our social life. But perhaps on account of the well-known danger of taking all his statements at their face-value, we have heard little comment, from a section directly challenged by some of his remarks—the clergy. May not there be evoked under the Shavian stimulus something of real literary as well as human value from our pulpits as from our editorial-desks?
Mr. Shaw's speech at his civic reception in Christchurch deserves careful study by University youth—no, by all our youth. The definition there given of true ladies and gentlemen is far more worthy to be the basis of a great national story than the scenery, sex, and "sob-stuff" so evident at present. Shall we raise a story-teller worthy of the task ?
Strange to say, we were also told by the great Fabian that we needed more real religion. Here, I venture to say, he saw quite clearly that the practical paganism which cankers our business and political circles could offer no effective and inspiring lead to the succeeding generation. Better for us even a vital Marxism than a weak-kneed and pessimistic conservatism !
When, nearly nineteen hundred years ago, another Apostle of such a faith visited a cynical Greek city, piles of books of "curious arts" to the value of fifty thousand pieces of silver were soon consigned to the flames, in anticipation, perhaps, of the celebrated Nazi strategy. Let us dare to hope that such a bonfire of much of our present economic and social hocus-pocus may bring to life a literature which would pave the way for the new era awaited by Mr. Shaw and by all those of every creed who believe with him that " God did not go out of business after He had made the world." It is ours to sow, even if we are not destined to reap.
W. R. Lapsley.