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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I've just discovered what a good education I had. It turns out I'm in possession of a piece of information which is being sought by English Literature students the world over. Yes people, I know the secret in the poet's heart.

The very last line of the play 'Candida' by George Bernard Shaw is a stage direction which reads:

"They embrace. But they do not know the secret in the poet's heart."

One of theatre's more pointless stage directions, I'm sure you'll agree. Particularly as most people don't seem to have a clue what it means.

Personally I couldn't care less about any secret - you should just be glad you've reached the end of a Shaw play, and get the hell out of there - but others disagree. And having been forced to study 'Candida' at A-level 13 years ago (mostly against my will, it has to be said), I was expected to take an interest in such a secret. This was the pre-internet era, meaning we had to use old-fashioned contraptions called books, but fortunately the fine English scholar who led my class, Mr G Jones (nickname: Bunter), possessed a number of ancient English Literature tomes from a bygone age, and having studied them on our behalf, was able to reveal said secret. So we all went home happy.

All these years later, I naturally assumed this was the kind of information easily available on the world wide web. And I knew people were looking for it, because in the past year I've had about half a dozen website hits via Google, from people searching for the phrase "secret in the poet's heart" and the word "Candida". Which takes them to... a certain page on my website. Which singularly fails to reveal the secret.

Having had yet another of these hits this morning, I decided to search Google myself and found to my surprise that there only appear to be eight websites in the world which feature that phrase. And I'm number six. More surprising still, is that none of the other seven appear to reveal the secret either. One, a page entirely devoted to 'Candida', even states:

"The secret in the poet's heart? Many people have suggested many possibilities. Frankly, I don't know."

So that's helpful.

What this means of course, is that if I reveal the secret here, my blog will have the distinction of being the only site on the world wide web to contain this information, and will instantly become a magnet for literary scholars the world over. That's if it isn't already.

So here goes. Sit up straight everyone.

The secret in the poet's heart is that Candida is not worth the winning.

Let me just repeat that for the search engines...

In George Bernard Shaw's play 'Candida', the secret in the poet's heart, as mentioned in the final stage direction, is that Candida is not worth the winning.

Right, that ought to do it. Yes, I know, it's not very interesting. But then we're talking about a Shaw play here, so what do you expect. Basically Candida is a bitch on wheels, and having spent the entire play trying to win her heart, Marchbanks, the weedy poet, fails in his quest and Candida chooses to stay with her husband. But what the experience has taught young Eugene is that in fact Candida was never worth fighting for in the first place. Partly, I suspect, because it dawns on him that she's named after a yeast infection (but don't quote me on that), though mainly because he realises that Candida is the kind of moo-cow from hell that should be avoided at all costs. She's actually not the perfect gal he previously thought, and a life with her would be a life of downtrodden submission under the thumb of a mothering dominatrix.

Which some men would pay good money for. But not Eugene. He's apparently lost, but his secret is that he knows he's won. Morell has ended up with a prize not worth winning.

This blog is such an education isn't it. I should be charging for stuff like this.