(Poem #395) Naming of Parts
"Vixi duellis nuper idoneus Et militavi non sine glori" Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday, We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning, We shall have what to do after firing. But today, Today we have naming of parts. Japonica Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens, And today we have naming of parts. This is the lower sling swivel. And this Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel, Which in your case you have not got. The branches Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures, Which in our case we have not got. This is the safety-catch, which is always released With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easily If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see Any of them using their finger. And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers: They call it easing the Spring. They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt, And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards, For today we have naming of parts.
From 'Lessons of the War' Dedicated to Alan Mitchell. I remember reading a not terribly distinguished parody of this poem when I was in school; many years later, when I discovered the original, I was surprised to see how very good it was. Indeed, it's one of the more celebrated poems of the last half-century (though the years have not been particularly kind to Henry Reed: these days we see him more as a failed Modernist than as a revolutionary Romantic), and it's not hard to see why: the tone of voice, the choice of phrase and the repetitive patterning are all instantly recognizable. That said, though, it _is_ a poem that simply cries out for a parody, isn't it? thomas. [Links] Here's a link to an essay on 'The Imagery of Genesis in Henry Reed's 'The Naming of Parts'': [broken link] http://barney.gonzaga.edu/~mquieto/papers/naming.html . It's an interesting enough piece, though it suffers somewhat from an overly pretentious and (imho) juvenile style. An extract should suffice to show what I mean: "Guns and gardens, soldiers and bees: the poem relates the unrelated in order to draw a clear dichotomy between the forces of life and the forces of death. However, the poem goes further than merely contrasting opposites. The structure and language of the poem combine to demonstrate how one should become the other. The eschatological hope expressed by the harmonious image of this Eden begs and demands a transformation or conversion into communion with the natural order. The poem demonstrates that war is contrary to nature."