Sunday, 13 April 2014

Easing the Spring

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
          And to-day 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 easy
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 to-day we have naming of parts.

"Naming of Parts", by Henry Reed


Struan said...

Have you posted about Reed before? I found all the parts of 'Lessons of the War' on my hard disk, and can't think where else I would have come across him.

'Psychological Warfare' is one of the few poems I know which makes me crack up with laughter time after time.

Mike C. said...


Don't think so. "Easing the Spring" has been in my mind since studying it an an O-Level anthology around 1969, but I don't think it's popped out before now (put it away, that man in the third row!).

"Cruelly, ruthlessly, starkly obsessed with the arts"... What better description of the Germanic mind? I will take those words to Innsbruck...


Struan said...

Congrats on the show, and residency. There is a lot of fun to be had taking a newly-formed sensibility to a top-drawer tourist destination and just letting yourself play.

Try to avoid being playfully kicked in the crutch,...

Mike C. said...

Thanks -- definitely a case of "don't mention the war", I think -- I discover we actually bombed the town, and not in a playful way, either...


Zouk Delors said...

an O-Level anthology around 1969

Aha! So that's where I've heard it before! What a brilliant poem, and how apt for our "European Spring".

Mike C. said...


Indeed, I've never forgotten it. I think it was the "Albemarle Book of Modern Verse" -- not a bad selection. I keep meaning to find a copy on abebooks -- there's a poem I liked but can't quite recall -- Edwin Morgan? William Plomer? one of those guys -- with a bit about "toadstools between the toes of the trees" which always reminded me of the Beano.