About:

Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

An obsessive, armchair attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography, not just for the work of a poet, but for his entire life.

Read "Naming of Parts."

Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed Henry Reed
Henry Reed, ca. 1960


Contact:


Reeding:

I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.


Elsewhere:

Books

Libraries

Weblogs, etc.


«  Posts from 06 September 2005  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

23.10.2021


When I started the "Reeding Lessons" weblog, one of the things I thought it would allow me to do was extoll and expound on Reed's poems myself, something which I have been hesitant to do on the main site (with one notable exception).

Having seen several folks searching for the phrase "easing the spring" this week, it seems a logical place to begin.

In Reed's poem, "Naming of Parts," the play on the phrase "Easing the Spring" appears three times: twice in the fourth stanza, and once in the fifth and final stanza.

In the fourth stanza, the word "spring" is printed both in lowercase and capitalized. The first reference to "spring" is mechanical and literal: this is the metal spring in the rifle's magazine which forces the cartridges up into the breech to be fired. The second and third appearances of the word are in uppercase, "Spring," referring to the season.

The stanzas of the poem are divided into two parts: the first three lines of each are of the recruit listening to the lesson on the parts of his rifle; the fourth line is a blending of the actual lesson and the recruit's interpretation; and the fifth and sixth lines complete the inner monologue of the recruit trying to make sense of what he is being taught. Thus, in stanza four:
Voice of the instructor
1 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.
Thoughts of the recruit
                              And rapidly backwards and forwards
5 The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
             They call it easing the Spring.
The contrast between the mechanized, military spring and natural, bee-filled Spring is obvious. No matter how hard the young soldier concentrates on his arms lesson, his thoughts always revert to Spring, love, and the mechanics of sex.

Reed lifted the phrase "Easing the spring" directly from his basic training. Chapter IV, Section 52 of the Manual of Elementary Drill (All Arms), 1935, contains instructions for the inspection of arms. Part of this procedure is the order "Ease—Springs." The object of a soldier easing the spring is to remove all tension from the mechanical parts of the rifle. Literally, the easing of the rifle's spring requires ejecting any and all cartridges from the magazine, thus rendering it safe for inspection by an officer.
4. To ease springs, or charge magazines and come to the order.
Ease—Springs.
From the position described above, work the bolt rapidly backwards and forwards until all cartridges are removed from the magazine and chamber* allowing them to fall to the ground, then close the cut-off (except with S.M.L.E. Mark III* rifles, which have no cut-off) by placing the right hand over the bolt and pressing the cut-off inwards, then close the breech, press the trigger, turn the safety catch over to the rear with the first finger of the right hand, and return the hand to the small.
* This precaution will also be adopted when magazines are not charged, and at drill it should be presumed that five rounds are in the magazine and chamber.
I find it particularly interesting that the word "easing," because of the line breaks, is capitalized in line four, and in lowercase at the close of the stanza. Note also the phrase 'rapidly backwards and forwards,' which Reed also utilizes in "Naming of Parts."

The British Lee-Enfield rifle Henry Reed would have been trained on held two clips of five cartridges apiece. The "cut-off" mentioned in the drill instruction was a plate which could be slid into place to cut the magazine off from the breech, allowing the rifle to be fired as a single-loader, with the contents of the magazine held in reserve for heavy combat, thus saving ammunition. However, the inclusion of a magazine cut-off was retired after World War I, the tactics of warfare having shifted in favor of expending more ammunition against an enemy or target.

Reed may have a made a conscious choice to exclude the cut-off from his lesson on naming of parts, or possibly the cut-off was just another something which he "had not got."


Add Notation:

Name:
E-mail:
Webpage:

Notation for "Easing the Spring":
Allowed: <a> <em> <strong>
What is Henry Reed's first name?

1532. Vallette, Jacques. "Grand-Bretagne," Mercure de France, no. 1001 (1 January 1947): 157-158.
A contemporary French language review of Reed's A Map of Verona.



1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)


Search:



LibraryThing


Recent tags:


Posts of note:



Archives:

Current
May 2021
February 2021
January 2021
October 2020
March 2020
January 2020
November 2019
October 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
December 2018
May 2018
April 2018
January 2018
February 2017
January 2017
October 2016
September 2016
February 2016
December 2015
August 2015
July 2015
May 2015
March 2015
December 2014
June 2014
April 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
January 2013
December 2012
October 2012
September 2012
July 2012
June 2012
April 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
July 2010
June 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
December 2004
October 2004
March 2004
January 2004
December 2003


Marginalia: