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

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«  Greco-Roman Reed  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

22.10.2021


Greco-Roman Reed

Excellent synopses of two of Reed's classically-themed poems can be found in Past Ruined Ilion: A Bibliography of English and American Literature Based on Greco-Roman Mythology, by Jeanetta Boswell (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1982). Oddly, Boswell neglects the third poem in the triptych, "Antigone."
REED, Henry (1914-    , English)

1015 "Chrysothemis," in A Map of Verona. London: Cape, 1946. This daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra is presented, as a minor character, only in Sophocles' "Electra." In this play she is sympathetic to her sister's loyalty to their murdered father, but is opposed to defying Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. In Reed's poem, narrated by Chrysothemis herself, she is the haunted survivor of the many tragedies that befell the House of Atreus. She is haunted by the memory of her father's murder at the hands of her mother and Aegisthus; she remembers her brother, Orestes, who later killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus; she recalls Orestes and Electra fleeing for their lives—she alone remains, to protect and watch over the innocent children of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. She declares herself "not guilty of anybody's blood," and yet the conclusion of the poem raises the question of her guilt: was she guilty by means of association, by what she did not do rather than what she did? Finally, the all-important question, will she protect the innocent children, or will the old avenging fury fall on them also? There is little mythology concerning these children—a son, Aletes, and a daughter, Erigone. One source says that Orestes killed them when he returned from exile after his mother's death.

1016 "Philoctetes," in A Map (1946), is a lengthy monologue in which the hero reviews his past life and tries to analyze his future. Ten years ago he had been put ashore on the island of Lemnos by Odysseus and other men of the ship because they could no longer bear the stinking wound that Philoctates [sic] had incurred. With him they also put ashore his bow and arrows, the gift that he had inherited from Heracles. Through all these years he has suffered—mentally, from the isolation and loneliness, and physically, from the great wound that would not be healed. He grew bitter and rancorous, but always he knew that Troy could not be taken without him and his bow and arrows. Now they have come for him, and he says, "I have changed my mind; or my mind is changed in me." He prepared to depart with Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, and Odysseus, whom he has hated above all others. "The wound is quiet, its death/ Is dead within me," he says.
[pp. 208-209]


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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)


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