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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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I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
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«  No. 38, with a Bullet  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

2.8.2021


No. 38, with a Bullet

In 1995, to coincide with National Poetry Day, BBC1's television program, "The Bookworm," conducted a six-day poll of the public, seeking Britain's favorite poem (Independent (London), 13 October 1995). 7,500 votes cast narrowed down 1,000 choices to the 100 best-loved poems. Henry Reed's "Lessons of the War" was ranked at #38:
1. Rudyard Kipling, "If"
2. Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Lady of Shalott"
3. Walter de la Mare, "The Listeners"
4. Stevie Smith, "Not Waving but Drowning"
5. William Wordsworth, "The Daffodils"
6. John Keats, "To Autumn"
7. W.B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
8. Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est"
9. John Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"
10. W.B. Yeats, "He Wishes for the Cloth of Heaven"

11. Christina Rossetti, "Remember"
12. Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
13. Dylan Thomas, "Fern Hill"
14. William Henry Davies, "Leisure"
15. Alfred Noyes, "The Highwayman"
16. Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"
17. Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"
18. William Blake, "The Tyger"
19. W.H. Auden, "Twelve Songs"
20. Edward Thomas, "Adlestrop"

21. Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier"
22. Jenny Joseph, "Warning"
23. John Masefield, "Sea-Fever"
24. William Wordsworth, "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge"
25. Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, Sonnets From the Portuguese, XLIII ("How Do I Love Thee?...")
26. T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock"
27. John Masefield, "Cargoes"
28. Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky"
29. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
30. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias of Egypt"

31. Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
32. Leigh Hunt, "Abou Ben Adhem"
33. Siegfried Sassoon, "Everyone Sang"
34. Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The Windhover"
35. Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"
36. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18 ("Shall I Compare Thee...?")
37. W.B. Yeats, "When You Are Old"
38. Henry Reed, "Lessons of the War" (To Alan Michell)
39. Thomas Hardy, "The Darkling Thrush"
40. Allan Ahlberg, "Please Mrs. Butler"

41. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Kubla Khan"
42. Robert Browning, "Home Thoughts, From Abroad"
43. John Gillespie Magee, "High Flight (An Airman's Ecstasy)"
44. T.S. Eliot, "Journey of the Magi"
45. Edward Lear, "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat"
46. Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden"
47. Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
48. Rudyard Kipling, "The Way Through the Wood"
49. Wilfred Owen, "Anthem for a Doomed Youth"
50. Wendy Cope, "Bloody Men"

51. John Clare, "Emmonsail's Heath in Winter"
52. T.S. Eliot, "La Figlia Che Piange"
53. Philip Larkin, "The Whitsun Wedding"
54. Oscar Wilde, from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"
55. Thomas Hood, "I Remember, I Remember"
56. Philip Larkin, "This Be the Verse"
57. D.H. Lawrence, "Snake"
58. Rupert Brooke, "The Great Lover"
59. Robert Burns, "A Red, Red Rose"
60. Louis MacNeice, "The Sunlight on the Garden"

61. Rupert Brooke, "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester"
62. John Betjeman, "Diary of a Church Mouse"
63. Walter de la Mare, "Silver"
64. Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty"
65. Louis MacNeice, "Prayer Before Birth"
66. T.S. Eliot, "Macavity: The Mystery Cat"
67. Thomas Hardy, "Afterwards"
68. G.K. Chesterton, "The Donkey"
69. Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess"
70. John Betjeman, "Christmas"

71. Ted Hughes, "The Thought-Fox"
72. T.S. Eliot, "Preludes"
73. George Herbert, "Love (III)"
74. Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
75. John Clare, "I Am"
76. Francis Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven"
77. Christopher Marlowe, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"
78. W.B. Yeats, "The Song of Wandering Aengus"
79. George Gordon, Lord Byron, "She Walks in Beauty"
80. A.E. Housman, "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now"

81. John Donne, "The Flea"
82. F.W. Harvey, "Ducks"
83. Philip Larkin, "An Arundel Tomb"
84. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 ("Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds")
85. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses"
86. Louis MacNeice, "Snow"
87. Roger McGough, "Let Me Die a Youngman's Death"
88. Thomas Hardy, "The Ruined Maid"
89. Hugo Williams, "Toilet"
90. Wilfred Owen, "Futility"

91. Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven"
92. Robert Burns, "Tam O' Shanter"
93. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Love's Philosophy"
94. H.W. Longfellow, from "The Song of Hiawatha" (Hiawatha's Wooing)
95. Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
96. Michael Rosen, "Chocolate Cake"
97. Leigh Hunt, "Jenny Kissed Me"
98. Seamus Heaney, "Blackberry-Picking"
99. William Wordsworth, from "The Prelude" (Childhood and School-Time)
100. Carol Ann Duffy, "Warming Her Pearls"
That puts things in perspective. Reed beats three Louis MacNeice poems by at least 22 places, is only outshone by Eliot's "Prufrock," beats John Betjeman, is only three slots below Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," and even outranks his idol Thomas Hardy's best-known verses.

These selections were published in 1996 as The Nation's Favourite Poems (Amazon.co.uk), and spawned something of an industry in poetry anthologies. It'd be interesting to see, in the polls taken in the following years, whether Reed rose, or fell, or (God forbid) fell off, altogether.

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Notation for "No. 38, with a Bullet":
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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)


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