Naming of parts: the illustrated version

basic_rifle_parts
Picture source: https://goo.gl/b9U0dY

It’s April 1st, and that means National Poetry Month.  Here’s one that I find both achingly beautiful and super-funny.  Getting the humor might require having spent some time in the military, which I did; getting the vocabulary certainly does, as it’s full of technical terms for rifle-parts.  I found the version that I give here, with its nice links to some of the difficult vocabularyon the Sole Arabia Tree web site.  Go to it for a recording of Henry Reed reading the poem.

LESSONS OF THE WAR

To Alan Michell

Vixi duellis nuper idoneus
Et militavi non sine gloria

I. NAMING OF PARTS

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.

4 thoughts on “Naming of parts: the illustrated version”

  1. For one minute I thought this poem was yours and I was exalted . Thank you for this piece of beauty and depth . (Though personally I was better at Puellis than duellis, even Horace confirmed it ) .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah you didn’t know the good ol’ Horace wrote about me ?
        (Hey just in case Reed twisted the original verses from Horace in his ode “Ad venerem” ( to the sex ) in which he uses puellis of course ).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So elegantly constructed, so sweetly making it’s ironic point. I know nothing of guns nor how to name their parts but I do know japonica and almond blossom and bees and the juxtaposition of the Spring Garden and easing the Spring has me salivating. I can only dream of such skill (as a writer not a gun wielder for clarity)

    Liked by 2 people

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