Naming Of Parts

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens likecoral in all the neighboring gardens,
And today 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, 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 today we have the naming of parts.

by Henry Reed

Comments (18)

This poem has been in my mind for about 40 years sitting listening to our teacher explaining how the soldier preparing for was just a normal young man who loved nature but was being prepared to go to war. So moving.
As a recruit in 1961 in the British South Africa Police in the then Rhodesia we had musketry classes under the Pride of India trees in the gardens of the Training Depot, which were flowering profusely. This poem takes me back like no other, to the hot Autumn sun and the bees collecting pollen - a beautiful memory.
I was never one for poetry. I liked November and Tiger tiger, but not much else.However in Asa Briggs's book on Bletchly Park. Secrer Days. The Naming of Parts.is mentioned. Something we had to read(no pun intended) whilst starting to learn about Bren guns at the commencement of National Service in 1958.
This is one of those singular poems that once heard/read you never forget. Brilliant, and Reed's name lives by it. Thanks- -
Nobody has mentioned the sexual Innuendo. I can remember being very shocked when our English teache
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