Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Naming of Parts

One of my favourite poems is Henry Reeds "Naming of Parts" which can be read (and heard) here, but I must warn you that the poem contains indirect refences to sex!

"Naming of Parts" is spot on in its description of the mind-numbing experience that is military instruction. Anyone who has ever been in the military will recognise the scene of the instructor going through a piece of equipment, speaking as if he was reading straight from the manual. I remember in the Navy having a class on ships, planes and helicopter recognition. In this class a petty officer showed us slides of ships and aeroplanes, and made comments like: "This is a Spruance-class Destroyer, notice that it is larger than a Frigate." When he came to helicopters he excused his lack of knowledge of them, then showed us several pictures of different helicopters, commenting on every picture: "This is a helicopter!"

I also like the way Reed compares the parts of the rifle to the flowers and bees in the neighbouring gardens. By doing this Reed, I think, is telling us that something is completely wrong with the scene. Here is a company of young men, its spring time and they should be out making love to young woman, just like the bees are fumbling the flowers, and not having "What to do after firing" or "Naming of Parts." As the poem puts it: "... the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got."

Many fellow Christians will probably have issues with the sexual references in is poem, but that is exactly the point. What really should makes us uncomfortable about the poem is not the sexual imagery, but the fact that young men are being trained for war!


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