It seems that a lot of people are posting songs that they like on a Monday. Since I don’t really know many songs that you don’t know already, and since bandwagons are anathema to me, I’m not inclined to follow suit. I am inclined, however, to mark the beginning of the week by posting some artistic works that are occupying my mind. This is the rationale behind the collection of arbitrarily selected verse that will form my communiqué for today.

First up is a poem about unwillingly learning the finer points of handling firearms. This is one of the pieces in The Terrible Rain, and I think it speaks for itself.

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 like coral in all of 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, 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 today we have naming of parts.

Henry Reed

Continuing the Second World War theme, a poem about pilots drinking in pubs, which also takes a look beneath the desperate revelry. This has all of the ingredients for the perfect poem, and I’m surprised that I don’t number it among my favourites.

In the Local

You see them in the “Local” anywhere
In town or country near a fighter station
In flying boots and scarves – their ruffled hair
Like schoolboys out for a jolly celebration:
Eight in a car for four had raced along
And miracles were wrought to bring them here.
To pass an hour with banter, darts and song
And drink a pint or two of English beer,
And talk of “binds” and “dims” with lots of natter
Of “ropey jobs” and “wizard types” and “gen”
Amid much laughter glasses chink and clatter.
Deep underneath was hid the real men,
Who saw their comrades fall out of the skies,
And knew too well the look in dead men’s eyes.

W.A.G. Kemp

Departing from war, we have William Cowper on insanity. This is the final stanza of the poem, and my favourite part of it. The last two lines are perfect. I think of them often.

Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong;
I, fed with judgment, in a fleshy tomb am
Buried above ground.

To conclude, I think something short is in order. They don’t come much shorter than Matthew Prior’s The Lady who offers her Looking-glass to Venus. None of us are what we were, and the lady in question is undeniably a fool, but I do like the grand gesture of forswearing mirrors. If only vanity were as easy to cast aside as a looking-glass.

Venus, take my votive glass:
Since I am not what I was,
What from this day I shall be,
Venus, let me never see.

I shall leave you with another of my periodic quotations. This one is taken from the of The Oxford Library of Words and Phrases that I acquired recently.

Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.

For what a man would like to be true, that he more readily believes.

Francis Bacon

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