Critical and biographical information on Henry Reed, World War II British poet, critic, translator, and radio dramatist — author of "Naming of Parts"
Poetry of Henry Reed Homepage
"Man's Conflicts." Times (London) Literary Supplement, 11 May 1946, 225.
 
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MAN'S CONFLICTS

Henry Reed: A Map of Verona. Cape. 3s. 6d.

Mr. Henry Reed is also concerned with man's conflicts, but he looks upon a more physical and emotional world. In this new volume he shows his mastery of many moods. In "Lessons of the War" there is a quiet and convincing humour; but the poet is more anxious to reveal the universality of man's sufferings and joys; he has no hopeful view of man's strength:

          Whatever you do,
A stream has rights, for a stream is always water;
To cross it you have to bridge it; and it will not flow uphill.

In the series of poems “The Desert” there is a fine perception of the despair of the unwilling and sensitive exile—with the body and mind equally lost and despairing:—

What marks in time have we made?
          “None, none,” they will answer,
All we could find was the space in the forest and only
The cross on the temple, islanded above the waters.

The later poems are a new meditative treatment of the Tristan and Isolde legend; Mr. Reed sees it as the unhappiness which can reach mankind:

Tristram's tower
Rises and falls and rises.
It is often rebuilt completely, or its ruins
Are drapt with cultivated vegetation.

And there appears the continual struggle of mankind against his own delusions:

You strive to find some angle of the broken castle
And tug at the streaming earth to find some spot
In which you may plant your torn chimerical flowers
With a ruined wall to protect them

The last two poems, “Chrysothemis” and “Philoctetes,” are again images of the suffering mind; the poet has well suggested the Sophoclean despair of man's inevitable defeat against some greater fate; with Philoctetes the suffering leads to the fulfillment of the decreed release:

The bushes twitch in the wind on the glowing cliff-sides;
The ghosts dislimn and vanish; the god departs;
My life begins; and a man plants a tree at daybreak.
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