Quotations by Henry Reed (1914 – 1986)

"Chard Whitlow" (1941)

As we get older we do not get any younger.
Seasons return, and today I am fifty-five,
And this time last year I was fifty-four,
And this time next year I shall be sixty-two.

(lines 1–4)


And the frigid burnings of purgatory will not be touched
By any emollient.

(lines 13–14)


And pray for me also under the draughty stair.
As we get older we do not get any younger.

And pray for Kharma under the holy mountain.

(lines 22–24)

"A Map of Verona" (1942)

And all was useless that I thought I learned:
Maps are of place, not time, nor can they say
The surprising height and colour of a building,
Nor where the groups of people bar the way.

(lines 21–24)

"Naming of Parts" (1942)

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.

(lines 1–4)

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.

(lines 20–28)

"Judging Distances" (1943)

And at least you know

That maps are of time, not place, so far as the army
Happens to be concerned — the reason being,
Is one which need not delay us. Again, you know
There are three kinds of tree, three only, the fir and the poplar,
And those which have bushy tops to; and lastly
That things only seem to be things.

A barn is not called a barn, to put it more plainly,
Or a field in the distance, where sheep may be safely grazing.
You must never be over-sure. You must say, when reporting:
At five o'clock in the central sector is a dozen
Of what appear to be animals; whatever you do,
Don't call the bleeders sheep.

(lines 6–18)

"Unarmed Combat" (1945)

And the various holds and rolls and throws and breakfalls
Somehow or other I always seemed to put
In the wrong place. And as for war, my wars
Were global from the start.

(lines 33–36)

“What the Wireless Can Do for Literature” (1949)

The most hopeful thing is the institution of the Third Programme: one welcomes that blunt, crude acknowledgment of the fact that some listeners are fools and some are not, and that we cannot wait for the fools to catch up with their betters.

A Very Great Man Indeed (1953)

I have known her pass the whole evening without mentioning a single book, or in fact anything unpleasant, at all.


Modest? My word, no. Nobody could say that. He was an all-the-lights-on man.

Emily Butter (1954)

I think it may justly be said that English women in general are very common diatonic little numbers.

The Private Life of Hilda Tablet (1954)

And the sooner the tea’s out of the way, the sooner we can get out the gin, eh?


Of course we’ve all dreamed of reviving the castrati; but it’s needed Hilda to take the first practical steps towards making them a reality ... She’s drawn up a list of well-known singers who she thinks would benefit from... treatment ... It’s only a question of getting them to agree.

Not A Drum was Heard (1959)

In a civil war, a general must know — and I’m afraid it’s a thing rather of instinct than of practice — he must know exactly when to move over to the other side.

The Poetry of Henry Reed: Critical and biographical information for the World War II British poet, critic, translator, and radio dramatist — author of "Naming of Parts."

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"Quotations by Henry Reed (1914 – 1986)" The Poetry of Henry Reed. Last modifed 29 April 2017, accessed 29 April 2017 <http://www.solearabiantree.net/namingofparts/quotes.php>.