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Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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«  Return to "Returning of Issue"  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

1.10.2022


Return to "Returning of Issue"

Here is a unique opportunity to see Henry Reed's editing process, over the span of five years' time. Below are shown two scripts for the BBC broadcasts of Reed's The Complete Lessons of the War, the first from February, 1966, and the second from a later broadcast, in December 1970. The 1970 program was in conjunction with the collection Lessons of the War, published by Reed's producer, Douglas Cleverdon and his press, Clover Hill Editions.

On the front page of the script from 1965, you can see that — in addition to the five Lessons of the War poems read on the air on Radio 3 — the poem "Psychological Warfare" was also scheduled, but ultimately crossed out. Reed was obviously unhappy with it, and it was still unfinished before 1970. "Psychological Warfare" was not published until Reed's Collected Poems appeared in 1991 (edited by Jon Stallworthy), and actually made its debut in March of that year, in the London Review of Books.

Complete Lessons of the War, 1965

The scripts for the other Lessons of the War poems, "Naming of Parts," "Judging Distances," "Unarmed Combat," and "Movement of Bodies," are all the same. But Reed continued to revise "Returning of Issue" — which he always kept last as the coda to the Lessons of the War sequence — until the poems were published in collection. The billing for 1970's Complete Lessons of the War states that "The fifth poem, Returning of Issue, has been largely rewritten since the programme was first broadcast in 1966. This new version has been re-recorded."

Notice the text cut between the two, the dispensable adjectives lost, and the line breaks shifted:

Returning of Issue, 1965Returning of Issue, 1970

In the 1965 script for broadcast, the first two stanzas are (and in direct contrast to the season of spring from "Naming of Parts" in 1946):
Tomorrow will be your last day here. Someone is speaking:
A familiar voice, speaking again at all of us,
While beyond the windows (it is inside now, and autumn)
On a wind growing daily harsher, small things are toward the earth
Turning and whirling, small: you cannot see through the windows
          If they are leaves or flowers

Tomorrow will be your last day here: but not, we hope, for always.
I hope that many of you will insist — yes insist — on coming back to us
Professionally. (Silence, and stupefaction.) And outside,
The coarsening wind, and the things whirling upon it,
Scour that rough stamping-ground where we so long a time
          Have spent our substance.
While in the 1970 script, rewritten and re-recorded for the new broadcast, we find the whole poem much improved, and restructured to conform more with the other early Lessons poems. The revised stanzas are as follows:
Tomorrow will be your last day here. Someone is speaking
A familiar voice, speaking again at all or us.
And beyond the windows — it is inside now, and autumn —
On a wind growing daily harsher, small things to the earth
Are turning and whirling, small. Tomorrow will be
          Your last day here,

But not we hope for always. You cannot see through the windows
If they are leaves or flowers. We hope that many or you
Will be coming back for good. Silence, and stupefaction.
The coarsening wind and the things whirling upon it
Scour that rough stamping-ground where we so long
          Have spent our substance,
You can view scans of the full scripts, here: both from 1965, but one without a revised "Returning of Issue," and the other with several revised copies of the poem, circa 1970.


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Notation for "Return to "Returning of Issue"":
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What is Henry Reed's first name?

1535. Reed, Henry. "Talks to India," Men and Books. Time & Tide 25, no. 3 (15 January 1944): 54-55.
Reed's review of Talking to India, edited by George Orwell (London: Allen & Unwin, 1943).



1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)


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