Movement of Bodies
Those of you that have got through the rest, I am going to rapidly
Devote a little time to showing you, those that can master it,
A few ideas about tactics, which must not be confused
With what we call strategy. Tactics is merely
The mechanical movement of bodies, and that is what we mean by it.
Or perhaps I should say: by them.
Strategy, to be quite frank, you will have no hand in.
It is done by those up above, and it merely refers to,
The larger movements over which we have no control.
But tactics are also important, together or single.
You must never forget that, suddenly, in an engagement,
You may find yourself alone.
This brown clay model is a characteristic terrain
Of a simple and typical kind. Its general character
Should be taken in at a glance, and its general character
You can, see at a glance it is somewhat hilly by nature,
With a fair amount of typical vegetation
Disposed at certain parts.
Here at the top of the tray, which we might call the northwards,
Is a wooded headland, with a crown of bushy-topped trees on;
And proceeding downwards or south we take in at a glance
A variety of gorges and knolls and plateaus and basins and saddles,
Somewhat symmetrically put, for easy identification.
And here is our point of attack.
But remember of course it will not be a tray you will fight on,
Nor always by daylight. After a hot day, think of the night
Cooling the desert down, and you still moving over it:
Past a ruined tank or a gun, perhaps, or a dead friend,
In the midst of war, at peace. It might quite well be that.
It isn't always a tray.
And even this tray is different to what I had thought.
These models are somehow never always the same: for a reason
I do not know how to explain quite. Just as I do not know
Why there is always someone at this particular lesson
Who always starts crying. Now will you kindly
Empty those blinking eyes?
I thank you. I have no wish to seem impatient.
I know it is all very hard, but you would not like,
To take a simple example, to take for example,
This place we have thought of here, you would not like
To find yourself face to face with it, and you not knowing
What there might be inside?
Very well then: suppose this is what you must capture.
It will not be easy, not being very exposed,
Secluded away like it is, and somewhat protected
By a typical formation of what appear to be bushes,
So that you cannot see, as to what is concealed inside,
As to whether it is friend or foe.
And so, a strong feint will be necessary in this, connection.
It will not be a tray, remember. It may be a desert stretch
With nothing in sight, to speak of. I have no wish to be inconsiderate,
But I see there are two of you now, commencing to snivel.
I do not know where such emotional privates can come from.
Try to behave like men.
I thank you. I was saying: a thoughtful deception
Is always somewhat essential in such a case. You can see
That if only the attacker can capture such an emplacement
The rest of the terrain is his: a key-position, and calling
For the most resourceful manoeuvres. But that is what tactics is.
Or I should say rather: are.
Let us begin then and appreciate the situation.
I am thinking especially of the point we have been considering,
Though in a sense everything in the whole of the terrain,
Must be appreciated. I do not know what I have said
To upset so many of you. I know it is a difficult lesson.
Yesterday a man was sick,
But I have never known as many as five in a single intake,
Unable to cope with this lesson. I think you had better
Fall out, all five, and sit at the back of the room,
Being careful not to talk. The rest will close up.
Perhaps it was me saying 'a dead friend', earlier on?
Well, some of us live.
And I never know why, whenever we get to tactics,
Men either laugh or cry, though neither is strictly called for.
But perhaps I have started too early with a difficult task?
We will start again, further north, with a simpler problem.
Are you ready? Is everyone paying attention?
Very well then. Here are two hills.
Henry Reed's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (Movement of Bodies by Henry Reed )
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
Poem of the Day
- Greeting Cards, Sara Fielder
- The Lorry From The North, Tony Adah
- Father's Admonition, Tony Adah
- Those who lose, Luv Artem
- The Making of Me: Tune Me Up, Niealie Petit
- Show Your Love, Lawrence S. Pertillar
- Time Is Of Love, Naveed Akram
- The Wings Of Time, Noah Body
- Passing By The Pond, Tony Adah
- Ode to Now, David Whalen