Henry Reed

Here you will find the Long Poem Psychological Warfare of poet Henry Reed

Psychological Warfare

This above all remember: they will be very brave men,
And you will be facing them. You must not despise them.

I am, as you know, like all true professional soldiers,
A profoundly religious man: the true soldier has to be.
And I therefore believe the war will be over by Easter Monday.
But I must in fairness state that a number of my brother-officers,
No less religious than I, believe it will hold out till Whitsun.
Others, more on the agnostic side (and I do not contemn them)
Fancy the thing will drag on till August Bank Holiday.

Be that as it may, some time in the very near future,
We are to expect Invasion ... and invasion not from the sea.
Vast numbers of troops will be dropped, probably from above,
Superbly equipped, determined and capable; and this above all,
Remember: they will be very brave men, and chosen as such.

You must not, of course, think I am praising them.
But what I have said is basically fundamental
To all I am about to reveal: the more so, since
Those of you that have not seen service overseas?
Which is the case with all of you, as it happens?this is the first time
You will have confronted them. My remarks are aimed
At preparing you for that.

Everyone, by the way, may smoke,
And be as relaxed as you can, like myself.
I shall wander among you as I talk and note your reactions.
Do not be nervous at this: this is a thing, after all,
We are all in together.

I want you to note in your notebooks, under ten separate headings,
The ten points I have to make, remembering always
That any single one of them may save your life. Is everyone ready?
Very well then.

The term, Psychological Warfare
Comes from the ancient Greek: psycho means character
And logical, of course, you all know. We did not have it
In the last conflict, the fourteen-eighteen affair,
Though I myself was through it from start to finish. (That is point one.)
I was, in fact, captured?or rather, I was taken prisoner?
In the Passchendaele show (a name you will all have heard of)
And in our captivity we had a close opportunity
(We were all pretty decently treated. I myself
Was a brigadier at the time: that is point two)
An opportunity I fancy I was the only one to appreciate
Of observing the psychiatry of our enemy
(The word in those days was always psychology,
A less exact description now largely abandoned). And though the subject
Is a highly complex one, I had, it was generally conceded,
A certain insight (I do not know how, but I have always, they say,
Had a certain insight) into the way the strangest things ebb up
From what psychoanalysts now refer to as the self-conscious.
It is possibly for this reason that I have been asked
To give you the gist of the thing, the?how shall I put it??
The gist.

I was not of course captured alone
(Note that as point three) so that I also observed
Not only the enemy's behaviour; but ours. And gradually, I concluded
That we all of us have, whether we like it or lump it,
Our own individual psychiatry, given us, for better or worse,
By God Almighty. I say this reverently; you often find
These deeper themes of psychiatry crudely but well expressed
In common parlance. People say: 'We are all as God made us.'
And so they are. So are the enemy. And so are some of you.
This I in fact observed: point four. Not only the enemy
Had their psychiatry, but we, in a different sense,
Had ours. And I firmly believe you cannot (point six) master
Their psychiatry before you have got the gist of your own.
Let me explain more fully: I do not mean to imply
That any, or many, of you are actually mentally ill.
Though that is what the name would imply. But we, your officers,
Have to be aware that you, and many of your comrades,
May have a sudden psychiatry which, sometimes without warning,
May make you feel (and this is point five) a little bit odd.

I do not mean that in the sense of anything nasty:
I am not thinking of those chaps with their eyes always on each other
(Sometimes referred to as homosensualists
And easily detected by the way they lace up their boots)
But in the sense you may all feel a little disturbed,
Without knowing why, a little as if you were feeling an impulse,
Without knowing why: the term for this is ambivalence.
Often referred to for some mysterious reason,
By the professionals as Amby Valence,
As though they were referring to some nigger minstrel.
(Not, of course, that I have any colour prejudice:
After all, there are four excellent West Nigerians among you,
As black as your boot: they are not to blame for that.)

At all events this ambivalence is to be avoided.
Note that as point seven: I think you all know what I mean:
In the Holy Scriptures the word begins with an O,
Though in modern parlance it usually begins wit