What is the audience and subject of the poem "Naming of Parts"?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's not quite clear who the speaker of the poem is. You can clearly hear the voice of a CO (sergeant major, perhaps) giving the drill instructions about the names of the various parts of the rifle, probably outside on a hot summer day (his voice in bold):

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.
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
   And today we have naming of parts.

But, then a little piece of nature jumps into the poem. This, presumably, isn't part of the repetitious lecture, but the imaginings of the NCOs listening to the poem (or indeed, the single NCO!). His mind wanders, and then snaps back again to the lecture in the last line. The audience, then, is the junior soldiers.

The contrast is between the repetitious boredom of learning the drill by rote, and the simple distraction of what is going on around you on a warm summers day.

There is also a contrast, I think, between the "Naming" of the part and a proper empathetic understanding of what the gun is going to do. It's all very well knowing the bells and whistles, but the poem creates a noticable vacuum of any thought of what this rifle might do to a person. Tomorrow's lesson is about what to do "after firing"...  clean up the blood? Run? Suffer?

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