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Nefarious War

Martin Fok, Cheryl Chu and Ivan Lee

“Nefarious War” is a war poem written by Li Po in the year 750. There was a
war at the time of Li Po writing the poem. The poem is about the war and how
wicked or nefarious it is.

Li Po was an influential Chinese poet that mainly wrote romantic poems. He

never fought in the war, but he was an advisor for the Chinese emperor at the
time. He wrote many popular poems about his own life such as “Alone And
Drinking Under The Moon” and “Drinking Alone"
Purpose of the poem
The poem is a cry from the people to generals, who hold to power to end or
start war, asking when the war will end.
Annotation ( Stanza 1 )
Last year we fought by the head-stream of the Sang- The first stanza of the poem
describes the past and present
This year we are fighting on the Tsung-ho road. events that are taking place (line 1-
4). It also shows the effects of war,
We have washed our armour in the waves of the
an example of this is “Our three
Chiao-chi lake,
armies are worn and grown old.”
We have pastured our horses on Tien-shan’s snowy
slopes. The poet also used Hyperbole to
The long, long war goes on ten thousand miles from
exaggerate the length of the war.
home, This can be seen when the poet
wrote “ten thousand miles”.
Our three armies are worn and grown old.
Annotation (Stanza 2) From the line, “The barbarian does
The barbarian does man-slaughter for plowing; manslaughter for plowing”, it says that
killing is a routine of barbarians, showing
On his yellow sand-plains nothing has been seen that the war has desensitized people.
but blanched skulls and bones.
The line “On his yellow sand-plains
Where the Chin emperor built the walls against the nothing has been seen but blanched
Tartars, skulls and bones.” By describing skulls
and bones as blanched, shows the
There the defenders of Han are burning beacon dehumanizing effect of war.
Beacon fires are lit to warn the city of the
The beacon fires burn and never go out. enemy, the poet writes, “The beacon fires
burn and never go out.”, signifies that the
There is no end to war!-- enemy is always there.
This sentence “cries to heaven”
Annotation (Stanza 3) uses personification by giving
human features to the horse their
In the battlefield men grapple each other and die;
nature and actions are understood
in a better way. Because it is easier
The horses of the vanquished utter lamentable cries to for us to relate to something that is
heaven, human, or which possesses human
traits, its use encourages us to
While ravens and kites peck at human entrails,
develop a perspective that is new as
Carry them up in their flight, and hang them on the well as creative.
branches of dead trees.
By using onomatopoeia in this
So, men are scattered and smeared over the desert
sentence, with words like scattered
and smeared,to help the reader
And the generals have accomplished nothing. visualise the brutality of war.
Annotation (Stanza 4) The word nefarious is used to show
Oh nefarious war! I see why arms
how evil the war is since the
definition of nefarious is wicked.
Were so seldom used by the benign sovereigns.
The word “benign sovereigns”
means gentle ruler.
The audience for this poem that Li Po was probably trying to target is probably
the generals and or the emperor since he served as an advisor for them in the
war & it seems like Li Po is trying to give them some perspective on how the
war is unnecessary.
In conclusion, Nefarious War is a poem about how Li Po sees the war, it’s
brutality, death and destruction and how it was all for nothing and pointless
since they achieved nothing.

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