Since time immemorial, poets have creatively crafted poems with the sole aim of communicating various messages. Li Bo, who is also known as Li Bai, was a poet from China. Until his death, Li Bo was a prolific contributor of Chinese poetry and wrote numerous poems. One of his most famous poems is South of the Walls We Fought. Du Fu was also a Chinese poet whose work gained a lot of influence to both the Japanese and Chinese literary cultures. A prominent poem by Du Fu is Spring Prospect. Both Li Bo and Du Fu were prominent Chinese poets in the Tang Dynasty that was characterized by rebellion and wars. Their works have been of great influence to literary works all over the world. This paper compares and contrasts the two poems, Spring Prospect and South of the Walls We fought, in terms of plot, the speakers, thematic concerns, stylistic features, tone, and attitude.
The first poem Spring Prospect is about a war that has gone on for a long time. It has led to chaos in the country and, consequently, a lot of suffering. For three months now, the emergency beacon fires have been on as the soldiers watch out for new enemies. They have to persevere in the prevailing conditions and have no time for their families. If all they communicate with them, it is by sheer luck because Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces (6). Unfortunately, they have no choice but to continue fighting in the war despite the numerous deaths. The second poem, South of the Walls We Fought, is a stern warning against engaging in war. The soldiers fight, from time to time, for so long that they grow tired and old yet they often fight and fail. Many of them die in the process. The kites and crows do not spare the flesh of those who die. They pick them and, as if to mock the soldiers, perch with the flesh on trees. The speaker finally warns that war is evil and wisdom dictates that one should abstain from it.
The speakers in the two poems are different although they seem to converge in the issue they address. In the poem, South of the Walls We Fought, the speaker is a soldier who worked under a General. He has fought in war for quite some time though without much success. He says We fought for Mulberry springs / Die now for Garlic River / Because our General had a plan. The speaker seems to provide a voice for the helpless soldier who has to go to war despite the unpleasant memories of previous wars. He goes on to envision the way soldiers die in a war and opines that a wise man keeps away from war. In comparison, the speaker of the poem, Spring Prospect, is a soldier who has been fighting in the war for so long. He admits that The country is broken and The beacon fires have joined for three months now until Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces. This means that the speaker has been in war for so long that he really misses his family. For three continuous months, he and fellow soldiers have had to keep watch despite the country being chaotic. The speaker is against war.
The two poems seem to address similar issues. The thematic concerns are largely comparable. They are both anti-war. They explicitly describe the vicious effects of war. In the poem Spring Prospect, the speaker regrets that The country is broken. The flowers and birds are said to be crying and mourning. As a result of war, families are forcibly separated: Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces. The only communication between families is letters although it is not guaranteed that ones letter will get to their kin. The speaker scratches his head with its white hairs growing thinner. This means that he has been in war for so long thus has seen it all. Many have died in these wars and the fact that the speaker scratches his head shows just how perturbed he must be by the state of affairs. The only things that remain, according to the speaker, are the natural features such as rivers and hills. On the other hand, the poem, South of the Walls We Fought, unequivocally describes the horrors associated with war. The speaker begins by recounting the frequency with which they have to go to war. He says We fought for the Mulberry Springs/ Die now for Garlic River/Thousands of miles to and fro/ The three armies tired and old. This means that they have frequently gone to fight. Unfortunately, whenever they do, there are so many casualties since the Huns kill and Sow white bones in desert sand. The speaker goes on to forlornly add that These wars never end and they often lose since they fight and fail. They go on and on and the main consequence is death. He adds that they paint the grasses red while the crows and kites feast on the flesh of the dead. This speaker concludes his argument by advising people to demonstrate their wisdom by keeping away from war. The two poems, therefore, tackle a similar theme.
To effectively communicate the main message, the poets employ different stylistic features in their poems. The features help in making the message vivid and interesting. In the poem, Spring Prospect, the poet uses irony and imagery to effectively communicate the message. First, the title of the poem in relation to what happens is ironic. The natural scenery is usually beautiful during spring. However, it is ironic that, in this context, the speaker admires the scene yet the time is tumultuous. There is crying, mourning, loneliness and chaos, yet the speaker affords to notice that the hills and rivers remain and the grass and trees are thick. The irony seems to emphasize the fact that nature is beautiful hence war should be avoided so as to preserve natural sceneries. The poet, also, employs imagery. He begins by saying that The country is broken to mean that the country is in chaos; there is warfare and bloodshed. The line that Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces is metaphorical of how invaluable a letter to or from ones kin is during war. Moreover, the persona notices that the few hairs in his head can barely hold a hairpin. This is metaphorical of the many people who have died in the war. Only a few have survived, and they may barely win the war. Conversely, Li Bo employs metaphor and symbolism in his poem South of the Walls We Fought. The speaker metaphorically states that The three armies (are) tired and old to mean that the same army has gone to war over and over. White bones are said to be sown in desert sand and compares it to farming. This is metaphorical of the many people that have been killed in war. Also, the speaker says that The fires never die to mean that the war never ends. He adds that they Paint the grasses red which is metaphorical of the bloodshed associated with war. In addition, the poet employs symbolism so as to efficiently pass the main message. The Mulberry Springs, Garlic River, Parthian and Tien Shan are symbolic of the many areas the army has had to traverse as they go to war. It symbolizes that they have gone far and wide, thousands of miles to and fro. Furthermore, the idea that their horses scream to the sky and kites and crows/ perch on dead trees with our dead is symbolic of the mockery that the soldiers have had to endure even from their horses as well as birds. Basically, the features of style used by the two poets have succeeded in effectively communicating the intended message.
In terms of tone and attitude, the two poems employ different tones but reveal a similar attitude. The tones they apply reveal their negative attitude towards war. The poem South of the Walls We fought, begins by stating that the soldiers fought and now they die. The speaker adds that they fight and fail yet These wars never end. These are words of a frustrated person. The person is very negative and feels that there is no way in which one benefits from the activities of war. The choice of words already communicates a tone of pessimism. It makes it obvious that war has a lot of miseries and no matter how long they fight, they will always suffer and never win. In the poem, Spring Prospect, the persona begins by dejectedly stating that The country is broken. They then go on to describe the negative effects of war and concludes by metaphorically affirming that so many people have died in these wars. The poet uses words such as the tears and mourning to emphasize on the vicious effects of war hence bringing out a skeptical tone. All this demonstrates that the results of war are disastrous. The two poets are strongly opposed to war. According to them, wars are catastrophic and disliked. Essentially, the tones of both poems reveal an attitude of disapproval.
In conclusion, the two poems, South of the Walls We Fought and Spring Prospect, by Li Bo and Du Fu respectively, are similar in some aspects but different in others. In terms of the subject matter, they are similar. They both communicate the message that war has grave effects. They further use metaphors to communicate the extensive impact that war has on people and the environment. After carefully choosing their words, the two poets reveal their disapproval for war. They imply an attitude of disapproval. On the other hand, some of the stylistic features used in the poems differ. While Li Bo widely employs symbolism in his poem, South of the Walls We Fought, Du Fu employs irony in his, Spring Prospect. Each of the poets does this to make the message in their poem more vivid. The two poems also differ slightly in terms of the tones of their poems. South of the Walls We Fought has a pessimistic tone whereas Spring Prospect has a skeptical one. Nevertheless, the two poems disapprove war.
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