Li Bai Poem

The Long War

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They fought last year by the upper valley of Son-Kan,
This year by the high ranges of the Leek Mountains,
They are still fighting . . . fighting! . . .
They wash their swords and armor in the cold waves of the Tiao-Chih
Their horses, turning loose over the Tien Mountains,
Seek the meagre grasses in the white snow.

Long, long have they been fighting, full ten thousand li away from
Their armor is worn out, the soldiers grown old. . . .

Oh, the warlike Tartars!
To them manslaughter is their plowing,
Plowing, oh from ancient times, in the fields of white bones and
          yellow sands!

It was in vain that the Emperor of Chin built the Great Wall,
Hoping to shut out those fiery hordes.
Where the wall stands, down to the Han Dynasty,
The beacon fires are still burning.

The beacon fires keep on burning;
The war will never cease! . . .
The soldiers fight and die in death-grapple on the battle-field,
While their wounded horses howl in lamentation,
Throwing up their heads at the desolate sky;
The gray ravens and hungry vultures tear,
And carry away the long bowels of the dead,
Hanging them on the twigs of lifeless trees. . . .

O soldiers who fight long—
Their blood varnishes the desert weeds!
But the generals who lead them on—
They have accomplished nothing!

Sorrow Untold


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