Sonnets from China By: W. H. Auden

“Here war is harmless like a monument:

A telephone is talking to a man;

Flags on a map declare that troops were sent;

A boy brings milk in bowls.  There is a plan


For living men in terror of their lives,

Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,

Who can be lost and are, who miss their wives

And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.


Yet ideas can be true, although men die:

For we have seen a myriad faces

Ecstatic from one lie,


And maps can really point to places

Where life is evil now.

Nanking, Dachau.”

The poem Sonnets from China is written differently than most poems.  Each stanza talks about different groups of people that are affected by the war.  The first stanza is talking about how the higher ups in the military are siting at the headquarters making decisions about the war.  These men are being completely unaffected by it and are making decisions based on intel that could potentially send their men all to death.  The men in the headquarters are all being pampered by servants hence the statement “a boy brings milk in bowls”.  The second stanza is talking about the men that are going to war and are being affected by it.  These men are suffering as they miss their wives and can die at anytime.  The third stanza talks about the country that follows their leader even though their leader is feeding them lies.  For example Germany’s people who followed Hitler.  The fourth and final stanza is talking about two major areas where  mass murders occurred.  These two areas were Nanking and Dachau.  Nanking was a site of mass murder by Japanese troops in Nanking.  Dachau was a concentration camp where thousands of innocent people were killed.  This shows you how people that believe and follow the lies of their leaders can then perform such immense and inhuman actions to these innocent people.


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