The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson- An Analysis

The Charge of the Light Brigade: Alfred Lord Tennyson was a stalwart of the Victorian era poetry. His most famous poems were ‘In Memorium’, ”Ulysses’, ‘The Lady of Shallot’ etc.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

We shall be seeing another one of his poems which is ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

I
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line, they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre-stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.
VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

Analysis and Summary of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’

The poem tells the story of a brigade consisting of 600 soldiers who rode on horseback into the “valley of death” for half a league (about one and a half miles). They were obeying a command to charge the enemy forces that had been seizing their guns.

Not a single soldier was discouraged or distressed by the command to charge forward, even though all the soldiers realized that their commander had made a terrible mistake because all of them were true soldiers. A true soldier’s duty is to follow orders and not question.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

The 600 soldiers were assaulted by the shots of shells of canons in front and on both sides of them. Still, they rode courageously forward toward their own deaths. They fought courageously and bravely, even if it meant that it would lead them to their deaths.

Then they rode back from the offensive, but they had lost many men so they were “not the six hundred”anymore. As the brigade rode “back from the mouth of hell,” soldiers and horses collapsed; few remained to make the journey back.

Introduction to Tennyson

Tennyson wrote the poem in memory of the brave English soldiers that died during the Crimean war in 1854. The poem glorifies war and courage, even in cases of complete inefficiency and waste, and through this poem, we see Tennyson’s acceptance and support of the war.

Why the poem remains such as famous war epic is because of its rhythmic stanzas and repetition of words (Half a league/half a league/ half a league onward). The poem attempts to comprise the military integrity of repetition to enhance a feeling of patriotism in the reader.

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