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Charge of the Light Brigade

Tennyson, War, Poetry
by

David Coughenour

on 22 March 2013

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Transcript of Charge of the Light Brigade

Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson About theAuthor Born in England in 1809. Named poet laureate, or court poet, by Queen Victoria. Died in 1892 and is buried in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey in London, England. About the Poem Demonstrates the nobleness of supporting your country. Narrative poem inspired by a real-life tragedy. S t a n z a 1 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. A brigade, or group of soldiers, ride 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. Explanation Stanza 2 "Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder'd:
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. Explanation Stanza
3 Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred. Explanation 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: “Into the jaws of Death / Into the mouth of hell / Rode the six hundred.” Stanza 4 Flash'd all their sabers bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
  All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the saber-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred. Explanation The soldiers struck the enemy gunners with their unsheathed swords (“sabers bare”) and charged at the enemy army while the rest of the world looked on in wonder. They rode into the artillery smoke and broke through the enemy line, destroying their Cossack and Russian opponents. Then they rode back from the offensive, but they had lost many men so they were “not the six hundred” anymore. Stanza
5 Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred. Explanation Canons behind and on both sides of the soldiers now assaulted them with shots and shells. As the brigade rode “back from the mouth of hell,” soldiers and horses collapsed; few remained to make the journey back. Stanza 6 When can their glory fade?
O, the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder'd.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred! Explanation The world marveled at the courage of the soldiers; indeed, their glory is undying: the poem states these noble 600 men remain worthy of honor and tribute today. Criticism Tennyson's poem is outraged at the "blunder" that sent these men to their deaths. The magnitude of the blunder is measured by the magnitude of the courage that its victims showed. (Flasch) The theme of the poem has also come under criticism; following World War I, after the world had experienced the horror and destruction of war on a previously unheard-of scale, critics abandoned this poem due to its glorification of heroic, senseless death. (Gale) Click on the following link to hear a very early sound recording of the very old poet reading his famous poem. Sounds like he's underwater, wrapped in gauze, and about a half a mile away, but still worth a listen!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/poetry/outloud/tennyson.shtml Tennyson recorded this poem in 1890 using an Edison wax cylinder. According to his grandson, Tennyson wrote the poem in only a few minutes after he read about the battle of Balaklava in the newspaper. 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: “Someone had blundered.” The role of the soldier is to obey and “not to make reply...not to reason why,” so they followed orders and rode into the “valley of death.” Click on the following link to read about the relevance of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3944699.stm Click on the following link for a dramatic reading of the poem.
http://www.thoughtaudio.com/titlelist/TA0033-Brigade/LightBrigade.mp3 Click on the link below to see images from the Crimean War. To learn more: http://www.schooltube.com/video/a368eb506fac8cf561e2/Charge%20Light%20Blind%20Side Click on the link below to watch a video clip from a movie whose character studies this poem.
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