LitScope: The Charge of The Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

LitScope: The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

For Malaysian Form 4 Students.

The Poem

The Charge of the Light Brigade

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.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one 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.

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.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

extracted from A Poetry Collection Selected by Pie Corbett and Valerie Bloom for Form 4 & Form 5 Secondary School Students (Student edition).

Full Poem Here.

 

The poet: Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Born in 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England.
  • Wrote a 6000-line epic poem at the age of twelve.
  • Escaped home in 1827 to pursue education at Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • First published Poems by Two Brothers, with his brother.
  • Established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era at the age of 41

Sourced from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/alfred-lord-tennyson

 

 

Poem Background

This poem is based on the events occurred during the British charge against the Russian forces in The Battle of Balaclava. The commander of the Light Brigade wanted them to prevent the Russians from removing captured guns from overrun Turkish territories. However, due to a miscommunication, the Light Brigade were instead sent on a frontal assault against more powerful guns, a flank well on the defensive, and the error was indeed fatal. In the end, the British forces suffered heavy casualties.

The poem however tells the tale of this whole event through the eyes of the soldiers, who knew the outcome was fatal, but followed orders just as how they were trained to.

 

What are the stanzas about?

Stanza 1

The commander of the Light Brigade ordered them to charge about 2.8 km into the very dangerous valley the soldiers knew it was fatal. The 600-strong-Light Brigade charged as they were told, into the valley of death. 

Stanza 2

No one was unhappy, and no one knew that the offensive was flawed. The soldiers were trained to obey whatever instructions, they are not to reply, nor ask why, but only to execute the plans and die trying.

Stanza 3

The Light Brigade were being hammered from all directions, but nevertheless, they continued the offensive and rode themselves straight into death.

 

Setting
  • Mid 18th century, during the Battle of Balaclava.
  • Valley of Death – there was no valley in the real war, but the term “valley of death” gives a spooky  image where the Light Brigade charged.
  • Jaws of Death – when one by one fall and die during the whole offensive.
  • Mouth of Hell – Exaggeration of the level of pain and death in the whole offensive and also moving one level higher than “Jaws of Death.” 
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