Level 7 Level 9
Level 8

Alfred Tennyson - 'The Charge of the Light Brigade

13 words 0 ignored

Ready to learn       Ready to review

Ignore words

Check the boxes below to ignore/unignore words, then click save at the bottom. Ignored words will never appear in any learning session.

All None

'The Charge of the Light Brigade'
Tennyson wrote this poem during his tenure as Poet Laureate (national/official state poet) in 1854 as a tribute to the British cavalry (horseback) soldiers from the Light Brigade who died in combat fighting the Russians in the Crimean War. Though it documents the deaths of a specific group as the consequence of poor leadership, the poet's admiration for the men helps it to serve on a metaphorical level as a dedication to all brave figures who pay the price for that bravery.
Light Brigade
An actual classification of cavalry soldier but also - because of the associations of the positive emotive adjective "Light" with purity and the forces of good - a symbolic representation of positive human virtues: bravery, honour, duty.
"Forward, the Light Brigade! / Charge for the guns!" he said
The direct speech from the commanding officer (the signified "he") contains two imperative verbs ("Forward" and "Charge") immediately establishing the orders that will later kill the soldiers.
Was there a man dismay'd? / Not tho' the soldiers knew / Some one had blunder'd
Tennyson uses question and answer as his sentence functions to structurally create a sense of the soldiers' obedience and duty. There is no possibility that any man would refuse - using a highly negatively emotive adjective "dismay'd" to further emphasise their bravery.
Tennyson's clumsy verb, here, creates sense that whomever made the decision to send the soldiers to their deaths considered it a mistake rather than a tragedy. The verb is more typically associated with an accident than a deliberate action, so perhaps the poet (as the nation's representative) is using euphemism to avoid direct criticism; this avoidance is further supported by the vague pronoun phrase "Some one" earlier in the line.
Theirs not to make reply / Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die
The repetition of the pronoun "theirs" and the tight rhyme scheme reinforces the soldiers' sense of duty and obedience. Tennyson makes it clear what the soldiers could "do" and "not" do by listing them for our comparison. The anaphora of the first two lines makes the change in the third all the more emotive, emphasising that the soldiers' deaths are inevitable and their only choice.
Into the Valley of Death / Rode the six hundred.
Echoing the Bible (Psalms 23: "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil"), Tennyson forces us to recognise the Light Brigade's bravery whilst adding religious, funereal overtones. The statistic structurally repeated at the end of each stanza helps Tennyson to emphasise the scale of the loss, especially when combined with the full stop ending the long sentence like the guns ended the cavalrymen.
Storm'd at with shot and shell / Boldly they rode and well
The powerful verb "Storm'd" has Tennyson create the sense that - metaphorically - the soldiers were facing a huge, unstoppable force akin to a storm. The different weapons ("shot and shell") are rhymed with the quality of the soldiers' riding to create both a sense of their bravery and the inevitability of their injury when both join together.
Into the jaws of Death / Into the mouth of Hell
Tennyson personifies both "Death" and "Hell" creating a sense that they are both monstrous and inescapable. The soldiers are metaphorically eaten by the "jaws" and "mouth" of conflict.
Cossack and Russian / Reel'd from the sabre stroke / Shatter'd and sunder'd.
More powerful and negative verbs giving a graphic picture of the effects of conflict: especially the disturbing "Shatter'd" which both turns humans into object that can be broken, and smashes them to pieces.
Cannon beind them / Volley'd and thunder'd
Like the verb "thunder'd" before it, Tennyson uses the semantic field of weather and storms to create the sense that war is an unstoppable, deadly force
horse and hero fell
Tennyson uses a compound connective ("and") to create the sense that humans and animals suffered at the same time; conflict consumes everything
Honour the charge they made! / Honour the Light Brigade
Ending his poem with two imperative commands to "Honour" the soldiers confirms Tennyson's admiration for the men and their bravery. The verb itself also reiterates the sense of patriotism created throughout the poem by raising the men into a position of "Honour".