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Tennyson’s Poetry

Alfred Lord Tennyson

“The Charge of the Light Brigade”

“In Memoriam”

“The Charge of the Light Brigade”, page 2

page 1 of 2

Complete Text

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 dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
   Someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s 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
   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.
Flash’d all their sabres 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 sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
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.
When can their glory fade ?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

Summary

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: “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.”

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.”

The soldiers struck the enemy gunners with their unsheathed swords (“sabres 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” any more.

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.

The world marvelled 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.

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Tennyson's Poetry

by marnie94, April 11, 2013

This essay provides a close reading of Tennyson. (Look for it towards the end of the essay.) I wrote this in my first year at uni.

http://marnielangeroodiblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/poetry-makes-nothing-happen/

Good luck, and follow the blog too!

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5 out of 8 people found this helpful

Slight Corrections

by Authoclaese_Feldspar, August 19, 2013

Part IV is 6 stanzas in length (not 5 stanzas as stated here) and the "Shalott/Camelot" rhyme is deviated from twice in Part III - 'Lancelot' is the first B rhyme of the first stanza and the second B rhyme of the fourth stanza. It's all about the detail!

Nature, red in tooth and claw Tennyson

by crosswords1, October 17, 2013

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