The Charge Of The Light Brigade

by


Queen Victoria named Alfred Lord Tennyson the British poet laureate in 1850. He delivered this poem on December 9, 1854, six weeks after the Battle of Balaklava had taken place in the Crimea. The poem heralds and commemorates the courage and valor of the 600 British calvary soldiers who charged a heavily defended position against Russian forces.
An illustration for the story The Charge Of The Light Brigade by the author Alfred Lord Tennyson
An illustration for the story The Charge Of The Light Brigade by the author Alfred Lord Tennyson
An illustration for the story The Charge Of The Light Brigade by the author Alfred Lord Tennyson
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
Some one 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! 

Some historical footnotes:

The brigade was not entirely destroyed; 118 men were killed, 127 wounded, and approximately 60 taken prisoner. Only 195 soldiers were still with horses when the light brigade regrouped.

As indicated by its name, a light brigade is suited to flanking and other maneuvers where speed is important. The unit was not designed to undertake a frontal assault on a heavily armed position -- nor should they have been making it. The original order was to prevent the Russian's from removing Turkish cannons from the field. But there was a miscommunication, and the brigade was somehow directed on the frontal assault. The details of the miscommunication will remain lost to history, the officer that delivered the communication was himself killed in the first moments of the charge.

______________________

This poem is featured in our selection of Poetry for Students and 100 Great Poems.


9.7

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