The Charge of the Light Brigade

January 17, 2007 at 12:19 am 2 comments

Alfred Tennyson

Listen (the poet reads – Real Player required)

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:
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
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!

The Grandfather of all War Poems. A rousing, galloping work from an age when we still believed in things like glory and heroism. At one level, it’s an insufferably sentimental poem – with only the “someone had blundered” line (so memorably used in Wodehouse) to grant relief from its grandiosity. And yet there’s something about the rhythm of it, the momentum, the pure artillery of its cantering syllables, that make this a poem impossible to resist. If poetry, as Eliot puts it, is “a raid on the inarticulate / With shabby equipment always deteriorating / In the general mess of imprecision of feeling / Undisciplined squads of emotion” then this is one of the thinnest, weakest assaults ever mounted, and yet somehow it is enough to overwhelm us, it is enough to win through.

[falstaff]

P.S. My apologies for the terrible quality of the recording, as well as for linking to something that requires Real Player. It just felt like too historic a recording to miss.

Entry filed under: Alfred Tennyson, English, Falstaff, War Poetry. Tags: .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Revealed  |  January 18, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Almost a cliche. Like how could you do the militant charge without including this poem. I actually remember my grand dad gleefully proclaiming these words to me, his favourite poem almost. Sadly, not a lost era yet. Reminds me ironically of Shakespeare’s honor bit (think it was Falstaff?)

    Reply
  • 2. Aswathi  |  May 14, 2012 at 6:20 am

    thanks for posting dis poem….. its just wat i need for my english home work…. thanks again…

    Reply

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