The Charge of the Light Brigade

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Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in 1854 in order to commemorate the valiant effort and bravery of the 600 men who made a charge during Great Britain’s Crimean war effort. A year before the battle took place, Lord Tennyson had just been made poet laureate of Great Britain (Charge of the Light Brigade, History). The British were engaged in the Crimean war against Russia during this time period. The charge depicted in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place at the Battle of Balaklava. The British were winning this important battle, but due to confusion in the chain of command the orders given to make the charge were actually a mistake. Nonetheless, Lord James Cardigan led his six hundred men on a charge, which was considered a near suicide mission. They ended up facing around forty percent casualties. Tennyson wrote this poem not to commemorate the war effort of the British, but to praise the bravery of the men who fought valiantly and risked their lives.

The poem has an interesting form, it is in dactylic diameter, which gives the poem a rhythm and evokes the image of men galloping towards battle on their horses. The poem tells the story of the battle, while also praising the bravery of those who fought. In the first lines, “Half a League, Half a league // Half a league onward,” Tennyson creates a sense of imagery where the reader can almost picture the men as they ride towards their enemy as if the readers were experiencing it for themselves (1-2). The word “league” (1), which represents a distance of three miles leads the reader to picture the battle about a mile off on the horizon. Tennyson then uses a metaphor, the “valley of death” to depict the scene of the battle (3), portraying the idea that the soldiers were riding onward towards a suicide mission. Furthermore, this metaphor glorifies the soldiers’ valiant effort and bravery because the soldiers know they are facing a high chance of death, yet they continue...
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