The Charge of the Light Brigade

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charge of the light brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Introduction by Bertie.
Poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson.
Read by Richard.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.

Hello, this is Richard,

The charge of the Light Brigade is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It commemorates one of the bravest, and stupidest acts of war in history.

The charge took place in the year 1854, when Britain’s Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The British and the French were fighting the Russians in Crimea, which is part of Russia that is joined onto Ukraine and sticks out into the Black Sea. Turkey is not far away, and the allies had come to help her against The Russian Empire.

The British Army was led by a group of aristocrats who were not known for their intelligence. Two of them, Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan, were brothers-in-law who detested each other heartily.

Cardigan was 57 years old. He was well known for his wealth, extravagance, smartness, snobbery, and incompetence. In this war, he was commanding the Light Brigade, lightly armed, and fast moving cavalry who were suited to chasing down the enemy with sabres and lances. They wore little body armour, but looked splendid in their red uniforms and gold braid, especially when they sat astride their galloping horses.

At the Battle of Balaclava, the overall commander, Lord Raglan, could see the lie of the land from his position on a hill top. He wanted the Light Brigade to pursue a group of Russian gunners who were already pulling their cannons away from the battle. The task was ideal for them. He wrote down this order and gave it to a messenger who took it to Lord Lucan, who was lower down and unable to see the whole battle. Lord Lucan passed on the order to his brother- in-law. As he did so, he pointed in the wrong direction, towards a different group of Russian guns that were dug in and ready for a fight.

Cardigan received the order. He did not hesitate or question it, even though to carry it out was suicidal. Presumably he did not want to show any trace of fear in front of the relative whom he despised.

Cardigan led the Light Brigade in a mad, death doomed charge. Lord Nolan rode out in front of him, trying to call out that he was going the wrong way, but he was quickly killed.
The insanely brave soldiers galloped into a valley with 50 Russian guns positioned on three sides. Most of the brigade was blown to bits, but a few reached the guns at the end of the valley before retreating. Cardigan somehow survived, and that evening he ate a fine dinner washed down with champagne.

Six weeks after the Charge of the Light Brigade, Alfred Tennyson published his verses about the event. He was Queen Victoria’s Poet Laureate and it was his job to commemorate events of national importance. His verses celebrate the heroism of the soldiers, but of course do not mention the stupidity of the commanders who caused the catastrophic blunder.

Listen out for the galloping rhythm and smell the gunpowder.

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:
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 wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

And that was ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Bertie says that the poem has helped make the bravery of the Light Brigade famous for all time. Tennyson was great at firing off this kind of lyric, but he also wrote beautiful and romantic poems, such as ‘The Lady of Shalott’ that you can listen to, here on Storynory.com.

For now, from me, Richard, Goodbye.