Poetry

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis : The charge of the light brigade was the charge of the British soldiers which was led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the battle of Balaclava. The British soldiers were obeying the command of Lord Cardigan to charge the enemy forces that had been seizing their guns. The most surprising thing in the charge was that not a single British soldier doubted their commander’s order though later they realized that their commander had made a terrible mistake.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis

It is very clear in the poem that the soldiers were trained to obey any orders that came from their commander which is evident in the following lines:

“Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but do and die.”

The 600 soldiers broke through the enemy line, destroying the Russians and the Cossacks. Though the soldiers knew, it was not possible for them to destroy the Russians but the bravery among the British soldiers was what kept them alive. The bravery and the courage of the soldiers were something that the whole world looks up to and paid honor and tribute to the noble 600 men.

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Crimean war was one of the major European conflicts of the 19th century. It was a battle led by the British and the France against Russian expansion. The war broke out as Russia was expanding into the Danube region which in the present day in Romania which was under the Turkish. Britain and France did not like Russia expanding as they feared that they would eventually increase their region and come to British India. France and Britain targeted the Russian Naval Base Sevastopol. They targeted the Russian Naval Base to weaken the Naval Army. Basically, there were three main battles. The Battle of Alma, The Battle of Balaclava and a major Russian attack at Inkerman. There were heavy casualties. In the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” has a direct relation to the Battle of Balaclava so we will be discussing the historical background of the Balaclava war as well.

THE BATTLE OF BALACLAVA

In this battle, The Russians failed to capture the supply port of the British which was Balaclava at the Black Sea. Unfortunately, the British lost control of the supply road connecting Balaclava and Sevastopol. The three main engagements of the Balaclava war was the Thin Red Line, Charge of the Heavy Brigade and finally the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade.
The Thin Red Line was led by Sir Colin Campbell which was a charge against the Russian cavalry. Colin Campbell is said that he told his men, “There is no retreat from here, men. You must die where you stand.” Campbell wanted to form a square with his soldiers and then lead but since he had insufficiently trained men so he had to drop the idea. So, the charge went on with a two-deep firing line.
The Charge of the Heavy Brigade was led by General Scarlett which lasted not more than ten minutes. Basically, the heavy Brigade was meant to break the enemy line. The Russians could not stand a chance against the Heavy Brigade which made them retreat. Scarlett’s attack was a remarkable success. Lord Tennyson also wrote a poem called “The charge of the Heavy Brigade” commending the bravery of the soldiers and their victory.
The Charge of the Light Brigade was led by Lord Cardigan. The Light Brigade was the light British Cavalry force which included fast horses unarmoured, the soldiers with sabres so that they could get maximum freedom of mobility and speed. There was a miscommunication in giving the command to the Light Brigade so they were sent on a direct attack to a different artillery which was well prepared and had better defensive aid. Thus, the attack by the Light Brigade ended up with very high number of casualties and there were no such significant gains.
Also, Lord Cardigan had a bad temper. During the Crimean campaign, Cardigan stayed away from his troops, unlike Lucan. Cardigan and Lucan were related to each other. They were brothers-in-law and intensely hated each other. This could have been a reason why there was a disruption in the chain of command which determine a bad outcome.

USE OF LITERARY DEVICES In The Charge Of The Light Brigade

 1. Alliteration- “Sabre stroke”, “World Wonder’d”
2. Symbolism- This is used in this poem to give a deeper meaning in the context of the whole poem. For example, “Jaws of Death”, “Valley of Death”, “Mouth of Hell”.
3. Anaphora- Lord Tennyson uses this literary device to emphasize the danger that the Light Brigade is about to face. Certain repetition of words and phrases take place to stress on the subject. For example,“Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon behind them.” and “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” shows the amount of danger the Light Brigade faced and their willingness to die for their country.

A BRIEF SUMMARY

This poem narrates us the story of the Light Brigade consisting of six hundred brave soldiers who rode on horses charging against the Russians where the Russians have been referred to as the “valley of death” and the soldiers rode for half a mile. Not a single soldier doubted the command that they were given but they clearly knew their fate. They knew that their commander, Lord Cardigan had made a terrible mistake. It is evident in the following lines:

“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.”

They knew they are not supposed to doubt the orders that they are given so they made the charge. According to historical resources, their objective was to chase a Russian artillery train so they were not properly equipped with ammunition and armours, but due to a wrong command, everything turned against the fate of these brave soldiers and was sent into a direct charge to the Russian defenses. The soldiers were completely surrounded by cannons but that didn’t far them. They stormed towards the enemy bravely and struck their enemies with their sabres which were unsheathed.

Their brave charge against the superior army makes the whole world look in wonder. They successfully broke the enemy line destroying the Cossacks and the Russians. They rode back from the “Mouth of Hell” but had lost many men “not the six hundred”. Now on their retreat, they were still being attacked by the cannons assaulting them with shots and shells.

Lord Tennyson is able to create a powerful image of carnage and death among the readers. As the Light Brigade rode, back from the “Mouth of Hell” the soldiers and the horses collapsed but the remaining soldiers still seem determined and brave to make their journey back. They never showed any sign of weakness is what astonishes the whole world. This glory of the soldiers will never fade away from our hearts.

The world still admires the charge made by the Light Brigade and still stands worthy of being honoured even today. It is important that the glory of these men live within us. Lord Tennyson tells us to “Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!” Lord Tennyson, in this poem, draws a lot of repetitions and returns. A few stanzas keep repeating “Rode the six hundred” with a shocking stumble on the word “not”:“Then they rode back, but not the six hundred”

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis

The purpose of the poem was to highlight the bravery of the soldiers. Lord Tennyson continuously reminds us that “Into the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred” so that we are continuously reminded of the bravery, as the soldiers knew death was certain which shows us the idea of realism in the Victorian era.
In this poem, each line is in dimeter which means it contains two stressed syllables and is followed by two unstressed syllables. This makes the rhythm dactylic. In the poem, the stress is on the first beat gradually declines which can be related to the fall of the Light Brigade. The poem is strong and effective because of the repetitive falling meter. “Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward.” It is evident in the poem that Lord Tennyson mention about the blunder briefly as “someone had blundered”. It seems Tennyson did not want to emphasise on the fault in the army.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis: The British army was well trained and of course given proper training to avoid such mistakes. Such mistakes cannot be excused in the army as it may be catastrophic, like in the poem it is clear that there were a lot of casualties “All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.”

If the miscommunication could have been avoided then maybe things would have turned out to be better. The Light Brigade knew it was near to impossible to survive the charge, but their self-motivation, bravery made them move forward as true warriors. This aspect is mostly emphasized by Lord Tennyson. In 1850, Lord Tennyson was announced as Poet Laureate which gave him a responsibility to write patriotic poems. Maybe he did not highlight the fault in the command because he was the national poet of England and criticising the fault in command was something that may not be appreciated by the public.

CONCLUSION: A LESSON TO BE LEARNT

Historical events help us learn the past mistakes humanity makes. The courage of the soldiers shown in the battle is something we must learn. Though the Light Brigade was weak, they never lost hope and continuously fought against the Russians. This is what Lord Tennyson emphasizes the most. He also wants the people to take this as a lesson for the betterment of our own society. The obedience shown by the Light Brigade is also something that we should learn and admire upon.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade Analysis: They never raised their voice against their superior, Lord Cardigan which shows their respect and trust. But it is not always safe to do so as we see in the battle that a lot of soldiers die. If they could have gone against the command and done what was right to do, then maybe the Light Brigade would not have faced such circumstances. As mentioned earlier, Lord Cardigan was not in good terms with Lucan, his own brother in law, shows us that conflict with family members may lead to bad decision making in different aspects. Leaders must put aside all their personal grudge and make proper decisions because Lord Cardigan had control over the fate of the soldiers.

I believe this was one of the reasons why there was a miscommunication and lead to such a disaster. So, if they had a healthy family relation, maybe they could have avoided this situation. The Army is always given proper training and taught to be sure in the decisions they make. I believe if the soldiers were thought that it was not the right decision they could have retreated back. If they could have pre-planned with the decisions maybe they could have avoided the charge. Maybe Lord Cardigan ignored the rules of good decision making and could not communicate with his soldiers effectively.

There was a lack of experience among the leaders. It was Lord Cardigan’s first time leading an army of men, so naturally, the fault was expected as he had no experience of leadership in that field. Leadership is all about calmness but according to resources of history, Lord Cardigan is depicted as a man of anger and frustration. So naturally, it affects our thoughts. Lord Cardigan is not alone to blame. The other senior officers should have also cleared out the final order that came from Cardigan as he was not experienced. If the decision was checked I am sure the brigade would not have faced such fate. After all, this incident of the Light Brigade does teach us valuable life lessons.

You can read The Charge Of The Light Brigade poem by moving here.

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