The Charge of the Light Brigade Summary and Analysis – Alfred Lord Tennyson

The poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is one of the most famous poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson which was written by him in the memory of the British Soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Crimean War. Alfred Lord Tennyson was the poet laureate (i.e. one of the distinguished and recognised poets) of England.

The poem was written by the poet in order to mourn for the loss that the country suffered because of the mistake, or in other words, a blunder done by their commander. However the poem is more about glorifying their act of courage.

The poem has been divided into six stanzas with different number of lines. The final line of each stanza ends with the phrase the six hundred in order to praise them.

The Charge of The Light Brigade Analysis Line by Line

Stanza 1 Analysis

The poem begins with the phrase, “Half a leaguewhich is repeated three times which is to create a poetic effect as well as to symbolise the parade of the light brigade towards the enemy during the Crimean War. League is an old method of measuring distance and is equal to around 3 miles. Hence half a league would mean 1.5 miles.

The soldiers were commanded to march towards the enemy country which was probably 1.5 miles ahead. They were six hundred in number and according to the poet, they were marching in the valley of Death. The poet uses the phrase “valley of Death” to show that they (the Light Brigade) were soon going to be killed.

The commander, who is referred to as “he”here commands the soldiers to move towards the enemies and charge (i.e. attack the enemies) to take their guns or probably destroy those holding the guns.

Stanza 2 Analysis

The second stanza begins with the command of their leader, “Forward, the Light Brigade!” The poet wonders whether any of the soldiers of the brigade frightened because of the fatal danger ahead and answers himself that they didn’t know which the fear is, though the idea of marching towards the enemy was a blunder committed by someone (means their leader).

However, the soldiers were loyal and brave enough to neither request their leader to return back or question his command. They nothing else in mind but to fight and die for their country and hence they marched into the valley of Death.

Stanza 3 Analysis

This stanza describes the scene where they are surrounded by their enemies. The poet explains their position by saying Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them. i.e. there were cannons of the enemies which were ready to kill them.

The bullets and the shells of the guns and cannons respectively were flowing in their air. But they didn’t stop and went ahead into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of hell.

Stanza 4 Analysis

The soldiers took out their sabres bare i.e. the swords to fight the enemies. In spite of having swords, they fought with the gunners bravely and killed them. The whole world wondered as they dared to fight with light weapons while the enemies were using guns and cannons.

Crossing the border line, the soldiers then moved towards the artillery of the enemy through the dense smoke of shelling. They fought and killed the enemies i.e.Cossack and Russians. Their attacks were so fierce that the enemies trembled with fear and were torn apart to death.

After doing that, they returned back, but according to the poet, they were were not six hundred i.e. many of them died. The poet mourns here for the loss.

Stanza 5 Analysis

The five lines of the stanza 3 are repeated again to describe the war zone in which they were trapped. Many of those (the poet calls them heroes) died along with their horse, but they fought so well. They then came back from the mouth of hell, all that was left of them i.e. those who were alive.

Stanza 6 Analysis

In the final stanza, the poet asks rhetorical question “When can their glory fade?” i.e. their glory and the glorious deed (i.e. the wild charge or brave attack they made) will always be remembered by the Britishers.

The poet says that the world wondered over their achievement i.e. the achievement of those 600 brave soldiers.

Read these important questions about the poem.