Analysis of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” represents a vivid reflection of the Crimean War as a historic event. The following research will analyze the diction, style and plot of the poem in order to show the main motives of the author for writing the poem that has long become a historical reading. The research will also deal with the metrics, structure and various poetic devices used by the author for this or that reason.

Firstly, it should be said that “The Charge of the Light Brigade” deals with the Battle of Balaklava that is known to be a catastrophe and a truly disastrous event that took place during the Crimean War. It needs to be mentioned that a special diction and style of the poem represent an expression of specific venerated values of the wartime period under discussion. This poem is often viewed as highly patriotic and its structure reveals the subtle but valuable criticism of the Crimean War mechanisms and the historical ideals of that time.

To give a brief analysis of the poem, it is worth saying that the poem discussed is a highly specific reading and its major peculiarity lies in the fact that it gives precise data on the catastrophe in Balaklava. Thus, Tennyson specifies the number of warriors in the British cavalry who fought during the battle. The number of six hundred British warriors is so precise that this poem should be rightfully perceived as a historical reading. It gives readers precise and unquestionable information on various aspects of the battle under discussion. Thus, the poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson is not to be read contextually. Moreover, the author uses the word “blundered” (Tennyson 12). This word is known to have been taken from the report on the catastrophe found in a London newspaper (Timney 9). It highlights the most important historical moment to make a social commentary that would surely be of no use without the specific context.

As for the diction of the poem, it should be admitted that it is highly ambiguous suggesting the speaker of the poem is a glorifying warrior. The poem also refers to the notion of Light Brigade and encourages the readers to “honor the charge they made” (Tennyson 53). The main hero of the poem is a soldier who rides “boldly” (Tennyson 23) into the heart of the events. All of the notions used in the poem reflect the most valuable patriotic ideals of the wartime. These are sacrificing for one’s homeland and its corresponding meaning of dying honorably. In such a way, the terms used throughout the poem are highly reminiscent of the basic values of the Victorian times.

The poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson has been called the last great poem that avoids irony, which is not used in this patriotic piece of writing (Markovits 7). The poem lacks many techniques and descriptions peculiar to the war poetry of the following decades. There is not even a sign of a bitter tone or some graphic imagery present in the later poetry; these motives are absolutely absent in “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

However, the author of the poem uses specific words that unconsciously change the meaning of the whole poem and do not allow considering the poem a simple propaganda of the glory of the war. Tennyson writes, “All the world wondered” (31) directing these words to the men that were blindly and unconsciously riding into the very heart of the Death valley. In this part of the poem, the word “wondered” is of great importance expressing certain ambiguity. According to some interpretations, this word refers to common people of Britain who have been astonished by the courage and valor of the warriors.

Nevertheless, the word “wonder” may also have a less patriotic meaning expressing doubt or curiosity. The connotation of the word becomes even more complicated when it comes to the assumption of the author that “someone had blundered” (Tennyson 12). Thus, instead of feeling astonishment at the courage of the warriors and pure glory of the battle, the readers find themselves questioning how a single mistake could be responsible for such a great number of innocent deaths. All this leads to a conclusion that different connotations of words throughout the whole poem make the readers’ patriotic feelings undermined and somewhat overshadowed by a strong feeling of doubt.

Finally, it has to be admitted that the structure and form of the poem greatly undermine its plot. The author uses dactylic metrics. Such metrical structure is aimed at reflecting the speakers’ vision of the warriors. In other words, in spite of the “wild charge” (Tennyson 51), the soldiers are doomed to be halted by the enemies. The author also uses the technique of shortening the fourth dactyl, similarly to the way the lives of the soldiers are destined to be shortened. Although dactylic metrics is known to be used for writing humorous and light-hearted poems, but the discussed poem can in no way be perceived as such.

In conclusion, the sacrifice of the soldiers in the poem and in reality has certainly been a solemn deed. The poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson somewhat satirizes such historical event as the Battle of Balaklava instead of glorifying it. The author invites and encourages readers to perceive his poetic writing in the historical context so as to understand certain values of that time period. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” undoubtedly has a great value and represents a framework for the whole historical poetry of the 20th century.


Works Cited

Markovits, Stephanie. Giving Voice to the Crimean War: Tennyson’s “Charge” and Maud’s “Battle Song”. Victorian Poetry, 2009: 481-505. Print.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. New York: Castle House, 2005. Print.

Timney, Meaghan. “Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. University of Victoria, 26 Oct. 2010. Print.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: August 11, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]
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