"The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Tennyson - War Poetry

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War Poetry Coursework,

By Matthew Stronge.

War Poetry is written to express a writers feelings towards war in general. Some writers express total glorification of the war, while others convey the inanity of confrontation.

One of the poems that I have studied “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson is a poem that tells of a 19th century battle between the British and the Russians during the Crimean War in Russia. During this war, Great Britain, France, and Turkey were fighting against Russia. This battle was particularly disturbing because the lightly armored British, obviously misled, charges a line of heavily armed Russian artillery unit.

The poem describes how many soldiers died due to a mistake made by a commander, a message was perceived incorrectly, and many died. They all charged straight into the centre of the Russian artillery unit, and two thirds of them were massacred in minutes. The remaining soldiers managed to realize the mistake and retreat quickly. The poem seems to describe the heroism and patriotism of the soldiers… Although many died because of an obtuse mistake.

Repetition is an important element of poetry. “Rode the six hundred,” shows the importance of the soldiers as a unit (stanza 1). A small group of soldiers like these must be elite. Only six hundred men of the British army were lucky enough to be part of this special force. “Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon in front of them,” show the power of the opposition (stanza 3). The repetition is used by Tennyson to reinforce the feeling of action. It is also used to bring the battlefield to life. “Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air,” brings about suspense. The repetition creates suspense by leaving a pause in the poem. The use of the word “flashed” more than once makes it stand out in the poem. Repetition makes poetry more intense and captures the readers attention. Imagery is another important poetic device that Tennyson uses masterfully here. “Stormed with shot and shell,” shows the bravery of soldiers (stanza 3). This use of vivid vocabulary brings about the feeling of action. It also adds suspense by intrigiung the reader. When Tennyson writes, “Plunged in the battery-smoke,” he portraits the courage of the troops (stanza 5). The troops had to be brave to charge into the unknown. These men were willing to die without fear. “Right thro’ the line they broke,” shows the victory of the cavalry. Through courage and fearlessness, the soldiers succeeded in battle. The men were persistent and finally came through. Intense Imagery makes the readers mind dream and envision what is going on, and Tennyson uses it perfectly. Symbolism is an element of poetry where something may have more than meaning. For example, when Tennyson writes, “Into the valley of death,” it has two meanings (stanza 1). One meaning, is that the troops are going into a valley. The other meaning is that the troops are going into a battle for their lives. Another is example of symbolism is when Tennyson writes, “Into the mouth of hell”. The reader knows that the soldiers really are not going to hell. The soldiers are really going into a battle that is being compared to hell. When he writes, “Forward the Light Brigade!”, it is meant to have a double meaning. It is meant to show the signal to the troops that the battle has begun. In addition, it is used to draw the reader in by marking the start of the real action of the poem.

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Tennysons attitude towards the soldiers is one of great respect. He seems to feel that the soldiers did an admirable job, even though two thirds of the men died, and no advances were made. He also seems to glorify the war, making the reader feel sorry or proud for their country.

I feel that the poem portraits war in all its glory, according to Tennyson, war is great and heroic. He tries to make people feel that the soldiers died patriotically for their country, I feel the poem was used by important figures to try and cover up the horrific ...

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