Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' Mr Bruff AnalysisMay 03, 2023
hello everyone and welcome to this video we are going to discuss the
chargeof Alfred Lord Tennyson's Light Brigade so when I first saw this poem I was a bit down because I thought oh it's just a very pro-am poem simple praising the bravery of the soldiers in this battle, I always think that in order to access the higher marks and in the exam, you must be able to see things in different ways to offer alternative interpretations if you just say that you know this is used and this is which is why it's a very simplistic approach because of course we don't really know that we don't have the poet there to tell us that we're right, but I've put about 10 or 12 hours of study into this poem and I've come up with a couple of different ones. lines of
analysisthat I think are really helpful so now I think so this is going to be a very good
analysisnow everything I say in this video and you can see it's a long video where it's coming from my guide mr.
Brooks guide who's my last touch is another poem so you don't need to write it all down you can watch the video then go and pick up this ebook for three pound 99 it contains everything I'm going to say so please do yourself. please pick up a copy and you really support me too so first we are going to look at the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson himself now i have made a 30 minute biography video on
tennysonthat if you click his picture on the screen , it will take you to that video if you want more detailed information, but when we're studying a poem, we really only need to see the details of a poet's life that were important in helping us understand the poem so for Tennyson and the burden of the Light Brigade there are a number of important biographical details to note number one was born in 1809 died in 1892 this makes him a victorian poet and he is the quintessential victorian poet who basically lived and died around the same time as the reign of Victoria and It is therefore often argued that he is the number one Victorian poet.
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alfred lord tennyson s the charge of the light brigade mr bruff analysis...
He came from a middle-class family that often suffered from poverty, particularly in the early days of trying to make it as a poet and he was engaged to a lady named Emily, he actually ended up marrying her, but at a time when he was very poor. due to his failures in trying to get his start as a poet, Emily's father forbade the marriage, saying no, you know I can't. I advise you not to be able to marry her, you are too poor and I think that is important because there is an underlying sense of criticism of the upper class that we see in Tennyson and his poetry, which would certainly have been heavily influenced by that in 1850 by this once a very rich very rich poet i mean a great poet famous at this point he lets you know ten thousand pounds a year of his poetry which was huge in those days he was appointed poet Laurette now this is a role that we still have today where poets were expected to write verse on occasions of national importance so obviously the
chargeof the Light Brigade was one of those times and it tells us why perhaps he wrote the poem about it this is a position he held for the rest of his life. today the poetess Laurette is only a brief role of several years Carol Ann Duffy, the current poet laureate, but in this time in Victorian England you played this role until you died.
Critics say Tennyson had written his best poetry before he was the poet and afterwards he wrote many uninspired verses now the indictment of the Light Brigade was written in his role as poet laureate and you can decide for yourself whether you think you know well or not so those are the important contextual details let's talk a little bit now about the historical context of the crimean war now for one thing this is really tricky because you won't need to write about the war itself on the exam but the poem is completely grounded in this war. story of the charge of the Light Brigade, so we need to briefly understand about the Crimean War and I think British attitudes towards the Crimean War are important to our understanding of the poem, but I appreciate that this part is a bit small. like a history lesson and trust me i spend hours listening to radio shows and podcasts and documentaries on this topic and you know i'm going to try to condense it but it's all in the book and here we go so the crimean war took place between 1853 and 1856 was a war against Russia that Britain joined in 1854 fighting alongside France Turkey and Sardinia essentially Russia was trying to take over Romania and Britain was involved out of fear because Britain felt that if Russia if its power would extended could take control of India and the Suez Canal and therefore influence control of our trade routes and our trade with India which is why Britain got involved in the war and it is important to note that it was a very unpopular war, there was public doubt and skepticism as to why the UK was involved as well as some well known mistakes that were made at the highest levels of command which frustrated the British public a bit like the Iraq war we had recently , there was a sense of why we go and get involved in this war, it's just what it has to do with oil it has to do with business and why our young people put their lives at risk so now the program that focuses on the battle of the balaclava and the image that you can see on the screen is kind of a map of it and that took place on October 24, 1854.
Now listen, there is a lot of speculation as to what exactly happened and why of who was the mistake general view during a siege at sevastopol the russians had taken a beating from the british and were retreating they were falling back but as they withdrew it became apparent they were trying to take or steal some heavy weapons he was ordered to mount the Light Brigade to protect the weapons now the Light Brigade, as the name suggests, was composed of
lightly armored troops on horseback and the cavalry were the soldiers of the highest social status the sexes of the army, which was the most expensive to enter, this helps us understand from the upper upper class critique you know the cavalry was the fancy soldiers in part because those were the only soldiers that could be in the cavalry because you had to buy your own horse at least one you had to buy everything the team etc As a result, many of the working-class troops disrespected the cavalry, particularly considering the fact that they often failed to engage in battle.
They were led by Lord Lucan. They were often called Lord mira because it was criticized that they never got involved. and that's not their fault, the stated goal of the Light Brigade cavalry was to work as reconnaissance and mopping up defeated opponents, they were not meant to be used for stationary charges, now three of the people in charge in the battle were Lord Raglan Lord cardigan and Lord Lucan these three men were wealthy upper class men who bought their way into control and had no real experience in leading the war and this is also important when looking at criticism from the upper classes that we can possibly interpret in the poem for Lord Raglan to send the order to the Light Brigade to guard the heavy guns to travel and prevent the Russians from taking these big guns, but there was a mix up in communication somewhere between the three right leading leaders and the Brigade Light instead charged into the enemy artillery at the end of the valley so they went to the wrong place and charged down through a valley because they were in the valley and couldn't see where they were supposed to go so they they just charged what they thought they were supposed to charge and it wasn't the right thing to do it wasn't a retreating troop it was the Russians on three sides of the valley with artillery with guns shooting at them and instead of retreating the Light Brigade kept going go ahead, they were committed to it. and they were shot to pieces by the enemy and they charged in all about 600 of them and even when they reached the end of the valley those that were still alive faced the Russians who used muskets and they themselves had only their sabers their swords and more than one hundred and fifty were killed with another one hundred and fifty wounded in what was a tragic and futile mission now at the same time this was a historic period that is now known as the birth of war reporting and for the first time, news reporters, for For example, from the London Times, they would go to war zones, they would write about the battles, they would talk to the soldiers, at this time there was no censorship like there is today, they literally just wrote about what happened and the news. of this charge by the Light Brigade got into the newspaper here that we see this newspaper report is the same one that Tennyson read and William Howard Russell writing for the London Times described the event on 14 November and you can see this in the e-book Lo I have written everything in there but essentially it talks about the blunder, the blunder of leadership that led to the death of the soldiers and here it says that the British soldier will do his duty even to certain death and is not paralyzed by the feeling that he he's the victim of a horrible mistake this snippet here Tennyson read a horrible mistake and said he couldn't get it out of his head that sentence horrible mistake he walked around with that in his head for days the horrible mistake because of Of course the situation is the Light Brigade .
It was a futile mission. They would. They would. They were doomed. i see it in the poem and decided to write a program about it now its interesting to think if this is a positive or negative poem. I am going to present two lines of research and they are not mutually exclusive, we could argue. that the poem praises the bravery and honor of the soldiers but questions and criticizes the mistake of the leadership and that's fine but the whole situation was a public relations nightmare the british public might read the report as a criticism of the classes high commits basically who they are would come out of it thinking the aristocracy is pointless they can't do anything right you know they screwed it up and when this story broke in the uk the public read it and were outraged in fact florence Nightingale had read the article. she decided to go to the Crimea and help Tennyson read it and she sat down to write this poem.
It is argued in a single session and partly in his role as a poet. Larette might have felt that this is the right thing to do. I need to raise public. Cheer up, I need to praise and honor the bravery of the soldiers, the whole event could turn into something positive if the focus was on the bravery and courage of the soldiers, glorious in defeat, yes we lost, but we never gave up and that guy from the stiff upper lip of british british beliefs and although that sort of thing and that actually leaves us with a very simplistic analysis of the poem praising the bravery of soldiers and can cover this in class there are plenty of words to do with what great they are. they are and I don't need all that kind of thing, but there is another interpretation in which we can read the poem as a critique of the upper classes and a critique of blind obedience to power.
Victorian society was all about hierarchy, you follow the lead. you know you don't question it and that could be questioned in the poem, but in the exam your ability to offer alternative interpretations is key, so in this analysis I'm going to look at the poem in terms of the positive and I'll look at it in terms of the negative and we will look at language and structure and form and most students and classroom teachers analyze language the importance of words in helping you get the highest grades on the test I I am going to spend most of my analysis analyzing the form and structure, which are the hardest parts that most people struggle with, but before I do, let me give you a simple translation of what is going on in this poem, a line by line translation, so a la league is a mile and a half so what i do is you can see the verse on the screen six verses is no coincidence there were 600 soldiers one verse hits 100 i'll just tell you what it means so this first verse is basically saying a mile and a half a mile and a half we have to go another mile and a half we are almost in danger of death 600 soldiers of the
brigadeare riding here they told us to advance and take up arms in almost Certain death rode the six hundred first two is actually saying that the cavalry was told to press on.
Was anyone scared? No, although they knew that someone had made a mistake in giving the order. It wasn't his job to answer. It wasn't his job. questioning the order in which their job was to win or die trying, so they rode to near-certain death. The next verse actually means that there were cannons to the right and left of them and in front of them and the cannons were firing at them. and the soldiers were being brutally attacked, but they rode bravely and they rode to almost certain death to utter despair. they swung their swords at the enemy soldiers they charged the enemy while everyone was wondering and this word wonder is ambiguous i'll get to that later they rode through the smoke of the canyon through the line of waiting enemy soldiers and the enemy soldierswhich is the Russians and also their allies the Cossacks they fell when attacked with swords they broke and separated and then the Light Brigade came back they withdrew but not the six hundred who had thrown this verse saying they were now guns on their right and left and behind them because they were retreating and when the guns fired at them the soldiers were brutally attacked soldiers and their horses fell dead coming back from the brink of certain death coming back from the place of total destruction all that was left of them was gone the original 600 and the final verse that says when will we stop marveling at them oh how amazing they did they were all in all of them we should honor what they did honor the whole library the wonderful 600 that's pretty much it what the poem means just in case you're stuck there thinking i don't get it which is often a very valid answer when we're looking at poetry so let's start with the form now this poem is a ballad the ballad is a form historical poetry often used to be sung is a poem that tells a story and contains a refrain the refrain is like the refrain of a song a verse that is repeated regularly throughout the poem and by the Light Brigade the refrain could be argued as using 600 at the end of each stanza, there's a sense with ballads that if there's an important story to tell and you want to pass it down to future generations, you write it down in a ballad and the form has medieval roots where storytellers they would use the musicality of refrain to help others remember the stories they were telling so like I said they are important they are important stories associated with stories in other words things you should never forget and therefore the use of the Ballad form suggests that there is an element of folklore to the charge of the Light Brigade and that it is an inspiring act of bravery that should be passed down to future generations that we should never forget these soldiers and how brave they were and should always honor them and thus the use of the Ballad form makes sense, yet it is equally valid to say that Tennyson wanted the public to not only never forget the bravery of soldiers, but never forget the stupidity of aristocratic leadership and the mistake of it. blundering that ultimately caused it all to happen so that it can also be read not only as a story of praise and soldiers to be proud of, but also using the ballad form in that it is a warning that we must never forget the bug that caused this to happen, so I'm writing it as a ballad. that you'll like a ballad, pass it down from generation to generation, you know, so we don't make the same mistakes again in terms of leadership and communication and who we put in charge.
Remember that many of these Lords had never seen a battle. They were only in charge because they bought their place in that top position so if positive everything negative The ballad form works well now by far the most impressive element of the poem comes in its use of the ductility meter this is pretty hard to explain and on a quiz just so you know you don't need to explain what it is you just need to explain why it's used so I'll spend a couple of minutes explaining what it is but on the quiz I would just say you know Tennyson uses ductility I need listen because you wouldn't say the ductility meter is and you know because you have to assume the examiner knows what it is so let me explain if you look at these lines ahead the Light Brigade was there one man was undaunted though the soldier knew that someone had made a blunder not to answer theirs not to reason why theirs but to do and Danny now when we talk about meter we are talking about which syllables in a line are stressed, which are emphasized more than the others and how can see, the syllables in bold are the ones we emphasize for the light it was a man not a soul some blonde there is doing there is reading there is doing it and if you read it aloud yourself you will see that so the stressed syllables come at the beginning in the middle of each line , followed by two syllables that are mostly unstressed or maybe less stressed and once we've pronounced the stress we can see something called feet, there are only six types of feet. feet in english poetry i am trokey spondee ductile anapest and pyrrhic and a dactyl is made up of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables so this is a dactyl you can see on the screen this is the use of duck slants if we break the poem up with the slashes you can see that each line is made up of two feet of ductility and when there are two feet per line we call that too me so the poem is written in a dactylic diameter which is as complex as poetry analysis but the big question is why on your exams guys it's not enough to identify poetic techniques like you're presuming you know what they are you don't get grades so we have to link them to meaning why
tennysongoes to what? it is clearly a lot of effort to write it adapted by meter well in the positive interpretation of the poem where we see that Tennyson's goal has been to create or in the bravery of soldiers the use of ductility iMeet is quite simple to explain Tennyson wants you to fully appreciate the bravery of soldiers to feel like we are there on the battlefield with them if we can feel like we are there on the battlefield with them then we can empathize with them and understand and appreciate their bravery on a higher level so the dum dee-dum I'm so sorry the dum diddy dum diddy dum diddy dum diddy dum dum meter ductility meter reflects the galloping of horses' hooves and there is a feeling that the poem sounds like battle the use of sound in this poem is very clever I'll come back to it later now Tennyson interesting he's just an aside here he actually recorded himself reading this poem one of the earliest recordings ever made in 1890 it was recorded on wax so it's available to listen to but it's very crackling, but i was listening to it yesterday, one of the interesting things is that he starts to read very slowly and speeds up his pace as he reads the poem and this use of reading speed when combined with a dactylic diameter that reflects the sound of the horses reflects the fact that the soldiers on their horses would have started trotting slowly, remember they had a couple of miles to go down the valley and actually sped up at the end, the war reporter said even though they knew at this point they were doomed , so we could say that the use of conduits tie me to the echoes of the horses' hooves adds energy and rhythm to the poem and that combines to help the reader to empathize with the situation in which the soul has just found itself and so to feel like they are more you meet some really amazing people we also call it downbeat although with two unstressed syllables following the stressed syllables and the downbeat could be don't you also reflect the falling soldiers?
Now there is one. line that does not fit the dactylic diameter and that is the line that someone made a mistake the word made a mistake does not meet the metric rule because there is only one syllable of the first blood and there should be two, so someone made a mistake it's clearly an important line and we know it was this word he made a mistake that was taken from the original news report and we know Tennyson had it in his head and the mistake seemed to be what influenced him right in the poem so what is doing?
He is emphasizing what a mistake it is. criticizing the leadership mistake that led to this near-suicidal mission and subtly draws our attention to the mistake the word blunder means stupid or careless mistake in deliberately breaking the rules of his chosen poetic structure Tennyson subtly draws the reader's attention to his disgust at the mistake that caused the deaths, he had to do it subtly as his role as poet laureate dictates, but that is where we could also say that the dactyls create the sensation of horses galloping forward, but this fourth line is short and that reflects how the the dramatic stop the shortening reflects the dramatic stop and the shortening of the lives of the soldiers who are about to die, so it's very clever, isn't it?
This is the kind of thing I love about this poem, let's go over a few things about language to wrap up. so you can analyze the language of the poem to varying degrees of complexity you know you can say oh there's a lot of language to do with bravery it's honoring soldiers but i think we'll try to look at some more sophisticated lines of analysis there are a number of biblical references within the poem reference is made to the valley of death which of course refers to Psalm 23 the
lordis my shepherd though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death you could also think of Coolio's song though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i look at my life and realize there's nothing left, either is valid, but it's clear and victorian audiences would have noticed the biblical reference here that there's some biblical imagery and structurally by putting it in the first verse. we can say that it is important that Tennyson is trying to bring biblical images immediately to show that they are significant, so what do the biblical images mean?
Well, there are a couple of things that highlight the almost inspiring nature of soldiers' bravery. which is almost biblical in its kind of the way we should respect it and what they did there is also a reference to David and Goliath there was King David who wrote Psalm 23 talking about the valley of the shadow of death the Battle of David and Goliath took place in a valley the Battle of the Light Brigade the charge of the Light Brigade took place in a valley, so it is significant that both took place in a valley and both contained an underdog facing off against a powerful enemy David confronting Goliath the Light Brigade takes place over Russian artillery and soldiers, so the Biblical imagery is a literary allusion to the story of not only Psalm 23, but also perhaps David and Goliath, highlighting the bravery of the soldiers, one of the poetic resources used is the repetition of them so as not to respond. they not to reason their why but to do and die and when poets repeat something it's because they really want it to stick in our heads, so the repetition here is Tennyson's way of saying look, this is a important part of the poem and why that is what it is. saying well, we need to understand some of the victorian culture to fully appreciate these lines, you see in victorian england, there was a value for order and obedience to the hierarchy and we see this in soldiers but we can't be sure that this obedience blind be praised Tennyson can be seen lamenting the lack of individual freedom in the Navy for the horses questioning their unwavering obedience you know again it's almost like they're charging into the gunfire they know there's a mistake here we're going to die but it's not his job to question it, only God does and that's not the positive, you know, that's not it. they did as they were told ok they were brave and kept going but there should be a sense of this kind of freedom in the Military to not just let some fancy Lord in charge who never fought a battle in his life but he bought his way into leadership he tells you to go do that and you have to do it now let's finish with what is probably the most surprising thing about the poem there are a number of ambiguous language choices within the poem that you can interpret both positively in the sense negative, the most significant of these is the use of the word amazed in the line everyone was amazed in the positive analysis we can interpret this word in the sense of admiring or being amazed in other words, everyone was amazed by the bravery of the soldiers and that's what you know, ask you like I said, you know it was amazing, but the word ask has a secondary meaning, it can be to question, you know, I wonder why they did that and with this definition in mind we can see the can be interpreted that means everyone is wondering how such a stupid mistake could be made now that both interpretations are valid but isn't it great how tennyson's word choice allows for so many different interpretations and is there another thing to say about one for i see a lot of words in the poem they create a sense of sound they thundered they smashed they thundered they stumbled they wondered and there's an almost drum-like rhythm created through the reading of the poem and this echoes the kind of speed in the rhythm and the sound of horses thundering but there's Something else To be said now, Oxford Professor Matthew Bevis in the Oxford Handbook of British a War Poetry came up with a very good idea and the power of the Internet is amazing.
I emailed him yesterday and said can I use this in my ebook and video? and in 10 minutes he answered city s, so his idea is that all these words are used because we see an orange here, the use of the ODE sound and its phonetic similarity to the word earth er R and heard er R IDI, is say, to make a mistake to do something wrong, so throughout the poem there is a subtle reminder that a mistake was made that someone heard that a mistake was madenow as i said this is my idea this is the idea of the oxford professors because i can imagine some people think you know the effects are too far away but this is a great idea that is a reminder that there was a mistake which made someone hear that someone made a mistake and i think that's great and the last thing to mention is that the use of the word amazed contains both the positive and the negative interpretation and this again from matthew bevis this is a direct quote from his book also carries inside this is the word amazed the sound of the poems pride in men in one as in won you know they won because even though they lost the battle, there was the pride of what they did along with their awareness of futility of his death in ered tanin this word i wonder can you say there is a positive and a negative interpretation the one is the positive that bird is the negative that is from the oxford handbook of british and irish war poetry by matthew burma in 1997 oxford university Press if you feel like reading it really really smart, so that's the end of the analysis.
I hope you find it useful now guys please subscribe to the channel pick up the ebook. I have a podcast on iTunes to listen to. I have 15 review guides. Amazon and mr. breathe easy but as you can see this is a great video so thanks for following i hope you found it helpful.
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