Alfred Lord Tennyson - The Charge Of The Light Brigade

Categories: LightPoetry

Go over the poets’ different mindsets to war, as presented in The Charge Of The Light Brigade and Direct Exposure

A more knowledgeable poet referred to as Alfred Lord Tennyson composed the Charge Of The Light Brigade. He was born in 1809 and died of old age in 1892. He composed The Charge Of The Light Brigade in response to a Paper Report from the Times, which was composed by W.H.Russel, so his understanding of the war was from second hand understanding, he was removed from the action.

Unlike Wilfred Owen, who composed Direct exposure. Owen was born in 1893 and died at an extremely young age in 1918. The reason for his young death was, he was a participant in the war and died during fight, so his was writing from his own experiences. Although Owen was a less experienced author, his poems just truly ended up being known after his death, as he had a less authorative voice.

The main resemblances in between the 2 poems is that they are both writing about wars, nevertheless both wars are from a various time and so are combated in entirely different ways.

Tennyson wrote The Charge Of The Light Brigade about the Crimean war, which was originally in between France and Russia but Britain signed up with because she fretted about her security. The Crimean war was combated on horseback, which meant that it would be over relatively rapidly. I think this because it would have been one charge, this fight would then have actually gone on till all the soldiers in one side were injured or dead.

Top Writers
Verified expert
4.7 (239)
Expert Writers
Verified expert
4 (256)
Verified expert
4.9 (247)
hire verified writer

He was very far eliminated from the action, as he didn’t even witness the war, so his poem composed is third hand. Where as Owen composed Exposure from very first hand experience. For these factors I may be able to put more value on Wilfred Owen’s poem. The First World War was contested a number of years and the soldiers invested a great deal of that time in trenches.

The mood, tone and language in each poem are completely different from the other. In The Charge Of The Light Brigade the mood is very light and gives the feeling that all the soldiers, were excited about what they were doing. This is helped by the fact that Tennyson doesn’t go into the atrocities of the war, instead writing of “When horse and hero fell”. Here he is basically saying that they have been shot down, but the way Tennyson puts it, it’s like it’s not that dramatic, when it is. In The Charge Of The Light Brigade it doesn’t really distinguish those soldiers that died in battle and those that lived, “Then they rode back, but not the six hundred”. This is what I think plays a big part in making the mood of the poem so light, as it avoids death, which is upsetting. Where as in Exposure the mood is very depressing and dismal as Owen is constantly saying how the soldiers were being attacked in different ways.

He mentions the weather attacking them, which can be seen from “in the merciless iced winds that knive us”. As well as things like the barbed wire in front of the enemies trenches, “Like twitching agonies of men amongst its brambles”. However the poem doesn’t mention soldiers attacking them, which may indicate that the weather and other things were more threatening and chilling, then the enemy. In Exposure Owen speaks of the soldiers’ pain and this is what I think makes the poem so disheartening to read, because he is trying to show how war causes suffering and reduces the soldiers. Unlike Tennyson who is trying to honour and glorify the soldiers and so making the poem seem more pleasant. However in some ways the poems are similar as the language used indicates that poets generalise and universalise all the men in the war.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade is a lot more structured then Exposure. This is because in Tennyson’s poem he talks about the different stages of the battle, where as Owen doesn’t really mention battle, it’s more about the soldiers’ suffering. In The Charge Of The Light Brigade Tennyson goes through each stage of the battle, within each individual stanza. So in the first stanza the soldiers have been ordered to start their charge. The second stanza is quite an important part of the poem, as we discover that the soldiers had been given the wrong order. However because they are so disciplined and loyal to their country, no one questions it. Tennyson is trying to glorify and honour the soldiers so he simply says, “Not though soldiers knew, someone had blundered”. In the third stanza the soldiers are in range of the enemy’s guns and in stanza four, the soldiers are forced to turn back because so many men have been killed.

Even though at this point the British soldiers are being defeated Tennyson emphasises their bravery. That takes the readers attention off the fact that they are losing so badly. An example of this is, “Sabring the gunners there”. The word sabring has been used very cleverly as it gives the reader the impression that the British soldiers were hacking away at the Russians, because Tennyson was writing the poem to honour The Light Brigade. In stanza five the British soldiers are still not out of danger despite turning back, as more Russians have come in behind them, so even more soldiers get killed.

Stanza six is simply Tennyson reflecting on their bravery. In Exposure there isn’t such an obvious structure. In stanza one Owen talks about the soldiers being attacked by the weather and in stanza two they are being attacked by the enemy’s barbed wire and it goes on like this. The weather is continually being described in different ways, one very effective way is when Owen uses alliteration, ” Dawn massing in the East her melancholy army”. There is no real progression to the poem because it mirrors what is going on in the war, as they are stuck in trenches.

The rhythm in each poem is completely different form the other. The Charge Of The Light Brigade has a very lively and energetic feel to it, this is due to its incredibly fast pace. In contrast Exposure has a very slow rhythm like the progress of the war. However in the third stanza there is a change in pace and it picks up just a little bit. This is due to the rhythm sounding like the bullets being described in the stanza, “Sudden successive bullets streak the silence” like the shells being shot in The Charge Of The Light Brigade. But the pace returns to its gloomy rhythm in the next stanza. In The charge Of The Light Brigade the rhythm of the poem sounds very much like the rhythm the galloping horses would make, this can be seen from “Half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of death rode the six hundred”. I also think that the discipline of the British soldiers shows in the discipline of the rhythm.

Each poem gives a completely different image of war, because they were written for different purposes and from different points of view. In The Charge Of The Light Brigade Tennyson uses a lot of similes and metaphors to create tension in the poem. He also uses similes to give the reader a better image of the battle and to show how heroic the soldiers were. Where as in Exposure Owen uses similes and metaphors to show how much the soldiers around him have been reduced, and the only thing they have to keep them going is happy memories. In The Charge Of The Light Brigade the first noticeable and most repeated image is “All in the valley of death”. I think that Tennyson choose to describe the charge like this because death is a very moving word. The word “all” unites the soldiers and due to the image of the extreme danger, given by the word death, shows the soldiers bravery, it also gives the idea of a big sacrifice.

Not only do we get the feeling of danger, but Tennyson also discreetly describes sounds, through the use of onomatopoeia, “Volleyed and thundered”. I think that this is really clever, as it adds realism to the poem. When Tennyson uses alliteration, the words he uses sound like the hissing of the artillery on the battlefield. An example of this is “Stormed at with shot and shell”. Tennyson uses euphemism to describe the British soldiers killing the enemy; he uses words like “flashed” and “sabring”. The British soldiers are basically killing people, but the way Tennyson describes it, it’s as if they are doing it elegantly and almost gracefully. All of these images give the main picture that the war was glorious. The reason we get this image of the war is because Tennyson hides the realities behind euphemism, unlike Owen who shows the war for what it really is. Right from the first word “our” we immediately know that it has been written from the point of view of the narrator.

Owen gives a very chilling image to the war because he has experienced it, he can say what he has seen and felt. The use of personification shows how the soldiers looked on the outside: “Attacks once more in ranks, on ranks of shivering grey”. Here Owen is talking about the weather attacking the soldiers, because the soldiers looked so grey and dull. Owen also adds “shivering” to the sentence, which could show that not only were they shivering because they were cold, but because they feel cold in their hearts like they’ve been forgotten.

Owen uses alliteration to emphasise that the men have no luxuries, unlike Tennyson who used alliteration to show the excitement of the war. In Exposure the uses of alliteration gives the reader the image that it’s as if the weather is trying to find them to put them through more distress, this can be seen from “Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces”. However I think Owen saves the most moving image for the end, unlike Tennyson who reflects on the heroism of the men during the battle, Owen shows just how terrible it is. In the final stanza Owen creates a very strong image, “Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are iced”.

To begin with it seems as though Owen is talking about the dead soldiers eyes being iced, because they are dead, but he is also talking about all the soldiers who are still alive and have to look at them. Owen is saying that in order to cope with what the soldiers have to face out in the trenches their eyes have also iced over, as they have no feeling any more. In Exposure we get the impression that it is probably easier to be dead, as you have gone to a better place and the pain and suffering stops, as soon as your spirit leaves your body. When I read Charge Of The Light Brigade I didn’t feel very much inside, because the images that were given through the use of personification and other things were glorious. In Exposure the image seemed very real, because the poet was really writing from the heart and it made me feel quiet and lonely inside.

Exposure and The Charge Of The Light Brigade both use repetition to show the reader that there have been casualties in the war. In The Charge Of The light Brigade different words are repeated to highlight different things. To emphasise the courage of the charge Tennyson repeats, “Forward, the light brigade” and “The valley of death”, which gives the idea that there is no turning back. In stanza two, three lines begin with “their”. This is used to show the discipline of the soldiers, that not one of them is questioning the wrong order. At the end of the first three stanzas Tennyson is still repeating, “Rode the six hundred”, this use of repetition gives the idea that the soldiers are still alive.

However the final line of stanza four, “Not the six hundred” shows that not all the soldiers were going to come back from the valley of death. In stanza five some of the lines from stanza three are repeated, “Cannon to the right of them”, this gives the idea that even though they are on their way back the danger still surrounds them. At the end of stanza five Tennyson has said, “Left of six hundred”. He is still repeating “six hundred”, but has changed the words in front of it, to give the idea that the number of losses was more then the number of survivors. Exposure doesn’t have has much repetition in as The Charge Of The Light Brigade, but it too has the majority of its repetition at the end of each stanza.

The repetition of “But nothing happens” in three of the stanzas and the final stanza, give the image that the soldiers are almost waiting to die. The use of repetition in this ways indicates that they feel forgotten, because they have gone out to the trenches to do a job, and they are unable to do that job properly. In stanzas five, six and seven Owen repeats, “dying” at the end of each stanza. By doing this I get the impression that not only are the soldiers dieing because they are being attacked, but their spirits are dying as well as their love for things, it’s like they have lost themselves in the strong winds that surround them. So in both poems the use of repetition sums up the casualties of war, in Exposure they are shown in a more harsh way, then in The Charge Of The Light Brigade.

Both poems are completely different in the way they portray the war, in that Exposure uses realism and The Charge Of The Light Brigade uses euphemism. The reason for there being such a lot of euphemism in The Charge Of The Light Brigade is because Tennyson wants to praise the soldiers. He also uses euphemism to hide behind the grim realities of life. A very good example of euphemism in the poem is, “Sabring the gunners there”. It is basically saying that the British soldiers were hacking away and killing the enemy, but it isn’t described like that because the aim of Tennyson’s poem was to honour the soldiers. The word “sabring” makes the British soldiers sounds elegant and sophisticated, as if they aren’t doing anything wrong.

So in order to honour the Light Brigade Tennyson hides behind euphemism. In contrast Owen uses realism in his poem because he wants to show war for what it really is. In everything he says he is very blunt and relates even the simplest things to every day horrors. By using realism Owen shows the reader that the only thing the soldiers have to keep them going are memories, an example of this is, “Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed”. This emphasises that the soldiers have no luxuries and how now they take nothing for granted, because they now realise it isn’t always going to be there for them. The reason for The Charge Of The light Brigade using euphemism and Exposure using realism, is because each writer is trying to give a different image of the war, for different reasons using these methods.

In conclusion both poems appear to be very similar when I first looked at them, however the only thing they have in common is that they are both about wars. The reason they only have this in common is for two reasons. The first reason is that both wars were completely different types of wars. The second reason and the most important, is that the writers show different attitudes towards war. In Charge Of The Light Brigade Tennyson wrote the poem to honour and glorify the soldiers that fought in the war. So the way he presents the poem, it’s as if Tennyson is saying that war is good thing to part of.

I think the other reason for him putting such a positive image on the war was because he didn’t fight in it, therefore there are no feelings included in his poem. So because Tennyson approves of the soldiers loyalty there are no signs of irony. Where as in Exposure Owen, who fought in the war, is able to include feelings. Due to having such a horrible time in the trenches, these feelings are sad and seem painful, putting war in a completely different light. Unlike Owen, Tennyson believed that no good could come from war, and although Owen is against war Exposure isn’t an anti-war poem. However the one attitude that both writers show in their poems, is that you have to fight sometimes to preserve what is good.

Cite this page

Alfred Lord Tennyson - The Charge Of The Light Brigade. (2017, Aug 23). Retrieved from

Are You on a Short Deadline? Let a Professional Expert Help You
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7