Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was one of 11 children born to an upper-middle class country vicar. He received a good literary education.
Alfred started writing poetry from a young age and published his first poems while still a student at Cambridge. His poems range from those focused on the legend of King Arthur to those dealing with the loss of a loved one.
In 1850 he became poet laureate. This meant he had to write important poems about events that affected the British nation. He held this post until his death in 1892, making him the country's longest ever serving laureate.

 Subject matter
The Crimean War was fought between Britain and Imperial Russia from 1853-1856. For the first time in history, newspapers carried eye-witness reports as well as detailing not just the triumphs of war but the mistakes and horrors as well.
The most significant moment in the Crimea came during the Battle of Balaclava. An order given to the British army's cavalry division (known as the Light Brigade) was misunderstood and 600 cavalrymen ended charging down a narrow valley straight into the fire of Russian cannons. Over 150 British soldiers were killed, and more than 120 were wounded. At home the news of the disaster was a sensation and a nation that had until then embraced British military exploits abroad began to question the politicians and generals who led them.

 Form and structure
The poem has a strong rhythm. For example "half a league, half a league" two light beats followed by a heavy beat expresses the sound of the horses galloping.
There are six numbered stanzas, as if each stanza is a memorial stone to 100 of the 600 cavalrymen. The length of the stanzas reflect the structure of the story.
The first three stanzas - the Light Brigade is approaching the guns.
There is a strong structure. Three lines (of three six-to-seven syllables) are followed by a shorter line (five syllables: "rode the six hundred"). This pattern suggests the strong formation in which the cavalry charge.
Stanza two – the Light Brigade has engaged the enemy so the longer stanzas describe the struggle. The structure starts to break down. The rhythm of stanza four, for example, is broken by four shorter lines, while stanza five has only two short lines (lines 42 and 48). The desperate attempt to retreat is expressed in the run of six longer lines (43-48).
Stanza six is a short, sharp conclusion written as if they are the lines we should remember the Light Brigade by.

 Language and Imagery
The language of the poem is understandably military: guns, soldiers, cannon, sabres and gunners set the scene. The power of the poem, however, comes from the careful use of imagery and sound effects.

The strong central image of the "valley of Death" (lines 3,7 and 16) refers to a well-known poem in the bible - Psalm 23 - about the 'valley of the shadow of death'. By using this Biblical allusion, Tennyson shows how important the event is.

Tennyson uses a wide variety of techniques to provide the poem with highly effective sound effects. Alliteration, for example, is used to express the sounds of battle. Note the sound of bullets in line 22 ("shot and shell").
The poem has a strong rhythm. For example "half a league, half a league" two light beats followed by a heavy beat expresses the sound of the horses galloping.

 Attitudes, themes and ideas
Tennyson's job as poet laureate was to capture the public mood and, given the poem is still so well-known, he certainly did that. But the feelings in the poem can appear to be ambiguous – in other words, can be seen in two different ways.
How much outrage is there in this poem, though? Part of its success is the way Tennyson recreates the energy of battle – "half a league, half a league". The final stanza does not express any anger at politicians and generals. It does, however, show delight at what they did: "O the wild charge they made!"
This poem is also about remembering soldiers who have died in war but it is the opposite both in its tone and its treatment of the theme. Tennyson, living at the time of the events he describes, sets out to build a monument to them in poetry so their "glory" will never "fade". Sheers is living long after the event. There is no glory here. Instead he sets out to create a small hymn so the fallen soldiers will be remembered for their own brave deeds in battle.

This poem is linked by subject matter: a soldier charging in battle. The treatment, however, is different. Tennyson creates a rich impression of the whole action from a kind of widescreen perspective (a brigade charging down a long valley). Hughes is much closer to the action he describes. He focuses on the experience of one man. So instead of exploring the impact of a military action on a nation, Hughes analyses the emotional response of an individual within a nation's war.
     Sample question
    The basic structure of any answer will be the same:
    • The introduction will explain the relevance of the question to what feelings the poem expresses and an overview of the story the poem tells.
    • Paragraph that covers form.
    • Paragraph that covers structure.
    • Paragraph that covers language (sound and verbal imagery).
    • Conclusion: You then conclude on the meaning that emerges from this.
    For each point, you need to provide evidence (a quote or reference) and an explanation.
    How does the poet present the experience of conflict in The Charge of the Light Brigade?
    Points you could make:
    • Tennyson presents the experience of conflict in several different ways.
    • He uses the form of the poem to illustrate both the battlefield he describes (the long, narrow valley) and the memorials he wants built to honour those who took part (six stanzas like memorial stones to the 600).
    • The structure of the story he tells presents the excitement of the battle: the stanzas get longer and the rhymes more frequent after the calm opening stanza.
    • He uses rhythm to recreate the sound of the horses charging and repetition to recreate the sound and visual effects of battle ("cannon" lines 17-20 and "flash'd" lines 27-28 for example).
    • He gives important lines the heavy "-erd" rhyme to emphasise his anger: "Someone had blunder'd".
    • Finally, he builds to a conclusion, in the final stanza, that suggests that the outcome of this experience is positive: the world wonders, but not as in asking a question such as 'why was the blunder made?' but wonders in awe at the bravery of the British.
    • Tennyson shows that from this disaster national heroes have been born.  (
    1. Where is the setting of the poem?
     The battlefield
    2. Which line in the poem tells us that the soldiers obeyed the order without question?
    "theirs not to reason why"
    3. Why do you think the line "Rode the six hundred" is repeated many times in the poems?
    to emphasise that the 600 soldiers sacrificed  their life on that day in the battlefield 
    4. Give one quality that you admire about the soldiers. Give a reason for your response.
    Loyal as they follow orders.
    5. What is the command given to the soldiers?
    to charge forward and fight the enemies
    6. Give an example of a metaphor used in the poem.
    the valley of death 
    7. Which line in the poem tells the reader that the command was a mistakes?
    someone had blundered
    8. What do you think is the outcome of the battle? Support your response with evidence from the poem.
    Many soldiers die. The phrase into the jaw of death shows that many of them will die in the battle.
    9. In stanza 1, who is speaking to the soldiers?
    the leader/captain
    10. In stanza 2, what does the  line, "theirs  but to do and die" tell us about?
    the soldiers are loyal and courageous
    11. What happened to the soldiers in stanza 3?
     they were attacked by the enemies
    12. What emotions does the poem evoke? What do you feel as you read it? Support your response with evidence from the poem.
    Sympathetic. full of sympathy as many soldiers die in the battlefield.
    13. In stanza 2, which phrase in the poem means to go forward over a set distance?
    "Forward the Light Brigade"
    14. What were the soldiers told to do when they rode into the valley of death?
    "Charge for the gun"
    15. Why do you think the soldiers followed the order even is it would cause their death?
    They are loyal
    16. Despite being attacked from all sides, the soldiers continued on. What consequences would the soldiers have to face if they decided to retreat? Provide reason for your answer.
    Death.The soldiers should never go against the leader and always follow  orders
    17. Why do yo think the persona asked whether there was " a man dismayed"?
    some of the soldiers are not courageous and have weak heart/ will/spirit
    18. There are many jobs today that require people to be brave. Give another example of a job that requires bravery. Provide reason for your answer.
    Policeman. They need to fight for justice.
    19. In stanza 2, which word in the poem means 'made a mistake'?
    " blundered"
    20.  What is the theme of the poem?
    21. What is the Light Brigade?
    a division in the army
    22. Give one example of personification used in the poem?
    "the jaw of death"
    23. What does the Valley of Death symbolises?
       battlefield/a place where battle/ war  takes palace/ a place where army fight enemies/ a place where armies  fight enemies and many of them die
    24. Which word in Stanza 2 means "mistake"?
    25. How many soldiers were involved in the war?
           600 soldiers
    26. Suggest two ways to protect your country?
    1. Be patriotic
    2. Cherish these natural wonders/cherish the natural resources/ cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage for your children and your children's children. 
    3. Be loyal to one's country
    27. How do you feel about war? Provide a reason to support your response.
     I dislike war. Many people die in the war.

    1. About which war was "The Charge of the Light Brigade "written?
    The Crimean War
    2.        According to the first stanza of "The Charge of the Light Brigade", how many British forces rode into the battle?
    Six hundred

    3.       In stanza one, what does the phrase “the Valley of Death” refer to?
    The valley where the British soldiers rode/ the battle occurred/battle field/ battle field where the army died

    4.       Why do you think the poet refers the valley as “The Valley of Death”?
    It is because the soldiers knew that they were going to lose in the battle and they would die.

    5.        Why did the soldiers ride to their death?
    They had to obey their commander’s order.

    6.       In stanza 1, what was the light brigade ordered to do?
     They were ordered to move forward on a frontal assault against a well-armed Russian soldiers/ to attack the Russian soldiers

    7.       What kind of weapons did the Light Brigade have?
    Spears, swords and bows

    8.       What weapons did their opponents/enemies have?
    Cannons, rifles

    9.       In stanza 2, what does the word ‘dismayed’ suggest?
    It means to lose your courage/ to be overcome by terror or sadness

    10.    Did the British soldiers feel discouraged? Why?
    No, they did not. It was because they were carrying out their duty and if they were to die, they would die with honour/ They  had to obey the command of their leader.

    11.    In stanza 2, what does the line “Someone had blundered” suggests?
    The commanding officer had made a stupid and clumsy mistake by ordering them to charge the well- prepared Russian soldiers/ the leader had made a mistake in giving order

    12.    Write the meanings of the following lines:
    i.                     Theirs not to reply :
    The soldiers must not talk back to their commanders.
    ii.                    Theirs not to reason why :
    They must follow the orders without asking why.
    iii.                  Theirs but to do and die:
    All they could do was to ride and fight and possibly die in the battle.

    13.    Who won the battle?
    The Russian soldiers
    14.    Give two adjectives to describe the six hundred men?
     Courageous/ brave/ noble/ heroic/ loyal/ patriotic/obedient
    15.     In Stanza 1 the phrase valley of Death means
    Death awaiting/to die/no escape from clutches of death
    16.     In Stanza 1 which word means “to advance”?
    17.    In stanza 2 who has made the mistakes that caused the tragedy?
    The leader of the troop/ the commander/ office in-charge
    18.    There are many ways to show our love towards our nation. Suggest two ways.
    i.                     Contribute towards nation building by being a good citizen
    ii.                    Be united and uphold justice in our country.

    19.     If you were in the army and your commander told you to fight in a battle where you would most likely die, what would you do? Why?
    20.    Do you believe that war is sometimes necessary? Why?
    21.    Is it noble to follow orders without asking questions? Why?
    22.    From Stanza 1, what was the command given?
    Forward the light brigade
    23.    From Stanza 2, which line shows the evidence that the soldiers had followed orders?
    Theirs not to make reply/theirs not to reason why/ theirs but to do and die
    24.    From Stanza 2, where do you think the battle take place?
    In the Valley of Death
    25.    Why do you think the soldiers had blindly followed orders? Give your reason.

    A part of training