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Lord Alfred Tennyson, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

1854

'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

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  • Intro

    Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire in 1809, and became one of the most famous poets of the Victorian age. ‘The Lady of Shalott’, which was written in 1832, is one of his most notable early poems. The Lady lives an isolated life in a tower on an island outside Camelot, under the spell of a mysterious curse that prevents her from looking down upon the city: the only way she can experience the outside world is through the shadows reflected in her mirror. The poem prefigures Tennyson’s later concern with the retelling of Arthurian myth, and its central character has been seen as a defining image of Victorian womanhood.

     

    ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ belongs to a very different world. It is a vivid account of the disastrous attack led by Lord Cardigan at the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854, and draws attention to the contrast between the foolishness of the generals and the heroic actions of the soldiers as they ride ‘into the valley of death’. Its dactylic metre and rousing tone emphasise the soldiers’ bravery. The poem was published less than 2 months after the events it depicts, and was distributed in pamphlet form among the troops in the Crimean War.

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