The Charge of the Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Light Brigade
We're not sure how hard to push this one, but here goes: before we knew what a "Light Brigade" was, we thought this poem had something to do with actual light, like beams of sunlight. We know now that the brigade is called "light" to distinguish them from "heavy" cavalry, who played a different role in battle. (See "What's Up with the Title?" for more on this.) Still, we think it's hard not to associate the Light Brigade with a kind of holy light. Maybe that wasn't the first thing Tennyson thought of, but poetic language often takes advantage of all the meanings of words.
- Line 5: It's a pretty cool name, isn't it? They're not called something boring, like Company B, or the 10th Regiment. They're the Light Brigade, which sure makes them sound like the good guys. Think of all the things you associate with "light." Sunshine, goodness, feeling "light at heart." It's all good stuff, right? Though the Charge of the Light Brigade was an actual historical event, we think Tennyson, with a great poet's ear for language, would have recognized all of these positive associations.
- Line 9: Here's the Brigade again. We don't hear about individual soldiers like Frank and Clive and Owen. It's just a mass, like a force of nature sweeping down the valley. This poem is all about the unity of these men, their strength as a whole. The more they seem like one being, the better.
- Line 54: One last mention of the Brigade. Again, we think it's important that the Light Brigade already sounds like something you should honor. Their nobility is almost built into their name.