'The Charge of the Light Brigade' - Key Quotations

"Half a league, half a league, / Half a league onward,"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The opening two lines of the poem. A 'league' was a unit of measurement, specifically how far one person could walk in one hour. In England, a league was 3 miles, so half a league would have been 1.5 miles.

THEMES:

Travel; Charge

LANGUAGE:

Repetition = "half a league" is repeated three times to show the vast amount of ground the Light Brigade was covering on their horses. They are moving towards something...a battle?

"All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred."

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

References the six hundred men that made up the Light Brigade as well as the valley of Death.

THEMES:

Conflict; Death

LANGUAGE:

Noun phrase = "valley of Death" describes the location the Light Brigade find themselves in. It is a battleground, so death, violence and horror is all around them.
 

NOTE: The reference to "Death" followed by a reference to the six hundred is one that is repeated in each stanza of the poem. Tennyson changes each variation slightly to show the devastating impact of the charge on the brigade.

"Someone had blundered. / Theirs not to make reply, / Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die."

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker refers to the fact that somebody who commands the soldiers, such as a General, made a mistake which resulted in six hundred men with bayonets on horses charging at an enemy who had large artillery weapons, such as cannons.

THEMES:

Mistake; Honour; Duty; Death

LANGUAGE:

Verb = "blundered" shows that somebody made a huge error, and this error resulted in the deaths of hundreds of men.

Pronoun = "theirs" refers to the soldiers in the Light Brigade. It was not their job to respond to the order ("make reply"), or to ask why the order had been given ("reason why"). It was their duty "to do and die" for their commanders and their country, and so they did.

"Stormed at with shot and shell, / Boldly they rode and well"

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes what the Light Brigade had to face as they charged in the battle.

THEMES:

Danger; Death; Bravery; Heroism; Honour

LANGUAGE:

Verb = "Stormed" suggests power and force. In this case, the power and force of the bullets and cannons that were being fired towards them.

Adverb = "Boldly" implies courage and bravery on the part of the Light Brigade. Despite the danger and horrors that were around them, they continued to charge and did so "well".

"Charging an army, while / All the world wondered. "

- STANZA 4 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes the reality of the charge, both for the soldiers and those who were not directly involved in the battle.

THEMES:

Bravery; Uncertainty; Curiosity

LANGUAGE:

Phrase = "Charging an army" details exactly what the Light Brigade did, and this action implies two possible things: bravery or stupidity. Either the soldiers were courageous or unwise for following through with the order and charging at a far better equipped enemy. However, t is worth mentioning that if the soldiers fled from the battle in order to save themselves, they would have been killed by their own side for desertion and cowardice.

Phrase = "All the world wondered" tells us that nobody outside the battle knew what was happening. Had the brigade been completely wiped out? Were there some survivors? Had they managed to miraculously defeat their enemy? All they could do was wait.

"When can their glory fade? / O the wild charge they made! "

- STANZA 6 -

CONTEXT:

In this final stanza, the speaker addresses the legacy of the Light Brigade and their charge.

THEMES:

History; Bravery

LANGUAGE:

Rhetorical question = the speaker is asking when the knowledge of the Light Brigade's heroics could possibly fade, with it being such a massive event.

Adjective = "wild" suggests that the charge was out of control and reckless. It could be that this recklessness falls onto the army as a whole rather than the Light Brigade itself, as it was a error made by commanders that led to the disastrous charge taking place.