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Commentary on The Charge
of the Light Brigade

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Throughout the history of humankind, wars have begun and ended principally because of political and/or religious intolerances. It matters not the precipitating reasons or incidents. What matters is the extraordinary courage, and inevitable tragic loss of life. Such was the case involving the Crimean War, fought from 1853 to 1856, which started principally over religious intolerance and quickly upset the balance of power in Europe, and concluded as a historic example of senseless butchery. As a result of this brutal killing, more soldiers perished in the Crimean War than in the American Civil War.


The classic poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, was written in 1854 about the Crimean War’s historic Battle of Balaclava. It describes the slaughter of soldiers: blatant disregard for human life in what is known as command arrogance. More than anything, this poem showcases the courage of soldiers in battle with absolute obedience to orders, in the face of almost certain death.


Just as in every war fought by the United States [and probably all wars] soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines do their duty in the very eyes of death and destruction. Witness the landings in WWII, specifically on the Island of Guadalcanal. As you read The Charge of the Light Brigade, please imagine what the soldiers went through and then fully feel the devotion to duty and the sense of purpose exhibited by soldiers as they obey orders and meet their death. To me, this is the essence of what Veterans Day is all about. Many of us came through and live our lives each day; others had different fates. They faced the ultimate challenge and test of courage and gave their lives for a cause.


The full text of this poem is below. It is a testament to courage and obedience to orders no matter what the circumstances, as any veteran will understand.


The Charge of the Light Brigade

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

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