Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to the chapter “Charge of the Light Brigade” which is a part of the Class 12 English syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).
Summary: The poem Charge of the Light Brigade describes the story of a brigade of 600 soldiers that rode on horseback for half a league into the “valley of death”. An order was given to charge the enemy forces who were seizing their guns.
Despite knowing that their commander had blundered, there was no one discouraged or disheartened. According to the military, soldiers must obey and not respond… As a result, the horsemen rode into the “valley of death.”
Several cannon shells were fired upon the 600 soldiers on both sides and in front of them. Nevertheless, they rode bravely into their own deaths: “Into the jaws of Death / Into the mouth of Hell / Rode the Six Hundred.”
In awe, the world watched as soldiers struck the enemy gunners with their unsheathed swords (“sabres bare”) and charged forward. The Cossacks and Russians were annihilated as they rode into the smoke of artillery and broke through the enemy line. Afterwards, they rode back from the offensive, but they had lost many men and were no longer “the six hundred.”
The soldiers were fired upon from behind and on both sides by cannons. Only a few soldiers and horses survived as the brigade rode “back from the mouth of hell.” Their bravery stunned the world at the time; indeed, the poem Charge of the Light Brigade relates that these noble 600 men are still worthy of adulation today because of their bravery.
A. Read the lines and answer
1. Theirs but to do and die
a) Who is ‘theirs’ in these lines?
b) What are they not to do?
c) What does this tell about ‘them’?
Answer: a) ‘Thiers’ refers to the Light Brigade’s 600 British soldiers.
b) The soldiers are not to respond, nor are they to question.
c) This explains the duties of a soldier. A soldier must simply carry out orders without questioning authority.
2. Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d
a) Describe the scene of war as evident in these lines.
b) What did the soldiers do despite being attacked by cannon from all sides?
c) What, according to the poet, did the world do?
Answer: a. When the soldiers crossed the enemy’s border, they were surrounded by cannons that volleyed and thundered to their right, left, and behind them. They could hear the continuous and simultaneous explosion of a bomb and gunfire.
b. Despite cannon fire from all sides, the soldiers rode bravely forward. They broke through the enemy border line by striking the enemy gunners with their bare sabres.
c. According to the poet, the world looked on in awe because the soldiers fought valiantly despite their captain’s error. The entire world marvelled at their daring charge.
3. Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
a) Explain the phrase ‘jaws of Death’.
b) Describe what the poet calls the ‘mouth of Hell’?
c) Why do you think the poet repeats the line ‘Rode the six hundred’ at the end of the first three verses?
Answer: a. The poet used the phrase “Jaws of Death” to describe how the soldiers, who were outnumbered and surrounded by the enemies and their powerful weapons, were on the verge of death on the battlefield. They were in such a precarious situation, not knowing whether they would return alive or dead.
b. The poet refers to the battlefield as the “mouth of Hell.” As they fought against the enemy army, the soldiers witnessed the most horrific and lethal moments. In the war zone, the soldiers witnessed massive destruction, bloodshed, pain, and suffering. He claimed that the war itself is hell.
c. The repetition of the line “Rode the six hundred” at the end of the first three verses reinforces the meaning of the phrase “Rode the six hundred.”
4. When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
a) Whose glory is referred to in the first line? Why will their glory never fade?
b) What is the world wondering over?
c) Why does the narrator call the soldiers ‘noble’?
Answer: a) The first line refers to the glory of the six hundred British soldiers of the light brigade.
According to the poet, the Light Brigade’s glory will never fade because they were brave and bold. The poet wishes to immortalise the bravery of the Light Brigade soldiers.
b) The world is in awe of the bravery of the Light Brigade soldiers who fought against the Cossacks and Russians.
c) The narrator refers to the soldiers as “noble” because they demonstrated high moral principles. They were brave and courageous, not questioning even when they knew someone had made a mistake.
B. Think and answer
1. Even after realising that their commander had ‘blundered’, the soldiers kept charging forward. Write a note on the soldiers as portrayed in the poem.
Answer: The Light Brigade soldiers are portrayed as brave and courageous. Although they were aware of something going wrong, they didn’t contest the military order. The Light Brigade, which was unarmored, launched a frontal assault on a heavy artillery battery. Their mission was to do and die. As a result, they obeyed orders and rode into the Valley of Death. As he describes the battlefield where the soldiers were doomed to die if they rode boldly, the poet emphasises the bravery of the British soldiers. They were surrounded on three sides by cannons and attacked with cannons and guns, but the British soldiers were still able to strike the enemy gunners with their swords and charge at the enemy.
They rode boldly into the artillery smoke and broke through the enemy line, annihilating their Cossack and Russian adversaries. As they rode back from the offensive, they had lost many men and had become “not the six hundred.” Tennyson refers to them as the Noble Six Hundred, and he wants people to remember and honour the soldiers of the Light Brigade. Even today, the soldiers are worthy of honour and tribute, according to the poem.
2. The leading themes of the poem are warfare, courage, death, duty, respect and reputation. Find one instance from the poem supporting each theme.
Answer: There are several themes in this poem. Warfare is a recurring theme throughout the poem. A battle is depicted in The Charge of the Light Brigade. The poet takes his time to paint a vivid picture of the soldiers’ confusion, bloodshed, terror, and heroism. The lines “charge for the guns” and “sabering the gunners” indicate that the poem is about a war. The poem is not only about warfare, but also about the bravery of the Light Brigade’s unknown soldiers. The line “Into the Valley of Death” tells the readers about the soldiers’ bravery. Even though they were aware of the danger, the soldiers charged for the enemy. This poem also addresses the subject of death.
The poem Charge of the Light Brigade contains several phrases that support this theme. The phrases “the valley of Death,” “the jaws of Death,” and “the mouth of Hell” all conjure up images of evil, death, and decay. The tragedy here is that the Light Brigade soldiers died as a result of a blunder.
The theme of death is present in every stanza of the poem. The poem also mentions the soldiers’ duties. The lines “Theirs not to reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die” describe a soldier’s duty. It is their duty as soldiers to fight. Even though they knew the order was a mistake, the Brigade couldn’t question their superiors. Their mission was to live and die. Another theme of this poem is respect and reputation. Tennyson wrote this poem to honour the memory of the Light Brigade’s unknown soldiers. He concludes the poem with the line, “Honour the Light Brigade.” Because of Tennyson’s poem, the memory of the Light Brigade will live on.
3. War never does anyone any good. Do you agree with this statement? Elaborate.
Answer: The poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s most famous poems, written in memory of the English soldiers who died in the Crimean War. It is a memorial to the 600 soldiers, glorifying their bravery.
The effects of battle on soldiers are less well known, but one thing is for sure: war never brings peace and harmony. Instead, it brings with it loss, death, and destruction. War accomplishes nothing. It’s all about upheaval and conflict. The sole purpose of war is to occupy someone’s territory, murder the opposing team, and destroy buildings and possessions. War is unconcerned about people’s lives. War kills not only the enemy, but also innocent people who have nothing to do with the conflict. The death of innocent people can never be justified.
Take, for example, the Second World War 1945 conflict between the United States and Japan, which resulted in massive destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two US bombings killed thousands of people, the majority of whom were civilians.
Thus, war creates horrific and terrifying images that only highlight the darkest and ugliest aspects of people, the environment, and the world. As a result, it is never beneficial to anyone.
Ron’e Dutta is the Co-Founder and Editor of Online Free Notes. He is a journalist, a blogger, a creative writer, and a teacher. He is currently writing his first thriller novel on time-travelling. Read the prologue of the novel here. Connect with him on social media.