Charge of the Light Brigade - Learning Resource KS3
Notice three sets of handwriting: the main body is in Emily Tennyson’s hand, Alfred’s wife; the title, alterations and note is in Alfred Tennyson’s hand and the note to the left of the title is in his publisher’s hand. This is the second version. P60 The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854. 17.9cm. MS Single sheet folded. Copy in Emily, Lady Tennyson’s hand, with corrections and alterations in AT’s hand.
Print off the versions of Charge of the Light Brigade in this Learning Resource. Collate the best version of the poem in your opinion, listing the variants. Look at the version which now is considered the ‘final’ version. Whose is better, ‘yours’ or Tennyson’s? Why
There is an 1890 recording of Tennyson reading The Charge of the Light Brigade on www.poetryarchive.org It was made on a wax cylinder that has seen better days. Make your own recording.
Roger Fenton took a horse-drawn ‘photographic van’ to the Crimea and his 360 images of the war represent the first extensive war reportage. Find out about him.
John Bright was a radical politician who was against the war and made a speech in parliament on 23rd February 1855 against the war, when he talked of ‘the Angel of Death stalking the land.’ Find out about him.
The First World War inspired many critical poems of war. See the World War 1 poetry archive. www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit
Background Information and Resources
Charge of the Light Brigade
The doomed Charge of the Light Brigade took place on 25th October 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. About 600 lightly armed cavalry troops charged bravely to their death against 25,000 Russians because of a mistake of their commanders. Only 195 came back.
William Howard Russell was a journalist on The Times and one the earliest examples of an ‘embedded’ reporter. He despatched an article published in the second edition of The Times on 13th November, 1854 and then again the following day.
Alfred Tennyson read the report, saw the line ‘Someone had blundered,’ and was inspired to write the poem straight away. It was changed about twenty times and published in The Examiner on Saturday 9th December, 1854.
Alfred Tennyson was the Poet Laureate and so was meant to write about nationally significant events. It is interesting that he wrote a poem suggesting criticism of military leadership. The poem was published first in a national periodical, The Examiner, then in a book and then in single sheets. Many variants are held in the Tennyson Research Centre.
A very thorough analysis of the development of the Charge of the Light Brigade can be found in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’: The Creation of a Poem by Edgar Shannon and Christopher Ricks in Studies in Bibliography 1985, pp2-44.