Monday, December 9, 2013

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

 Detail from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Thomas Jones Barker (1815-1882).  Barker's famous painting of The Charge of The Light Brigade depicts Lord Cardigan amongst the Russian guns with the 13th Light Dragoons and 17th Lancers. 

Just a quick post  about Alfred Tennyson's poem, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' published on this day in 1854 in a magazine called The Examiner. The magazine was giving a retelling of British involvement in the Crimean War. The Crimean War fought 1853-56, involved both British and French military forces fighting Russian expansionism for control over the Ottoman Empire. Tennyson, then Poet Laureate wrote his The Charge of the Light Brigade in response to The Examiner's article. 

In 1854, Alfred and his wife Emily were enjoying their life at their home Farringford on the Isle of Wight. Their first born son, Hallam was two years old and Emily was pregnant and about to give birth to their second son, Lionel at the time 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was published and the Crimean War was happening.  "Shortly before Lionel's birth Tennyson had built a hut of rushes for Emily to lie in shelter looking at the downs. 'Sitting there we heard the sound of the cannon practising for the Crimea. Their booming sounded somewhat knell-like.' Emily vowed that the first songs she would teach her sons would be patriotic ones, and the mood of the house may be judged by little Hallam's war games in which he would roll on the floor and say, 'This is the way the Russians fall when they are killed.' Tennyson was so moved by the newspaper account that on 2 December he wrote 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' in one sitting and sent it off to John Forster at The Examiner, where it was printed on 9 December. Tennyson was worried that the number of men riding into the valley of death had actually been 700 rather than the 600 mentioned in The Times, but he and Emily decided that the metre was more important than numerical accuracy. Despite his worries about the quality of the poem it was an instant success, and within a few months Tennyson was sending 1,000 copies to the soldiers at Sevastopol for their inspiration."  (Tennyson The Unquiet Heart A Biography by Robert Bernard Martin, pg. 381).

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (1809-1892) with his wife Emily (1813-1896) and his sons Hallam (1852-1928) and Lionel (1854-1886). Albumen print circa 1862. Oscar Gustave Rejlander.

To read Tennyson's handwritten poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade

2 comments:

Kevin Marsh said...

Hello Kimberly,

How interesting what can be achieved when one is enthused by something so exciting as the charge. Of course at the time of writing it would have been thought the Light Brigade was invincible and the horrors of the slaughter would not have even been conceived.
It's also interesting to note the boys in the photograph lookeing awfully like girls, as was the way in the Victorian era amongst the rich and privileged.

Thank you for posting.

Regards

Kevin

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Kevin,
I was struck by the fact that Alfred Tennyson actually sent copies of his poem to Russian soldiers. The clothing of Tennyson's boys is always a subject for discussion. To think it was the fashion of the day or just what they liked! As well as the long hair! I think its charming,though!

Thank you and Farewell

This will be my last and final blog post. Due to my work schedule and private life, I sadly must bring this blog to a close. It is no...