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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Into the valley of Death


- The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava by William Simpson (1855), illustrating the Light Brigade's charge into the "Valley of Death" from the Russian perspective - Wikipedia

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm reading Blood and Ice by Robert Masello. Part of the story takes place in the past and one of the characters from that past is a member of the 17th Lancers of the British army, famous for its participation in the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War.

The novel I'm reading describes the charge, which was instigated by misunderstood orders. The British cavalry was cut to pieces in a Russian artillery crossfire. Here's just a bit from Wikipedia ....

The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. It is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.

I'm not sure what it is that so grabs our imagination in these kinds of military actions (famous last stands too). I recognize the courage displayed, but peace-nik that I am, I think everything gets romanticized to distract us from the often senseless carnage of war.

Here's a trailer for one of the movies about it, The Charge of the Light Brigade, made in 1968, directed by Tony Richardson, and starring Trevor Howard, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and David Hemming as Captain Louis Edward Nolan .....



And here's the poem ....

The Charge of the Light Brigade

- Alfred Tennyson

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.

Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd.
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.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!


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