A Heroic Fools Errand

August 25, 2018

It is hard to begin to understand the level of personal sacrifice that our forefathers were willing to make on the basis of their beliefs and values.

 

As a schoolboy, we would be taught about the futility of war and the madness of men willingly dying for King and Country.

This message was taught through the exceptional poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. And while it is important to teach children about the dangers of propaganda and the grim reality of sacrifice it is also vital not to rob them of the concept of heroism, patriotism and the idea of fighting for something greater than yourself.

And so while the following poem is often mocked as a piece of work glorifying War and Empire, it is also important to remember that it was once much loved and celebrated. 
 

In my view, there is currently a deep vacuum of stories such as these to inspire young men who are trying to find a purpose in their lives. Far from contemporary society having to worry about thousands of men blindly sacrificing their lives for ideals larger than themselves, we instead have a crisis of men no longer being inspired by any ideals outside of that of narcissism.

 

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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