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    Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Exposure’ Essay

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    Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Exposure’ are two different portrayals of war through poetry. ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ is a fast moving poem made up of six stanzas with rhyming in each. The poem describes the advance made by the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava, part of the Crimean War. The Crimean war took place between 1853 and 1856 and Tennyson is one of the most important poets of the Victorian period. From 1850 until his death in 1892, he was poet Laureate, the countries official poet. The poem praises the Brigade, celebrating the sacrifice they made for the country.

    In the poem there is both the realistic depiction of the violence experienced by the soldiers and the glory of dying for their country. Exposure is a poem written about experiences during the war in winter during World War 1. His poem was a lot more depressing and looked on the more non-heroic. It talks about all the dangers of war not just the battles but it focuses on weather a lot throughout the poem, he talks about “Merciless iced east winds” and “frost will fasten to the mud” This gave us a very descriptive image of the climate during the war.

    Unlike Tennyson who based his poem on a newspaper report, Wilfred Owen actually experienced the war so he had a first hand view of what war was like. At the time of the Crimean war there was much less freedom of speech then there is now. Many poets couldn’t even get their poems published during war time to protect the government from being ridiculed for the conditions of war. So it is likely that Alfred Tennyson was told to write a poem praising the soldiers who died in the battle, however It could be just as possible that Tennyson was very awestruck by what he wrote as heroism which the soldiers showed in the war.

    When can their glory fade? ” and “Honour the charge they made! ” are just two quotes which portray the soldiers as heroes. Whatever the writer’s motives were for writing the poem he definitely conveys the idea that these soldiers are heroes. However Wilfred Owen had no ulterior motives for writing the poem, he definitely had a horrific time on the battle grounds not just because it was the place he lost his life but also just from the severe bluntness of his writing during the poem.

    The first three words of the poem are “Our brains ache” which is just the beginning of a long journey through feelings and challenges Own personally faced during the war. Wilfred Owen really wanted to convey these feelings through his poem as there was also a lot of propaganda throughout the first world war which suggested heroism and Owen wanted to write about the flip-side of that and show the real effects of war. Sometimes: “Nothing Happens. ” Both poems use a variety of ways to get their point across.

    They may use the same methods; however they use them to get their very individual messages across in. Personification is used throughout both poems however it is used most in Exposure. Personification is used so that you could relate with the setting or object which is being described so everyday verbs and adjectives are used. In Exposure it uses personification to almost intimidate us with words like “Merciless iced east winds” and “The winds nonchalance”. It gives the impression that the weather is angry and murderous.

    In Tennyson’s poem, however, uses personification to stir up emotions and keep us on edge for the heroes he writes about by saying they are going into the “Jaws of death” and “Mouth of Hell” these words also mock the enemies in the battle saying that they are the place where Hell reigns. In Exposure Owen wants to describe just how bad conditions in WWI were. So a technique which Owen uses, which Tennyson doesn’t at all, is similes. He uses two of these in one paragraph describing the sound of wind and bullets in the distance. “Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.

    Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles. Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles, far off, like a dull rumour of some other war. ” These lines link the freezing weather lingering on them and the isolation which they feel as they aren’t in a major war zone. The structure of Tennyson’s poem is a very fast moving poem which is almost exciting. There is also multiple rhymes throughout the poem; these rhymes, however, don’t seem to follow a structure. Rhymes used include “hell” “well” “shell” “fell” in one stanza.

    These rhymes usually make the reader put more emphasis on those words, this makes poets uses the more extreme words are the ones which rhyme which is exactly what Tennyson did. The rhythm used is a steady but quite fast beat which reflects on the subject of the poem where the soldiers are charging together. However Exposure has no rhythm as it leaves the reader to choose their own rhythm, Owen doesn’t use rhyming much however when he does he doesn’t use them in a regular pattern like Tennyson. Owen uses the emphasis of rhyming words to just show how bad it was living in the trenches.

    In Exposure Owen created imagery in other ways too. In his poem he uses colour to describe the scene and even emotions. “Shudders black with snow” and “shivering ranks of grey” This could just mean that there was black snow and that all the army was dressed in grey, but I think that Owen was trying to describe the bleakness and the death that reigned during war; that snow brought death which was written as black snow. Also that grey is a dull colour which could show that nothing was happening and that the soldiers were just stood their shivering and slowly dying.

    Owen also uses a few bits of onomatopoeia which is used to let people associate the images with sounds while reading the poem. He uses words like “the flickering gunnery rumbles” These words mixed with strong adjectives such as flickering can give readers an extensive sensory view of the scene Owen is describing. Tennyson used repetition a lot to get his point across; it is used to make the words stick in the readers head. Tennyson even repeats most of a whole stanza in stanza 5 from stanza 3.

    Also at the end of each stanza’s it ends with the words six hundred with a statement about them before. This showed the journey of the army. “Starting with rode the six hundred” for the first three stanza’s then goes “Not the six hundred” which goes on to say that not all of them make it and then finally the last few words “Noble six hundred” It really makes the words stay in your mind, it stirs up emotions for these six hundred people who gave their lives and saying it so many times just reminds you each stanza about these six hundred ‘heroes’ who gave their lives.

    So leading on from that I come to my conclusion; I think that both of these poems are remarkable pieces of writing which bring two different points about war and also using some of the same techniques and using them to pursue their original ideas. Personally I emphasise more with Owen’s poem as I feel that he brings a raw poem of the bad sides of war which I think is needed to show how bad war is as Tennyson just praises war. Overall though I think that both poems give due respect to people who have died in the war and that is written very beautifull.

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    Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Exposure’ Essay. (2017, Oct 11). Retrieved from

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