University of Virginia Library


Page 1

"The Charge of the Light Brigade": The Creation of a Poem
Edgar Shannon and Christopher Ricks

To millions of people in the English-speaking world 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is Alfred Tennyson's most familiar poem. Yet few are aware of the care and craftsmanship, as well as of the exigencies, that led to the creation of this classic. It is a story that has remained ambiguously and incompletely told. His son, Hallam Tennyson, has recorded that an account in The Times of the astonishing action of the Light Cavalry Brigade in the Crimean War inspired Tennyson to write the poem; but there was more than one article in The Times about what has now become that famous charge, and no one heretofore has examined The Times carefully to discern how the poet drew upon it. Furthermore, the text went through some twenty states before it reached its nearly final form. Fortunately, manuscripts, proofs, and letters that have survived in libraries and private hands both in England and the United States make it possible to trace in considerable detail the skill and tact—themselves illuminated by a major temporary lapse—with which the artist perfected his work.


It was on 25 October 1854, in the Battle of Balaclava, that the Light Cavalry Brigade suffered grievous casualties and made itself immortal, and to speak of the Charge of the Light Brigade is already to pay tribute to Alfred Tennyson. On 13 November 1854 a leader in The Times, telling the British public of 'the attack on Balaklava' and 'the terrible form of a splendid self-sacrifice', declared: 'The British soldier will do his duty, even to certain death, and is not paralyzed by feeling that he is the victim of some hideous blunder'. Those last three words moved Tennyson by their substance and their cadence to create the line which his son came to believe had actually figured in The Times: 'Some one had blunder'd' (12).


Page 2

The next day, 14 November, The Times carried both a further leader, on this 'fatal display of courage which all must admire while they lament', and their special correspondent's account for 19-28 October (headed as having 'appeared in our second edition of yesterday', so that Tennyson may have read this too in his copy of the paper for the previous day). William Howard Russell, the first war-correspondent and probably still the greatest, reported vividly and poignantly the Brigade's 'desperate valour'.

'On Dec. 2nd', Hallam Tennyson was to report, 'he wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade" in a few minutes, after reading the description in the Times in which occurred the phrase "some one had blundered," and this was the origin of the metre of his poem.'[1] This statement gives the impression that Tennyson read the description in The Times on 2 December and wrote the poem forthwith, but his wife, Emily, is no doubt correct in saying that it was composed 'as a recollection of the first report in The Times'.[2] The earliest extant manuscript (MS1), which is in Tennyson's autograph, does not have the opening four lines, beginning 'Half a league, half a league,' or the final stanza.[3] The second manuscript (MS2) is largely in the hand of Emily Tennyson, though the title, some corrections, and the last six lines are in Tennyson's hand, as are the signature 'A. T.' and a footnote about the number of participants in the charge: 'Written after reading the first report of the Times correspondent where only 607 sabres are mentioned as having taken part in the charge'. This manuscript Tennyson and his wife sent to John Forster, the editor of the Examiner, on Wednesday 6 December, with the following letter:

Dec. 6/54 My dear Forster

If you like to put this into your paper put only A. T at the foot. Six is much better than seven hundred (as I think) metrically so keep it & put the note I have made at the bottom.

I have no time to add more. the post just going. only if you do not put it in this week let me know as I may alter it for the next

ever yours with our
A Tennyson


Page 3

[Postscript in Emily Tennyson's hand] If you think that Stanza crossed out "Half a league, half a league["] would begin the poem better than the present beginning will you put it [in] please? Make it begin "Half a league half a league["]—as a separate stanza if not omit the stanza altogether.[4]

Already Tennyson, with that conscience about accuracy which some critics have found ludicrous and some of us find not only personally honourable but the condition for certain kinds of poetic achievement, was perturbed about the discrepancy in numbers among the accounts in The Times.[5] His instruction to Forster, 'put only A. T at the foot', presumably arose from the paradox by which a passionately patriotic poem, of all things, might prove not to be decorous for a Poet Laureate.

On the next day, Thursday 7 December, Tennyson posted another manuscript (MS4) to supersede the one of the previous day:[6]

Farringford Freshwater I. W. Dec 7/54 My dear Forster

You will get this amended copy in time for your paper. If you print it print it exactly as written. I have only retained 'valley of Death' in one instance when the


Page 4
ear has got accustomed to the metre, & whatever other alterations there may be, believe that I have good reasons for them & print as I said exactly what is sent last. There is no objection to your keeping it another week if you have any suggestion to make.

You would have been amazed at our notes yesterday. They were written in such a scuffle. A caller came & sat talking in our last 10 minutes before the letters went. Our boy has to run a mile to the P. O. in the village & then the Postman has to walk 5 miles to the post-town & he won't wait for the boy.

ever yours
A Tennyson

[Postscript in Emily Tennyson's hand] Alfred has just bid me say he begs you will by no means put the ballad in if you do not think it good. Then the fact of the numbers We do not know what it is Would it be well to add a note & say this *ballad [interlined] was written on the computation first made by the Times? Forgive all this trouble we have given you. (TRC)

On the same day, 7 December, Forster—who had received the previous day's manuscript—had it set in type for the Examiner, made a few proofreader's marks on a proof (P1) to correct the compositor's errors, and sent the proof to Tennyson. This and MS4 crossed in the mail.

Another proof (P2) having been pulled from the same type as P1, Forster at first made on P2 the same few marks as he had made on P1, and then on Friday 8 December (after receiving Tennyson's letter of 7 December, with MS4), he corrected P2 to conform to MS4, presumably giving instructions by word of mouth to abolish the indenting of lines, since such instructions do not appear on the proof. On the morning of Saturday 9 December, Forster had the next proof (P3) before him in its clean, uncorrected state.

In the meantime, Tennyson had received P1, had deleted 'No man was there afraid' (between what were to become lines 53 and 54 of the final authoritative text), had made two other substantive corrections, and had returned this proof with his letter of 8 (misdated 9) December:

Freshwater I. W. Friday ['Nov' deleted] Dec. 9h/54 My dear F.

On receiving the printed ballad I wished that my 'order' (my last) had been 'blundered' & that the first edition had stood—never mind—I have corrected

Flash'd all their
Flash'd all at once—

wh you can adopt if you have Time, & if you approve it.

I send back the proof but I should like it back again.

ever yours affecly
A Tennyson (TRC)

When this letter arrived on Saturday morning, Forster revised P3 to return to the text of P1 as corrected by Tennyson, including making markings for re-indenting thirteen lines of the poem. The compositor accomplished all the changes in time for the printing of the Examiner


Page 5
that day, 9 December. Forster returned P3 to Tennyson and apparently sent a clean proof (which has not survived and presumably was identical with the text in the Examiner) from the finally corrected type. Forster's letter of 9 December reflects a justified pride:

58 Lincolns Inn Fields 9th Decr 1854 My dear Alfred Tennyson

That you may see how determined I was to carry out your order without a blunder—though I may say I disapproved of its suggestions, which, if you had persisted in them, I would not have said—I enclose you the proof which was before me this morning when your letter arrived.

But by a sharp effort there was time to try back again—and here you see it is done. I am particularly glad that Mrs. Tennyson thinks with you, with all of us, the original version the best.[7]

I will send her a dozen slips of the ballad printed on good paper either on Tuesday or Wednesday next. (It is not until one of those days that the types are 'released' from the forms of the paper, & available for separate working). By tonight's post I send you two Examiners.

How I value this noble ballad, I need not say—how proud I am to print it first, and that my old friend sent it to me, I must say. I hear little of you, but again & again I think of you, & never have I done it so often as of late—never, with a throbbing heart, have read of those fights of heroes at Alma, Balaklava, and Inkermann, that I have not been eager for you to celebrate them—the only man that can do it up to their own pitch—the only 'muse of fire' now left to us that can of right ascend to the level of such deeds. —And now you have done it—have at any rate begun![8] . . . (Yale)

No sooner had Tennyson received his copies of the Examiner than he began tinkering with 'The Charge'; for a short manuscript (MS5) survives, consisting of nine lines (represented by final lines 32-38), in which he rewrote three lines of the Examiner text and added four new lines to the poem. These alterations Emily Tennyson dutifully copied onto a copy of the Examiner (E1); and they were conveyed to Forster in time for him to incorporate them in the text of the slips that he printed from the Examiner type after the forms were unlocked. Three of these


Page 6
duplicate slips (P4, P5, and P6) are extant; one is clean, the second has several autograph revisions, and the third has extensive trial and rejected autograph emendations as well as others—in both the poet's and his wife's hand—that entered and remained in the text.

The next phase of the poem's story, which is embodied in a further proof (P7) and culminates in Tennyson's publishing an enfeebled version of the poem in Maud, and Other Poems (1855), may well have begun with a visit to Farringford of the American poet, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, 12-15 January 1855. It has often been said that Tuckerman should be credited, or rather discredited, with Tennyson's weakening of the poem, especially as to the deletion of 'Some one had blunder'd'.[9] But Tuckerman's letter to Tennyson of 22 February 1855, soon after returning to the United States, clarifies his role:

One incident of my voyage which interested me greatly I must however recount. Do you remember my quoting some lines one evening from a newspaper and objecting to the rhymes "blunder'd" and ["]Hundred", thinking it should read "blundered"? I had then seen exactly three lines, and knew nothing of the connexion. Judge then of my surprise at discovering the whole poem in an American paper, with your name attached. I read it with a mixture of astonishment and delight and think it a most noble performance, the finest irregular Ode ever written upon the grandest subject. The repetitions too are wonderfully effective and I cannot help hoping that this poem will not receive any alterations. (Of course I refer to your general habit of retouching your poems and not to any remarks of mine). (Harvard)
That Tuckerman had not known that the three lines were Tennyson's when deploring them to their author has its tang. But what is more important, Tuckerman's reverting to the poem does amount to a retraction. For he now 'cannot help hoping that this poem will not receive any alterations', and the parenthetical courtesy which follows is a diffident disclaimer along the lines of 'Not of course that anything I said. . .'. Such courtesies often lend a cryptic tone to such exchanges, but a straightforward reading of Tuckerman's letter (unbiased by the tradition of blaming him) would suggest that, though Tuckerman had indeed (the previous month) expressed disapproval of the rhyme in those three lines, he was now—on reflection, and knowing the whole poem and its authorship—moved to oppose (studiedly, politely) what he knew would be Tennyson's intention to re-write. Feeling some responsibility for Tennyson's having become dissatisfied with the lines, Tuckerman does not want anything that he had said (based on inadequate knowledge of the poem) to be a contributing or reinforcing factor in any drive towards revision.


Page 7

But the Laureate did not heed Tuckerman's restraining plea—though a later letter to Tuckerman makes clear that Tennyson remembered it and came to wish that he had (see below, p. 10). He had a propensity to be discomposed by criticisms, and others had seconded Tuckerman's initial unease. When Tennyson collected the poem, under his full name now, in the Maud volume (published by Edward Moxon five months later, 28 July), not only was the final stanza re-written, but the eight lines which included the repeated 'Some one had blunder'd' were gone.

Tennyson had arranged for Moxon to send Tuckerman an advance copy of the book, and wrote him (?8 July 1855): "You will find in my little volume 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' with the 'blunder'd' that offended you and others, omitted. It is not a poem on which I pique myself but I cannot help fancying that, such as it is, I have improved it" (Harvard). Tennyson might more justly have spoken of 'the "blunder'd" that [had once] offended you'. And the turn of Tennyson's subsequent words—'but I cannot help fancying that [our italics], such as it is, I have improved it'—while acknowledging what might be felt on the other side, is itself an echo of the phraseology in which Tuckerman had expressed his resistance to Tennyson's predilection to revise: 'and I cannot help hoping that [our italics] this poem will not receive any alterations'.

Not piquing himself on the poem, the author, soon after he received copies of Maud, and Other Poems marked a copy (Historical Collation, 55a) in a way that manifests a decision (temporary, as it proved) to drop 'The Charge', by drawing a vertical line through each stanza of it. That he did so shortly after receiving copies is clear from his changing in this copy a colon to a semicolon — a correction sent by Emily Tennyson in a letter to Moxon on 1 August (Harvard); for, once Tennyson learnt of the Crimean soldiers' enthusiasm for the poem, he would not have contemplated dropping it.

Early in August 1855 began the ensuing phase of the development of the text, in which Tennyson promptly acknowledged that the poem should never have received the alterations in the Maud volume. On 6 August, acting upon an animating letter from Benedict Lawrence Chapman on 3 August,[10] Tennyson wrote to Forster and, it would seem, enclosed an autograph manuscript (MS6) that is essentially a fair copy of the third duplicate slip printed from the Examiner type (P6):

My friend Chapman of 3 Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn writes to me thus:

'An acquaintance of mine in the department of the S. P. G. as he calls it—Society for the Propagation of the Gospel—was saying how a chaplain in the Crimea sent by the Society writes to the Society (neither he nor the Society being suspected of any Tennysonian prejudices)


Page 8

"the * greatest service you can do just now is to send out on printed slips Mr A. T's Charge at Balaclava. It is the greatest favourite of the soldiers—half are singing it & all want to have on black & white—so as to read ['it' deleted]—what has so taken them"

Now my dear Forster you see I cannot possibly be deaf to such an appeal. I wish to send out about 1000 slips; but I don't at all want the S. P. G. or any one else to send out the version last printed: it would, I believe, quite disappoint the soldiers. don't you live quite close to the S. P. G.? Could you not send Henry over to say that I am sending over the soldier's version of my ballad & beg them not to stir in the matter? The soldiers are the best critics in what pleases them. I send you a copy wh retains 'the light Brigade' & the 'blunder'd' & I declare I believe it is the best of the two & that the criticism of two or three London friends (not yours) induced me to spoil it.[11] For Heaven's sake get this copy fairly printed at once at once [sic]—& sent out. I have sent it by this post likewise to Moxon but you are closer to your printer's. concoct with him how it is all to be managed; I am so sorry that I was not in town to have done it at once. I have written a little note to the soldiers which need not be sent — just as you like — it might be merely printed from A. Tennyson.

Please see to all this: & see that there are no mistakes; & I will be bound to you for evermore, & more than ever —

Yours in great haste
A Tennyson

* thus underscored in the original
P.S. I am convinced * now after writing it out [interlined] that this is the best version. I have told Moxon to call on you—(TRC)

At the same time, Tennyson sent to Moxon another fair copy, this one in his wife's hand, on which he had made two small corrections (MS7). The next proof (P8) was set from this manuscript, and both it and the quarto broadsheet that went to the Crimea (Historical Collation, C) were struck from Moxon's printers' (Bradbury and Evans) type and not from Forster's for the Examiner. The 'little note to the soldiers', after minor revisions (see Historical Collation), finally read on the Crimea broadsheet:

Having heard that the brave soldiers before Sebastopol, whom I am proud to call my countrymen, have a liking for my Ballad on the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, I have ordered a thousand copies of it to be printed for them. No writing of mine can add to the glory they have acquired in the Crimea; but if what I have heard be true, they will not be displeased to receive these copies of the Ballad from me, and to know that those who sit at home love and honour them.

ALFRED TENNYSON. 8th August, 1855.

All of this asked for tact; on the sheet which has a draft of this message, Emily Tennyson noted: 'It would be pleasant to write to the soldiers only one is afraid it looks too regal to do so—' (TRC). On 7 August, Chapman wrote to Emily Tennyson:

It will be but civil to acknowledge your two notes, though I have nothing to say that Moxon will not have said better than I can say it.—It was quite right to


Page 9
have the Newspaper version—or as near as may be—We were very much afraid that the 'blundered' would have been omitted in your copy—Moxon called on me today on the way to the printers. He seemed quite to go with the spirit of the thing and take it up quite hearty—would see that everything is done by Thursday. He is to send it to the SPG, and the SPG would send it on—why not 2000 says the sanguine and sanguinary Moxon? It is very kind of you and Mr A T to take so much trouble about these low fellows. (Yale)

The next day, wishing no time to be lost, Tennyson spurred Forster on:

Moxon reports that you are out but I suppose the duties of your Examinership have recalled you to town before this. I write to tell you that I think the letter should not go along with the Poem: let that be despatched by itself.

In case the letter be already printed on the same slip as the Poem then of course it had better go as time I think would be lost in rearranging the printed ['types' deleted] form; & my desire is that the soldiers should have it as soon as possible. (TRC)

On the same date, he prodded Moxon:

Chapman reports that you said 'why not 2000 slips?' another 1000 * or more [interlined] let be sent afterwards if the Secretary thinks they are wanted: they might be sent now if the printing another 1000 did not delay the sending of the first; but I am anxious that the soldiers should have it at once. (Mr. Richard Garnett)

Gerald Massey had written a favourable critique of Maud, and Other Poems in the Edinburgh News and Literary Chronicle on 28 July 1855,[12] and had sent a copy of it to the poet. In it Massey had applauded one of the revisions of 'The Charge' in the new volume and had deplored another:

The present version omits the "Down came an order which some one had blundered," which we are glad of, as it was neither true nor poetical. But we miss the last lines— "Oh, the wild charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade!
Noble six hundred!"
which, we submit to Mr. Tennyson's consideration, is a fine and necessary conclusion.[13]
On 11 August, Tennyson wrote to Massey and enclosed the latest text:

Many thanks for the Critique in the Edinburgh paper which I suppose you sent me. . . .

I trust that you got a copy of a Maud which I sent you, inscribed. I believe you are quite right as to the conclusion of the Charge. I send you a copy of that version of it which I have just transmitted to the Crimea. . . . The Chaplain of the Society wrote * to the Socy [interlined], 'You can do no greater service just now than to send out copies of the Charge on slips for the army to sing. Who could resist such an appeal? This is the soldier's version & I dare say they are the best critics. (Johns Hopkins)


Page 10

A letter from Charles Edward Hadow, Off. Chaplain to the Forces in the Crimea (received 14 October),[14] duly expressed fervid thanks, and gratefully accepted Tennyson's offer of a further 1000 copies.

Tennyson did not forget Tuckerman; on 17 October, Emily Tennyson wrote to him:

I enclose you the soldier's copy of 'The Charge.' I think you will like to hear two thousand of it have been printed for my husband and sent out by him to our Army in the East because the senior chaplain wrote that half the men were singing it and all wished to possess what they so much admired. (Harvard)
To his own part of this letter, Tennyson added a postscript: 'You are quite right about the Charge. I was overpersuaded to spoil it'.

The Laureate was now in no doubt about the damage that the revisions for the Maud volume had done to the poem and about the validity of his rectification. He used the same turn of phrase in a letter to William Johnson Fox, 25 October: 'The Charge I was overpersuaded to spoil. I send you a copy of that which I sent to the Crimean army at the soldiers' own request' (Harvard). Ruskin wrote Tennyson on 12 November, acutely lamenting the most important of the misguided revisions: 'I am very sorry you put the "some one had blundered" out of the "Light Brigade." It was precisely the most tragical line in the poem. It is as true to its history as essential to its tragedy.'[15] But by this time three months had elapsed since Tennyson had reinstated the line, though now with the value of a single instead of a double instance.

The text of the proof (P9) for the second edition of Maud, and Other Poems, like that of the second edition itself (1856),[16] corroborates Tennyson's


Page 11
satisfaction with the state to which he had now brought the poem, for they both in all instances (substantives and accidentals) follow the quarto broadsheet. After 1856, there were six changes in accidentals, and the final text (as in the Eversley edition) was reached in the single volume Works (Crown edition) published by C. Kegan Paul in 1878. Four occurred in this 1878 edition, one in Volume III of the Imperial Library edition, 1872, and one in the eighth edition of Maud, 1862.


The Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington was characterized by a resolute abstention from naming.[17] Nowhere in this tribute to the Duke of Wellington, other than in the title, did his name appear. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' practises a similar abstention, and for a further reason: as well as wishing to praise truly, it truly wishes not to blame. Hence Tennyson's matured change of mind as to the one personal name which he had made figure in the poem as first published. For the Examiner had had the lines:


Page 12
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
'Take the guns,' Nolan said: [5-6][18]
Clearly the Laureate had written these lines under the immediate influence of The Times, which not only had picked out but had picked upon Captain Lewis Edward Nolan, the flamboyant member of Lord Raglan's staff who delivered the Commander-in-Chief's order to Lord Lucan (the Commander of the division composed of the Light and Heavy Cavalry Brigades), and who was the first officer to die in the charge. The leader of 14 November had referred to Nolan as having recently 'published his opinion that cavalry could do everything in war, storm any battery, break any square, whether supported or not';[19] and Russell's dispatch in The Times, 14 November (for the dates October 19-28) had twice referred to 'Captain Nolan' and had given an extended account of his 'excellent work, published a year ago, . . . [in which] he entertained the most exalted opinions respecting the capabilities of the English horse soldier. Properly led, the British Hussar and Dragoon could in his mind break square, take batteries, ride over columns of infantry'. According to Russell, when Lord Lucan, upon receiving a written order from Captain Nolan, asked, '"Where are we to advance to?" Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, "There are the enemy,[20] and there are the guns, sir, before them; it is your duty to take them, or words to that effect, according to the statements made since his death'.

But Tennyson came to realize that to name one name was to risk a descent into that world which his poem was to rise above—the world of wrangling, recrimination, and indignation. Tennyson, like any good citizen, had no difficulty, though much pain, in compacting admiration at the soldiers' courage with indignation at military incompetence: 'I can sympathize with your genius', he wrote to a correspondent whose identity is now unknown, 'but not at this hour with any song of triumph when my heart almost bursts with indignation at the accursed mismanagement of our noble little army, that flower of men.'[21] But as the author of this


Page 13
poem, he believed that indignation would demean admiration. The poem, after all, names no individual for praise.[22] It never even names the place where the charge happened, as if attention were not to be diverted for even a moment from the courage contemplated, so that the site stands starkly and darkly as what The Times (leader, 13 November) called it—'that valley of death'. But Tennyson's substituting the definite article particularizes the place, and his capitalizing of 'death' into 'Death' at once personifies it and makes it monstrously, mechanically, abstract.[23]

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' does name the foe—'Cossack and Russian' (34)[24] —partly because for once the foe was not England's traditional national enemy, France; although France was a threat in the 1850's, as Tennyson's patriotic poems insist, in the Crimea it came about that France was England's ally. To name only 'Cossack and Russian'—and once only—was to bring home that the poem is so entirely English as never to need to name its allegiance; its very language, the English language, is enough to establish its proud patriotic vantage-point.

These refusals to name give a special salience to that name—not that of an individual or a place or a nation—which does ring through the poem: the Light Brigade.[25] This form, the Light Brigade, is much more compact, more light (as well as more rhythmically amenable), than the full name 'the Light Cavalry Brigade' used all but once in The Times. Tennyson in his title announces the streamlined name. It is urged forward in stanza I, 'Forward, the Light Brigade!' (4), and then is reconsidered, in exactly those same words, with a contrasting movement in stanza II, where 'Forward, the Light Brigade!' (9)[26] is now to be heard differently, poised with something of a backward look (ruminative, echoing and awed) in contemplation of the command that has just been


Page 14
heard. Only in the last but one line of the poem does the name return: 'Honour the Light Brigade' (54).

The earliest manuscript had no title for the poem. The Times never once referred to the military action as 'the charge of the Light Brigade,' though the leader on 14 November spoke of 'its charge'. The verb the newspaper did use powerfully, writing of 'the whole brigade' that 'It charged batteries, took guns, sabred the gunners, and charged the Russian cavalry beyond' (leader, 13 November); and Russell described eye-witnesses as thinking: 'Surely that handful of men are not going to charge an army in position?'

Tennyson's title—in advance and conclusively—sums up the poem even while standing slightly and duly apart from it, since 'Charge' is in stanza I an imperative—'Charge for the guns!' (6)[27] —and appears in stanza IV as a participle—'Charging an army . . .' (30) (Tennyson adapts those words of Russell's in The Times just quoted). Only in the last stanza of the poem does 'charge' become the noun for which we have been waiting ever since the title, a noun that is gravely and wonderingly repeated as its qualifying adjective falls away:

O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made! (51-53)
The earliest manuscript (MS1), in not having the final stanza, lacks such a destination, and one of the misjudgements that Tennyson made (P7, Maud volume)—before reverting to the Examiner's conclusion—was to annul the climactic rightness of 'the charge' by replacing the six lines of the last stanza with four that did not speak of the charge at all.

Tennyson's revisions excised rank as well as name, since there too the divisive world of recrimination might take over. His strong silent emphasis was to be upon the commonalty of courage, not upon rank. Hence his not resting content with the line '"Charge," was the captain's cry' [5-6] (P7, 55), itself revised from '. . . the leader's cry' (P7); for in such a military action there was some question as to who could fairly be described as the 'leader'—Nolan delivered the order and spoke peremptorily when Lord Lucan questioned it, the latter ordered Lord Cardigan to execute the charge, and Cardigan, as the commander of the Brigade, led it.[28] The word 'captain' would have pointed not only to Captain


Page 15
Nolan but also to explicit considerations of rank. Tennyson's final choice (MS6):
'Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said: (5-6)
—leaves the 'he' wisely unspecified. The effect in this opening stanza then is both like and unlike the unnamed 'he' in the opening line of 'The Lotos-Eaters': '"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land'. For the 'he' of 'The Lotos-Eaters' must be known to be Ulysses, the famous man who commands the whole poem, whereas the 'he' of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' does not—in a poem which is very different from the newspaper reports that precipitated it—invite identification. Of course this utterance is an order; but Tennyson came not to want the word 'order' itself explicitly in his poem.

He preferred to establish the authority of such a military order by having the only words of direct speech in the poem—and this he understood from the outset, since no variants furnish any other instances of direct speech—be this one imperative moment of the direct words of command, '"Forward, the Light Brigade! | Charge for the guns!"'; a moment which is then weighed deeply, heard again not just said again, at the start of stanza II ('"Forward, the Light Brigade!"'); and which is then finally echoed in what, though it is not at all the same kind of direct speech, is directly and imperatively speech from the poem's own commanding authority at the very end:

Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred! (53-55)

Tennyson's temporary decision to alter the opening of stanza II to read, not '"Forward the Light Brigade!"', but 'Honour the Light Brigade!' (MS3-4, P2-3), was doubly wrong: it removed that exact repetition, from stanza I, which gravely paused in contemplation of what the command was to mean, and it prematurely anticipated the act of honouring, instead of having it be truly won (in the military action and in the poem's progress) and therefore truly conclusive, proudly there as a parallel to, not as a repetition of, the opening command.

The only exclamation-marks in the poem, even as it records such an astonishing feat of courage, are those at the beginning and end: the command to the soldiers, and then the vocative—'O the wild charge they made!' (51)—followed by the command to the patriot-reader to honour these soldiers who obeyed such a command. Tennyson's revisions were a submission to the discipline that would so position and so limit the


Page 16
exclamatory. There had not always been exclamation-marks for the initial commands, and there had been in 1855 (P7, 55) the reduction at the end of the poem to the one, '"Honour the brave and bold!"' [50]. On the other hand, there had been (MS4, P2-3) a strident exclamation-mark at line 12:
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd!
—instead of the flat stoicism, grimly transitional, of the colon after 'blunder'd' (MS1-3, P2-3). Likewise with the brief ill-judged use of an exclamation-mark in line 38 (MS4):
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred!
instead of the chastened finality of the full stop. The noun 'order' worked against unquestioned authority, and Tennyson revised away (P6) the two lines of 1854:
For up came an order which
Some one had blunder'd. [4/5(3)-(4)]
so that there remained only the two lines which in the next stanza had paralleled them:
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd: (11-12)
He did so because 'order' was gratuitous, as well as because of the inappropriate innovation of the construction, to blunder an order. The sense was clear, but the idiom strange, such as to draw attention to itself. The word 'soldier' too, could then gain perfect introduction; it does not disguise the necessity for command, since the soldier's contrastive 'Some one' is clearly a superior officer, but the word 'soldier' does unify the Brigade, since although a soldier is not necessarily an officer, an officer is necessarily a soldier. The original leader in The Times (13 November) glimpsed the truth of this when it said, in the sentence that spurred Tennyson into writing the poem, 'The British soldier will do his duty, even to certain death, and is not paralyzed by feeling that he is the victim of some hideous blunder'. (Neither 'victim' nor 'hideous' could figure in Tennyson's stoical uncensorious poem.) But elsewhere in the leader in The Times, a divisive turn of phrase occurs: 'when officer and soldier felt themselves hurried to their doom by some inextricable error, they still kept their ranks . . .', where 'officer and soldier' sound as if they are keeping their ranks in an unintended caste sense.

The fact that 'Nolan' became 'he' is a reminder that, in a poem which does not name, pronouns will take command. 'He' sets in motion the


Page 17
Charge of the Light Brigade—both in the war and in the poem; thereafter the third-person singular disappears within what is overwhelmingly—indeed, exclusively in its pronouns—a third-person plural poem. The movement is from the 'he' of stanza I; to the 'Their's . . . Their's . . . Their's' of stanza II;[29] likewise on to stanza III ('them . . . them . . . them . . . they'), and to IV ('their . . . they . . . they . . . they'); then to stanza V, which is a crescendo, not only as mustering more ('them . . . them . . . them . . . They . . . them') but also—uniquely in this very They poem—as granting the word the simple headship of the line: 'They that had fought so well';[30] and so to the last stanza ('their . . . they . . . they'). Nothing is here for the other pronouns: not merely no 'he' again, but never a 'she' or 'you' or 'I' or 'we'.

The feeling of awe at indeflectible courage, of which we the onlookers (distant in place but not in spirit) can be proud but which is not ours, is created by this pronominal single-mindedness, a counterpart to the singlemindedness by which six hundred acted as one man at the command of one man. Tennyson did not himself achieve this result at one stroke. He introduced 'as they turn'd' for 'all at once' in 'Flash'd as they turn'd in air' (28) as late as MS6 and MS7; and three wordings, which were at odds with what became his pronominal discipline, he changed. '"Take you the guns"' [6] (MS1) was unfortunate in that it could sound as if it were exempting the speaker from the military action;[31] and Tennyson also thought better of his two ventures into the first-person plural. The 'our' of his revision of the end of the poem for the Maud volume [50-55] ('Yea, when our babes are old'), is weak, and offers no sufficient compensation for breaching the poem's dignity of they, as well as having a certain clumsiness: 'Yea, when our babes are old— | How they rode onward'. They, the Light Brigade, not they the babes; and anyway, 'when our babes are old' has its own further awkwardness; when they are old, they are no longer babes, though one knows what he means. Tennyson's superseded choice (P7), 'sons' ('Yea, when our sons are old'), had the advantage of avoiding this difficulty of 'babes', but only at the expense of compounding the misleading assimilation with 'they'. 'Yea', too, is falsely archaizing, unlike the enduring exclamation to which Tennyson


Page 18
reverted in this final stanza: 'O the wild charge they made!' (50).

The other instance of the first-person plural was the more central of the two and, if retained, would have been very damaging. It was the spectatorial 'We' which Tennyson for some time (MS1-4, P1-3) thought of employing in lines 27-28:

We saw their sabres bare
Flash all at once in air,
For one great virtue of the poem, its so combining the immediacy of an eye-witness with the respectful distance of the acknowledged non-combatant, was imperilled by any such 'We', stationed in observation. It was this respectful distance, this essential modesty and admission, which Tennyson judged so well, too, in the concluding words of the message he affixed to the version he sent the soldiers in the Crimea: 'but if what I have heard be true they will not be displeased to receive these copies of the Ballad from me, and to know that those who sit at home love and honour them'. The 'we' and 'our' of Russell's dispatch to The Times (the wording of which pricked Tennyson into his temporary 'We') were quite a different matter, since Russell, though not a combatant, was a participant—he was indeed there in the midst of it all and could honourably permit himself not only 'we' but 'I': 'Through the clouds of smoke we could see their sabres flashing as they rode up to the guns and dashed between them, cutting down the gunners as they stood. We saw them riding through the guns, as I have said; to our delight we saw them returning . . .'.[32] Russell's 'we' was already being turned into something very different (in a way that boded ill for Tennyson's 'We') when it ripened into the editorial 'We' of the leader in The Times: 'We now know the details of the attack on Balaklava. . . . Such a spectacle was never seen before, and we trust will never be repeated'.

'Never be repeated': never in action; yet the most important feature of the poem, so much so as then to constitute not only a feature but its animating principle, is the necessity for things ever to be repeated in words. 'The repetitions too', Tuckerman had written, 'are wonderfully effective'. The Light Brigade charged forward; it charged back. But this both was and was not a repetition; for six hundred charged forward, and those who charged back were 'not | Not the six hundred'. Repetition is insistent and yet not mechanical (any more than military discipline is mechanical); stanza V, as the Brigade sweeps back, is a transposition, not a straight or straightforward repetition of stanza III in which the Brigade had swept forward. Even the identical lines 'Cannon to right of them, |


Page 19
Cannon to left of them' are not precisely identical of reference when they return; they are transposed, as is manifest in the varying line which immediately follows them: 'Cannon in front of them' has to turn as 'Cannon behind them'.

The final text instantly creates this strong repetition which is at one with the discomposing of any simple repetition. 'Half a league, half a league': is this a repetition or an advance? And when the next line rides onward, 'Half a league onward', both the repetition and the advance are consolidated. Three halves, or one half that is pounded over? One and a half? (Half a league is one and a half miles.) The historical fact, in the words of The Times (leader, 13 November), is that 'the whole brigade advanced at a trot for more than a mile'. But 'half a league' is more than a poetical (albeit accurate) way of saying 'more than a mile', since it allows the poem to set before us from the very start the sense of 'Half', just as the Charge forward was only half the story. Tennyson had not immediately sensed this true prophetic immediacy of opening; his earliest manuscript (MS1) does not have these first four lines. Then he vacillated. They first appeared as a separate stanza seventeen lines into the poem (MS2-3),[33] are deleted there and transposed to the beginning (MS2), are then re-inserted as a separate stanza back where they first were (MS4, P2), once more become a stanza at the beginning (P1,3, E, E1, P4-6), and eventually stand, after the lapse with the Maud volume (P7, 55), as the opening lines of an eight-line stanza initiating the poem (MS6—). Here they at once constitute a movement resolutely self-contained (since lines 2 and 4 erect the recurrent rhyme of the poem on 'hundred', which occurs seven times throughout and concludes each of the six stanzas in the final text) and yet perfectly continue the stanza of which they are a part, since the impetus is maintained and since 'hundred' itself is reiterated in the last line of the first stanza. Tennyson contemplated a recurrence of the opening words, later in the poem, as 'Half a league back' [37] (MS5—P6) or 'Half a league back again', [47/48] (P6—55), but this would have had an air of succumbing to dulled banality in comparison with the recollected hoofbeats of the poem's decisive and immediate advance.

The strength, the total dedication, of 'All' at the head of line 3 constitutes another of the poem's repeated energies. From 'All in the valley of Death' (changed from 'Into the . . .' in MS3), it drives forward, through line 31, 'All the world wonder'd' (a line repeated and re-affirmed, with a different timbre, as line 52[34] —though absent from the blundering revision


Page 20
there in 1855), and to the pathos of line 48, 'All that was left of them'. The valley of Death then looms through and through the opening stanza to conclude both line 3 and line 7 ('through and through that valley of death', The Times, leader, 13 November). The valley of Death returns, still as the penultimate line, in stanza II; but then in stanza III it is at once dilated and sharpened as
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell (24-25)
—lines that themselves return in the returning stanza V as the tragic triumph and relief of
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell, (46-47)
'To our delight we saw them returning' (Russell, The Times)—them, but not all of them. Neither 'Came from the jaws of Death' [46] (MS1—E, E1—P6) nor 'Rode thro'' [46] (P6—55) effected quite such shuddering relief as does the awed reversal of 'Came thro' the jaws of Death'. Look! They have come through. Likewise 'Up from the mouth of Hell' (P7, 55) was not only too explicitly allegorical or emblematic but also unsettled the inescapable forward/back movement and the unfolding of 'Came . . . | Back'[35] —the second line, 'Back from the mouth of Hell,' being the exultant counterpart to the subdued 'Then they rode back, but not | Not the six hundred' (37-38). 'The mouth of Hell' the cannon-mouth makes real (no bubble-reputation, theirs). Russell in The Times had said: 'the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from 30 iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame', and there was later to be a testimony from a witness and a shell-shocked survivor whose mouth could utter 'only monosyllabic replies': 'A copy of Tennyson's poem having been lent me that morning, I took it out and read it. The man, with kindling eye, at once entered upon a spirited description of the fatal gallop between the guns' mouths to and from that cannon-crowded height'.[36]

The poem's movement, from one tone of terror (the valley of Death, the valley of the shadow of death which Milton had associated with Hell)[37] to another kind ('the jaws of Death', 'the mouth of Hell'), Tennyson achieved only after he decided not to spring too soon the trap of 'jaws' [4/5(1)], as he had originally been tempted to do (MS1,3-4, P2-3).


Page 21

Everything in the first stanza is to return in the poem, except for 'he said' (2) and 'onward' (6). Tennyson tried repetitions of 'onward' in lines 16-17 and 37 (MS3-4, P2-3, MS5—P6) and, in the Maud volume (P7, 55), thought of circling back to 'onward' in the very last line, 'How they rode onward.'; but he reverted to the deeper circling that ends the poem with the honour and pathos of the regimental six hundred. Thus the command 'Forward, the Light Brigade!' (5) echoes into the second stanza (9)—echoes both as the command passed on and as the command deepening as it is contemplated. The word 'charge' (6) returns, as detailed above (p. 14)[38]; 'the guns' (6) become 'the gunners' (29) of stanza IV, as the 'sabres' (27) there mutate to 'Sabring' (29) and then to 'the sabre-stroke' (35). This marshalled advance from the first stanza, through disciplined reiteration, Tennyson maintains throughout the poem,[39] and the superiority of the final readings is often a matter of their sensitivity to these steeled turns and returns. Sometimes the earlier readings are weak in comparison because they countenance a blurred repetition, as in the tautology of 'Struck by the sabre-stroke' (P6, MS6-7), which became 'Reel'd from the sabre-stroke' (35) (E1, P6, MS6-7); or as in the near-tautology of 'the brave and bold' [50] (P7, 55); or as in the fatigue (of the verse, not of the men) in 'Half a league back' [37] (MS5—P6) and 'Half a league back again,' [47/48] (P6—55). Or, gravest of all the temporarily miscalculated repetitions which suggested not a steeled obduracy but an insensible evacuation, there had been on first publication the repetition of the poem's crux, 'Some one had blunder'd' [4/5(4)] (12)—a thing to be said once and once only. Moreover, the first occurrence, enfeebled by enjambement after the 'which' of the preceding line, was so immeasurably weaker than (and therefore destructive of) the second.

The progress of the poem is such as to make it seem that the rhyme-scheme is of the greatest simplicity. But Tennyson worked subtly and dramatically with three kinds of line-ending, the proportion and disposition of the three kinds then varying greatly. Some lines do not rhyme at all; some have the effect of a kind of rhyme in that there is a refrain-like repetition of a word which had also earlier ended a line; and some lines rhyme.[40] Thus, despite what would appear to be the rhyming promise of the stanza-shape on the page, 'league', the ending of the very first line of the poem, 'Half a league, half a league', does not have a rhyme


Page 22
in the first stanza or anywhere else in the poem. Yet the internal reiteration of the word is so marked in lines 1 and 2 as to create some effect of rhyme. The endings of lines 2 and 4, 'onward' and 'hundred', do not fully rhyme, but they strike the ear as a partial rhyme; and Tennyson indented these lines to bring out this relationship. (The only lines indented, throughout the final text of the poem, are those ending in 'hundred' or rhyming with it, which link the poem together.) Under the second head, of refrain-like repetition, functioning as both more of a rhyme and less of a rhyme, there are in stanza I the two pairs: first,
All in the valley of Death (3)
modulated as
Into the valley of Death (7)
—and then
Rode the six hundred. (4)
repeated as
Rode the six hundred. (8)
But this last pair also connects with 'onward', and therefore aligns itself, as being a rhyme, with the stanza's rhyme on its title-word 'Brigade' | 'said' (5-6), though even here the rhyme is approximate rather than full.

Stanza II like stanza I, only more so, in that this time there is no repetition of a phrase as an internal chime, has only one unrhyming line (11):

Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd: (11-12)
The mingled exasperation and pathos in 'knew' are manifest in its unanswerability, both literally and stanzaically. Then there is the refrain-like reappearance of 'Into the valley of Death' (16), reappearing now not within the stanza but from the previous one where it had itself manifested a return. And finally there are the actual rhymes—that on 'Brigade', taken up from the first stanza and now 'Brigade' | 'dismay'd'; that on 'blunder'd' | 'hundred' (12, 17), a Lincolnshire rhyme; and (new to the poem, a rhyme relentless in trained obduracy and respect) a triple one:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die: (13-15)

Stanza III has no simply unrhymed line; it has a refrain-like triplet,


Page 23
though, taking up what the previous fully-rhyming triplet had entailed confronting:
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd; (18-21)
and it has the refrain-like 'Into the jaws of Death' (24), echoing (though varying) the first two stanzas. For its full rhyme, stanza III has 'thunder'd' | 'hundred' (21, 26); and it has a triple rhyme that is violated by intrusion:
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. (22-26)

Stanza IV has three unrhymed lines, none of them with end-punctuation. First, there is the superb breath-catching suspension of 'while' (the counterpart to the earlier 'knew'):

Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd: (30-31)
Second, the enemy positioned at the salient:
Cossack and Russian (34)
Third, the tolling sadness:
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred. (37-38)[41]
Stanza IV, then, has no refrain-like lines; it has nine rhyming lines, constituted now of three triplets: first, 'bare' | 'air' | 'there'; next, the expansion of the linking rhyme ('wonder'd' | 'sunder'd' | 'hundred'); and again the dramatic sundering of a triple rhyme:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke (32-35)

Stanza V has no simply unrhymed line, while there is a return to the refrain-like triplet of 'them' which had figured in the mirroring stanza III:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them (39-41)


Page 24
—but this time Tennyson supplements it, with a fourth line that adds the chastened cadence but bold variation on the sense of 'left' in 'left of them' (19, 40),
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred. (48-49)
Of the full rhymes, the linking one is 'thunder'd' | 'hundred', as in the outward charge of stanza III; and again there is the triple rhyme on 'shell', here yawning and dilated by a fourth occurrence after the line referring to Death:
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, (43-47)

The final stanza, in its simplicity sublime, manifests an unimpeded momentum. For the first and last time, there are neither unrhymed nor refrain-like lines; instead, there is the full complement of full rhymes: what had been the rhyme of the first two stanzas, on the title-word 'Brigade' itself, but now heard four times, and the persistent linking rhyme:

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

The structural rhyme itself Tennyson both urges forward and adjusts to the poem's terrain, since the conclusion of each stanza is always 'six hundred' but not always 'the six hundred'. The full phrase—indeed, the full line 'Rode the six hundred'—establishes itself at once as the norm: it ends the poem's first sentence (after four lines) and it then ends the first stanza, as it does the second stanza and the third. But the end of the fourth stanza leaves the line mutilated, though its metre and meaning are still clear and unbroken:

Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
The end of stanza V cuts at the line again, and now for the first time 'the' is lopped, the cadence sorrowing:
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
(The words 'six hundred' have to be heard quite differently within that


Page 25
rhythm and syntax.) But then the last stanza ends by snatching victory from the very defeat; again no 'the', but now in rounded exultation:
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
For Tennyson to have ended stanza II with 'So they rode onward' [16-17] (MS4, P2-3) (as it stood for a while), and the last stanza with 'How they rode onward' (as it became in P7, 55), would have been to lose this immitigable destination for each stanza; and had he ended the poem (as he thought of doing in MS3-4, P3) with 'All the six hundred' [55], he would have forfeited not only the long-delayed epithet 'Noble' but also the particular timbre, of awed honour, which rings through the conclusive respect of 'Noble six hundred!'

The dramatic escalation of the bombardment of the 'shell' rhyme, moving from stanza III to V, was a development in the poem's art, and there had not been the valuable interrupting of the triple rhyme in stanza III.[42] In stanza IV, the unrhymed targeting of 'Cossack and Russian' (34) after the first two and before the third of the lines ending in the triple rhyme, 'battery-smoke' | 'broke' | 'sabre-stroke' (32, 33, 35), was a change subsequent to publication in the Examiner (MS5); and in stanza V in place of 'While horse and hero fell' (44) Tennyson had contemplated suspensions of the 'shell' | 'fell' | 'well' momentum with 'while' and 'till':

Thrust at by lancers while
Horsemen & horses fell, [44] (P5)
Hack'd at & hew'd at till
Horsemen & horses fell [44] (P6)
These alterations, which had none of the poised wonder of stanza IV's:
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd, (30-31)
he rightly discarded.

As for the final stanza, the misguided revision for the Maud volume (P7, 55) was weak in rhyming as in everything else:

Honour the brave and bold!
Long shall the tale be told,
Yea, when our babes are old—
How they rode onward.


Page 26
The first three lines rhymed fully, but emptily so, for the triplet of 'bold' | 'told' | 'old' could not hold its own against the energy of the triplets earlier in the poem; and not only was there then no circling back to the rhyme of the first stanza (on the title-word 'Brigade'), but there was no rhyme on 'hundred' and indeed no final acknowledgement of the 'six hundred'.

The indentation of certain lines points up only the structural rhymes (on 'hundred') in each stanza, and leaves all the other rhymes and non-rhymes unremarked and undifferentiated, even though their effect upon the ear and upon the poem's movement is markedly different. This decision about how to indent the poem gives the stanza-shape a sturdy unfussy clarity even though the linking rhymes change not only their placing but their number. Tennyson does not attempt the intricately distracting and wellnigh impossible task of indicating by indentings the entire rhyme-scheme of the stanzas; an ode-like stanzaic appearance for the poem would have worked against the needed simplicity and boldness of outline which caused Tennyson to speak of the poem as a ballad. Yet Tuckerman was penetrating when he called it 'the finest irregular Ode ever written upon the grandest subject'. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is a fine and grand poem because it is at once a ballad and an ode. At one stage (MS4, P3) the poem had no indentation at all; this configuration went too far in the opposite direction, and clouded the clear rhymed shaping which always issues in those last words 'six hundred'.

The numbering of the stanzas was not a matter of indifference in a poem which pays such respect to numbers,[43] and to an indeflectible impulsion. The progression, though not absolutely consistent, was the likely one: from not numbering the stanzas (MS1—P6), to the simply convenient numbering in Arabic numerals (P6—MS6, P9—74, 84), to the appropriate numbering in Roman numerals (78W, 84W, Eversley)—appropriate because of their traditional (and military) dignity.

To Tennyson's friend, Richard Monckton Milnes, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was 'a real gallop in verse and only good as such'.[44] But then the charge had been a real gallop, 'the fatal gallop', and Tennyson manifestly intended to embody such a movement: not that of a stampede, out of control, but that of a disciplined fatal gallop, with the repeated rhythms mightily regular and yet continually threatened, disturbed as if by the terrain, and skilfully improvisatory. One simple,


Page 27
though by no means easy, source of the poem's passionate drive is Tennyson's combining a strong stress on the first syllable of each line with a particular apprehension of what enjambement there needs to be in such a poem. (Line 44, 'While horse and hero fell', constitutes something of an exception, though 'while' asks at least some firmness of stress.) Every line takes a stress at once—decisively, unfalteringly, and with indurating obduracy. So the line 'With many a desperate stroke' [32/35] (MS1—E, E1)—which felt right to Tennyson for some time—had to go, since 'With' could not convincingly take any strong stress (and 'desperate' had the wrong implication for valiant soldiers). The line went, to be followed by a succession of phrasings, all of which would shoulder the prosodic obligation in the poem: 'Fiercely the line they broke' [33] (MS5—55); then, 'Strong was the sabre-stroke' [34] (P7, 55); then 'Right thro' the foe they broke' [33] (P6, MS6-7); and finally, 'Right thro' the line they broke' (33) (MS6-7—). Apparently for the same reason, Tennyson rejected the line 'The Russian line they broke' [33] (MS1—E, E1); 'The' at the head of the line weakened the fierce prosodic discipline, as did the unstressed first syllable in the rejected line 'Before they rode onward' [37] (MS5—P6).

This repeated yet inaugurative stress for each line would not amount to much if it were not complemented by Tennyson's imaginative decisions about enjambement. From the start, there is a concurrence of line-ending and sense ending, so that the line-ending constitutes some intrinsic and natural sense-break whether punctuated or not; but Tennyson then impels the meaning forward by the larger syntax which incites such onward motion as will complete the larger units of sense:

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.
Of these first eight lines, the ends of all but two have punctuation, but this does not impede the movement, so strong is the syntactical and rhythmical urgency; yet at the same time, the fact that there is so strong an acknowledgement of the line-units consolidates the conviction that here is no panic. The ranks of sense and of prosody are not broken; they do not spill forward but surge and urge forward. The particular kind of momentum which Tennyson achieves at the outset, or onset, is different from that of the later stanzas, and he achieves it partly by not admitting a single conjunction in this first stanza.


Page 28

The two lines of the first stanza that do not have terminal punctuation constitute a pairing:

All in the valley of Death (3)
Into the valley of Death (7)
Death does not need terminal punctuation. It is terminal in itself, and is at the same time—like the open space at the end of the line—an awful vista opened for unhesitating and unflinching contemplation, theirs then and ours now.

The conclusiveness of the poem's final stanza gains much of its force from every line's being so strongly terminally punctuated, just as the courageous impetuosity of the engaged battle-stanza (IV) is marked by the fact that six of its twelve lines do not have terminal punctuation.[45]

Tennyson uses dramatic enjambement sparingly and very astutely in the poem. The three occasions compound their effect by none of them being rhyming lines. The first is in lines 11-12:

Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
The propulsion towards an object for that verb 'knew' at the line-ending is such as to make this moment tonally and temporally unique in the poem; in the recording made at the end of Tennyson's life,[46] his voice swoops upon knew with an emphasis at once awed, exasperated, and half-incredulous at the immediately culpable folly of some one—a folly manifest to each of the cavalrymen involved. (The effect in the recording is riveting.)[47] The second dramatic enjambement is the great suspended 'while' of stanza IV, which makes one feel the world holding its breath in awe:
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd: (30-31)


Page 29
The Times (leader, 14 November) had said 'under the eyes of the whole world'; Tennyson realized such suspense and suspension. The third and last dramatic enjambement gravely and pausingly acknowledges the pain of loss:
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred. (37-38)
The chastened recognition of the grim reality is realized not only in the hinged repetition ('not | Not') and in the enjambement, but also in Tennyson's final decision not to fret the penultimate line ending with a comma (which he had done in MS3-4, P7, and the Maud volume).

Negatives take and make a particular weight in the poem because of what the Charge of the Light Brigade was. Positive in its courage, in its discipline (discipline involving the negation of self), and positively to be celebrated, the Charge was yet a hideous mistake. 'Even accident would have made it more tolerable. But it was a mere mistake—evidently a mistake, and perceived to be such when it was too late to correct it' (The Times, leader, 13 November). The Charge was a positive exploit at which the world said, 'Oh no'. The most famous thing ever said about it needed an inexorable negative to come hard on the heels of the praise: 'C'est très magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre'.[48] Tennyson effects such a turn himself by concentrating his negatives and by turning them so that they are positive acclamations. There are no negatives in the first or last stanza, or in stanza III. Stanza II turns them to the soldier's glory —it was not as though he did not know that the order was a blunder.

Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd: (11-12)
and immediately, following the logic of that colon, discipline reveals itself as abnegation:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why, (13-14)[49]
—and then there is the climactic turn into the highest negation, self-abnegation, which becomes the greatest self-sacrifice:
Their's but to do and die: (13-15)


Page 30
not, alas, 'do or die'.[50] The line is one of Tennyson's greatest evocations of duty. As the author, two years earlier, of the Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington, where thrice over he had tolled the word 'duty', he is sure to have been moved by every word of the original sentence in The Times (leader, 13 November): 'The British soldier will do his duty, even to certain death, and is not paralyzed by feeling that he is the victim of some hideous blunder'. In 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', the word 'duty', unuttered, becomes not what the poem says but what it breathes.

The economy and dignity of these paradoxes of the positive and the negative in the Charge of the Light Brigade had been present to Tennyson from the outset. Only one line (much reconsidered as to its wording and placing) ever constituted a misjudgement of the poem's economy in this respect:

No man was there dismay'd [10] (MS1-3, P1-3)
No man was there afraid [53/54] (MS2-3, P1-2)
Hearts that were not dismay'd [10] (MS3-4, P2-3)
This negation was a derogation of the soldiers' unflinching sense of duty; flatly not to have been afraid would have been stark insensibility, not courage. Tennyson removed this inauthentic negative, and replaced it with a question which is at once a stirring rhetorical question and a real question:
Was there a man dismay'd? (10) (P5-6, MS6—)
No, and yes. Dismayed to do his duty, no (each man was a man); dismayed at what that must mean, yes to some degree (each man was a man). There is only one other question in the poem, and forty lines later it rhymes with 'Was there a man dismay'd?':
When can their glory fade? (50)
This is prospective in its high confidence, not retrospective as had been the riskily historical question with which Tennyson once toyed at this point: 'When was a charge so made' [50/51] (MS2).

A poem of praise might be expected to lavish panegyrical epithets. One of Tennyson's most felicitous reticences is his withholding of the easy adjectival and adverbial celebrations. Of the latter, 'Onward' in stanza I is direct and unadorned; 'Boldly' and 'well' in III—'Boldly they rode and well' (22)—are no more than the simple minimal tribute to courage and skill; and 'well' then returns, stationed likewise at the line-ending in V, where it has great acclamatory force just because it is so


Page 31
unexclamatory, so little concerned to pause for applause—just as the word 'hero'[51] moves on past, acknowledged, neither slighted nor luxuriated in:
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well (44-45)

There is a matching restraint in Tennyson's employment of adjectives, which might have been expected to figure resoundingly. The Times (leader, 13 November) applied the epithets 'splendid' and 'glorious' twice each (in the second instance 'most glorious'); and Tennyson himself wrote of the Charge as 'glorious'—but not in his poem,[52] and he did not resort to any such superlative as 'most glorious' for this superlative feat of courage.

Apart from the celebration, in the opening and closing stanzas, of the military name with its neutral adjective ('the Light Brigade'), the only adjectives are as follows.[53] First, there are the past-participial forms: in stanza II, 'Was there a man dismay'd? (10); in III and repeated in V, 'Storm'd at with shot and shell' (22, 43); in IV possibly 'Plunged in the battery-smoke' (32)—possibly, since the first effect, because of the punctuation and syntax, is of a sudden plunging, as if the sense were '[they] plunged in the battery-smoke'; and in IV as applied to the Russians, 'Shatter'd and sunder'd' (36).[54] Second, the poem has three simple adjectives: 'bare', for the cavalrymen's weapons in IV, 'Flash'd all their sabres bare' (27), and two adjectives in the final stanza, 'O the wild charge they made!' (51)—whereupon, as if 'wild', though true, were less than the whole truth, the word is made to fall away from the echoing companion line, though it is not rescinded: 'Honour the charge they made!' (53).[55] So into the final two lines:

Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred! (54-55)
And there at last, after all the noble reticence, comes a direct adjective for them, one of high and simple praise: 'Noble six hundred!'

In the poem's discipline, Tennyson's art offers a modest counterpart to the 'Noble six hundred'. The Times (leader, 14 November) had


Page 32
praised the Charge as noble ('a noble but disastrous deed—a fatal display of courage which all must admire while they lament'), but the newspaper's adverbial and adjectival exclamations—a 'spectacle so strange, so terrific, so disastrous, and yet so grand'—clamorously refused to allow 'noble' the dignity which Tennyson was to give it. His poem came in the end to utter its praise, not at all reluctantly but with all the accruings of patience and steadiness. It is good that he did not leave the poem, as he had thought of doing, with 'All the six hundred!' (MS3). It would have been carrying restraint too far, grudgingly so, never to have arrived at such an epithet as 'noble'.

No critique can adequately account for the poetic genius with which Tennyson fashioned 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. Nevertheless, analysis of the surviving documents provides extensive testimony to his painstaking artistry. The imaginative impulse and a significant element of the phrasing were derived from The Times, but the poet's inspiration and discernment led him to refine away or to transform much of the original language and notably to enhance the quality of his achievement. To be sure, his progress in the development of the text was by no means unfaltering—the reversion in Maud, and Other Poems evinces an especially recalcitrant muse. Yet his failure there seems to have been largely a function of misperceiving his audience and of revising his poem in terms of an elite metropolitan reader. Once galvanized to address the soldier in the Crimea, he moved confidently and unerringly to create an undying utterance of the English tongue.

The Times in its leader of 14 November had words of some application to the consolatory power of poetry and of such a poem as 'The Charge of the Light Brigade': 'Small consolation as it is, yet survivors, friends, and the public will be thankful that the terrible scene of the 25th had spectators who could appreciate it, and an historian worthy to relate it'. And then a poet.

Bibliographical Note: Descriptions of Manuscripts and Proofs in Chronological Order

MS1, in Houghton Library, Harvard University, consists of 48 lines in 5 unnumbered stanzas, untitled, written in black ink in Tennyson's autograph, in a tan notebook with a green calf spine, measuring 8⅜” x 5⅝” (Call no. MS Eng 952 *54M-203 [30]). A piece of white cloth tape, measuring 1frac916” x ⅜”, has been pasted on the spine and carries, written in black ink, reading vertically, the title 'MAUDXXXIX'; the front cover has written in black ink 'XXXIX'. Lithographed on the back cover is an advertisement for T. S. Tompkins, Bookseller, Stationer & Printer, 163, Strand. There are 26 fols. and numerous stubs; the paper is plain bluish, wove, unwatermarked, measuring 8⅜” x 5⅜”. In addition to 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', there are 19 pages of Maud, two fragments of 'Merlin and Vivien', and 10 lines of


Page 33
The Princess. 'The Charge' is written back to front in the notebook on fols. 26v and 25v. Each leaf is partially torn away on the right-hand edge, so that parts of 37 lines are lacking. There is no concluding stanza (the draft ends with final text l. 49), and there is no footnote concerning the number of sabres in the charge.

MS2, in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, consists of 58 lines in 7 unnumbered stanzas, written in black ink, primarily in Emily Tennyson's autograph, on the recto, verso, and recto of two conjugate leaves of white laid paper, measuring 4⅜” x 7”. There is a small blind stamped design in the upper left-hand corner of fol. 1, and the verso of fol. 2 is blank, except for the handwritten number '64' in black ink (but not the same as that of the text) in the upper left-hand corner. The title, the last six lines of the poem, the signature 'A. T.', the footnote, 'Written after reading the first report of the Times correspondent where only 607 sabres are mentioned as having taken part in the charge.', and several emendations are in the poet's hand. There are directions to the printer in the margins of fol. 1 by John Forster, the editor of the Examiner, and 'MS | Box', in an unknown hand, appears in the upper right-hand margin of this folio.

MS3, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consists of 56 lines in 8 unnumbered stanzas, untitled and without the footnote, written in black ink in Emily Tennyson's autograph, with Tennyson's corrections, on the recto and verso of a quarto sheet of white laid paper, unwatermarked, folded in the middle, of which the leaves measure 7” x 8⅞”. There is a strip of clear gummed tape along the entire left-hand edge of the verso. 'First Draft' in an unknown hand in the upper right-hand corner of fol. 1 is manifestly inaccurate in view of the text in the notebook at Harvard. Although this draft may originally have been earlier than MS2, Tennyson's revisions bring it to a state later than MS2 but earlier than MS4.

MS4, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consists of 56 lines in 8 unnumbered stanzas, written on the rectos and versos of two conjugate leaves of white laid paper, unwatermarked, measuring 4⅜” x 7”, and is a fair copy in Emily Tennyson's hand made from the state of the text in MS3. No line of the entire poem is indented. There is a small blind stamped design in the upper left-hand corner of fol. 1, and 'MS Box', in an unknown hand, appears in the upper right-hand corner. The initials 'A. T.' stand at the end of the poem on fol. 2v, and the numeral '63' in black ink (but not the same as that of the text) occupies the upper left-hand corner of 2v.

Lehman MS, whereabouts unknown, written in ink in Tennyson's autograph, on 2 octavo pages, signed 'Tennyson', Union Galleries, New York, N. H. Lehman sale, April 17, 1936, lot 295. Although described in the sale catalogue (p. 59) as the 'Original Autograph Manuscript', line 6, as quoted, contains accidentals subsequent to MS4 and corresponding to those in P1. No trace of this MS after 1936 appears in American Book Prices Current or Book Auction Records. Thus far, correspondence with booksellers and libraries and a notice in the Newsletter of The Manuscript Society, composed of collectors of manuscripts, have failed to bring it to light.

P1, belonging to Mr. Robert H. Taylor, on deposit in the Princeton University Library, consists of 58 lines in 7 unnumbered stanzas, printed in a single column on the recto of a single leaf of white wove paper, unwatermarked, measuring 5frac1516” x 11frac516”, which has been inlaid and bound by Bradstreet's in full red morocco, measuring 9” x 12¼”. On the front cover in gilt lettering appears 'CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE | ORIGINAL PROOF | [long rule] | MS. CORRECTIONS BY TENNYSON | [long rule]'. A proof for the Examiner, of which the type was set from MS2, it has the title and the footnote. Besides several changes in accidentals in the poem and in the footnote and the printer's error 'He' corrected to 'We' (l. 27)—all of which were probably on the proof when the poet received it— Tennyson altered the beginning of lines 27-28 to read 'Flash'd all' and 'Flash'd' and deleted the line 'No man was there afraid;' between lines 53 and 54. At the bottom of this proof sheet there is the following penciled annotation: 'The original rough proof sheet corrected by A. Tennyson before it was printed in the Examiner.


Page 34
I bought this at H. J. E. Rawlins' sale (secretary to John Forster) 1881. J. F. Dexter'. On the verso, in the lower right-hand corner, in the same hand, is another penciled note: 'This cost me "nil." 1881.' This proof, which for some years belonged to William Harris Arnold, Thomas J. Wise discusses in A Bibliography of the Writings of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1908), 147-148; and Arnold refers to it in his Ventures in Book Collecting (1923), p. 248. It was lot 971 in the sale Catalogue of the William Harris Arnold Collection, November 10-11, 1924, p. 222.

P2, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consists of 58 lines in 7 unnumbered stanzas (changed to 6), printed in a single column on the recto of a single leaf of white wove paper, unwatermarked, measuring 5frac1516” x 11¾”. Pulled from the same type as P1, it bears extensive corrections by John Forster to bring the text (except for indented lines) into conformity with MS4. This proof is No. 3871 in Tennyson in Lincoln: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Research Centre, comp. by Nancie Campbell, 2 vols. (1971, 1973), II, 10.

P3, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consisting of 56 lines in 6 unnumbered stanzas (changed to 7), printed in a single column on the recto of a single leaf of white wove paper, unwatermarked, measuring 5¼” x 10⅛”, is the final proof for the Examiner, for which the type was set according to MS4 and P2, and corrected according to P1. It has the title and footnote and bears corrections in Forster's hand and in another hand, similar to Tennyson's but that differs from his. There is clear gummed tape running from top to bottom on the left- and right-hand edges. This proof is No. 3868 in Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10. (The poem appeared in the Examiner, 9 December 1854, p. 780, col. 1.)

Hardie MS, in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, consists of 56 lines in 7 unnumbered stanzas, untitled, written in black ink in an unknown hand on the rectos and versos of two conjugate leaves of white laid notepaper, unwatermarked, measuring 4½” x 7”, and bearing the address, blind-embossed, 'Hinchingbrook | Huntingdon' in the top center of fol. 1. This MS has no standing in the development of the text. Presented by Mr. William Hardie to the Tennyson Research Centre in 1965, it follows the text of the Examiner in substantives, except for two readings, 'All in the valley of death' for 'Into the valley of Death' (Examiner, l. 5) and 'While horse and rider fell' for 'While horse and hero fell' (l. 44). These variants seem to be lapses by the copyist and appear in no other version of the text of the poem. The Hardie MS has the footnote and the date, 'Hinchingbrook Jany 23. 1855', at the bottom of fol. 2. This MS is not discussed in our article and is described here to avoid any further consideration of its having textual significance. See letters to the editor of the Times Literary Supplement by William Hardie, 3 June 1965, p. 455, and Sir Charles Tennyson, 15 July 1965, p. 597.

MS5 is a facsimile of a fragment of manuscript containing 9 lines that became, with modifications, final ll. 32-38 of 'The Charge', which belonged to William Harris Arnold and which he reproduced in his Ventures in Book Collecting (1923), p. 249. Lot 970 in the Arnold sale at the Anderson Galleries, November 10-11, 1924, the MS was sold to James F. Drake, a New York bookseller, whose files are now at the University of Texas. On November 11, 1924, it was bought from Drake by Howard J. Sachs. Lot 114 in the Sachs sale, Parke Bernet Galleries, February 1, 1944, it was sold, possibly to Maurice Inman, a New York bookseller, now out of business. Mr. Sachs was alive at the time of the sale but is now deceased. The authors have been unable to discover any further record of this MS or its present whereabouts. (We are grateful to Mr. John F. Fleming and to Ms. Ellen S. Dunlap, Research Librarian, at the University of Texas for information about it.)

E1, in the Tennyson Research Centre, is a photocopy of the text on p. 780 of the Examiner with the last four lines of stanza 5 struck out and all but the first of the 9 lines contained in MS5 written in black ink in Emily Tennyson's autograph in the left-hand margin. There are six notations in Hallam Tennyson's hand in black ink in the margins to indicate variations of this version from the Eversley text.


Page 35
There is a tab in the upper left-hand corner carrying the printed number '38'; 'TENNYSON', hand-written in black ink appears above this number. On the verso of the photocopy, written in blue ink, is the designation, 'Lincoln Public Lib.' Also attached to the verso is a card bearing a typewritten statement that this is a copy of the poem in the Examiner, that the alternate lines are in the hand of the poet's wife, and that it was 'Presented by the late Willingham F. Rawnsley M.A., J.P.'. (Willingham Franklin Rawnsley, son of Robert Drummond Rawnsley, the Vicar of Shiplake, who married Tennyson and Emily Sellwood in 1850, was a member of a family closely associated with the Tennysons for three generations.) This state of the text is No. 3873, Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10.

'Knoyle House' MS, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consists of 60 lines in 8 unnumbered stanzas, no footnote, entitled, 'Charge of the Light Brigade | at Balaclava—Oct 25 1855', and is written in black ink in an unknown hand on the recto, verso, and recto of two conjugate leaves of white laid notepaper, unwatermarked. Like the Hardie MS, it has no standing in the development of the text. The address, 'Knoyle House | Swindon Wilts', blind-embossed and centered, appears on fol. 2. Although some accidentals vary, the substantives of the text are those of E1, P4, P5, and P6 (before Tennyson's alterations). The copyist omitted l. 25, wrote 'Valley' for 'jaws' in l. 24, and in the last two lines but one spelled 'Honour' without a 'u'. This MS (No. 3876 in Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10) is not discussed in our article and is described here to avoid further consideration of its having textual significance.

P4, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consisting of 61 lines in 8 unnumbered stanzas, titled, printed on white laid paper, watermarked with a design, measuring 7⅜” x 9frac116”, is an uncorrected proof, set in Examiner type in two columns (with the footnote in a single line running the width of the page) that incorporates the readings in Emily Tennyson's autograph on E1. Clear gummed tape runs the length of the left- and right-hand edges of this proof (No. 3870 in Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10).

P5, belonging to Mr. Robert H. Taylor, on deposit at the Princeton University Library, is a duplicate proof, pulled from the same type as P4, on the same white laid paper, watermarked along the left-hand side of the leaf 'J Allen's Superfine', and measuring 7frac516” x 9frac116”. There are four autograph corrections of substantives and two of accidentals in black ink by Tennyson. William Harris Arnold, who owned this proof during much of the first quarter of the twentieth-century, refers to it in his Ventures in Book Collecting, p. 248. It was lot 972 in the sale Catalogue of the William Harris Arnold Collection, November 10-11, 1924, p. 222.

P6, in the Beinecke Library, Yale University, is another duplicate proof, pulled from the same type as P4 and P5, on the same white laid paper, watermarked along the bottom left-hand margin 'J Allen's', and measuring 7frac516” x 9frac116” (Call no. MS Vault Tennyson). There are extensive autograph corrections and alternative readings in black ink by both Tennyson and his wife. The stanzas have been partially numbered by the poet, and on the verso in Hallam Tennyson's hand is the incorrect notation in pencil: 'Leaf sent to | troops in | Crimea | Charge of Light Brigade'.

P7, in the Tennyson Research Centre, which consists of 46 lines in 5 stanzas numbered in Arabic numerals with title and no footnote, appears in a trial- or proof-copy for the 1st edition of Maud, and Other Poems, 1855 (pp. [151]-[154]), that is bound in brown calf with gilt tooling. There are alterations in Tennyson's autograph, and the last stanza, including the numeral 5, is entirely in his hand (No. 4132 in Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10).

55(a), in the Rare Book Room, University of Virginia, exists in a copy of the first edition of Maud, and Other Poems, 1855, in which Tennyson has drawn a line in black ink vertically down the center of each page of the text of the poem as it appears on pp. [151]-154. A single correction of a colon to a semicolon after 'sabre-stroke' in l. 35 appears on p. 153. The volume has been bound in red morocco by Rivière, with gilt lettering on the spine as follows: '[design of flowers in a vase] | MAUD | & OTHER POEMS | ALFRED | TENNYSON | [short rule] | REVISE |


Page 36
[design as above] | [design as above] | [design as above] | 1855' (Call no. *PR5567 | .A1 | 1855a).

MS6, in the Widener Collection, Harvard University, consists of 55 lines in 7 stanzas numbered in Arabic numerals, untitled, no footnote, written in Tennyson's autograph in black ink on the recto, verso, and recto of 2 leaves of blue laid paper, unwatermarked, measuring 7⅞” x 9⅞”. It has his revisions of ll. 33-36 and of lower case 'd' to a capital in 'Death' (ll. 7, 16, 24, 46). This MS is preserved in a blue morocco folding case, gilt-tooled, measuring 8¾” x 10¾” (Call. no. HEW 12.4.10) and contains an accompanying letter in black ink, dated 1 Sept. 1911, concerning the provenance of the MS, which belonged to Miss Amelia Walker of Meadfoot Rock, Torquay, an acquaintance and admirer of Tennyson. Upon her death in 1894 it came to her cousin, Arthur Radford, a J.P. in the county of Derby. Across the top of the letter in another hand in pencil appears the notation, 'no. 92—the Tennyson Centenary Exhibition, July 1909. | London.' This MS, erroneously described as the 'original manuscript', was lot 97 in Rosenbach Catalogue 22, offered for a sale November 6-20, 1911 (The Collected Catalogues of Dr. H. S. W. Rosenbach, 1904-1951, 10 vols. [1967], IV). It remained in Rosenbach's possession and became part of 'the extensive additions' after Harry Elkins Widener's loss on the Titanic that his mother, with the blessing of his grandfather, Peter A. B. Widener, somewhat surreptitiously made to Harry's collection. P. A. B. Widener was the actual purchaser for the sum of $6000 (Edwin Wolf 2nd with John F. Fleming, Rosenbach: A Biography [1960], pp. 78, 79).

MS7, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consists of 55 lines in 7 unnumbered stanzas, untitled, no footnote, written in Emily Tennyson's autograph in black ink on the recto, verso, and recto of two leaves of the same blue laid paper, unwatermarked, measuring 7⅞” x 9⅞”, as is MS6, and has revisions of ll. 33-36 in Emily Tennyson's hand in accordance with the poet's on MS6. In addition AT has changed 'Those' to 'They' (l. 45) and 'through' to 'thro" (l. 46). The upper right-hand corner of the recto of fol. 1 bears the notation in black ink, 'MS Box | No 69'.

P8, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consisting of 7 unnumbered stanzas (altered to 6), with title, printed on the recto, verso, and recto of two conjugate leaves of wove paper, unwatermarked, measuring 8½” x 11frac116”, is a proof for the quarto broadsheet, 'the soldier's version', that Tennyson sent to the Crimea. There are corrections of accidentals and the conjoining of a two-line stanza (ll. 37-38) with the preceding one, all by Forster. Tennyson's note to the soldiers, in Forster's autograph, is appended to the bottom of fol. 2. On fol. 2v in the upper right-hand corner in Hallam Tennyson's hand is the notation, 'Charge of Light Brigade | & | Patriotic poems | ---' (No. 3874, Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 10).

P9, in the Tennyson Research Centre, consisting of 6 stanzas, numbered in Arabic numerals, with title and no footnote, is an uncorrected proof of pp. [161]-168 for the so-called '3rd edition' (i. e. 2nd edition) of the Maud volume, 1856, printed on pages of white wove paper, unwatermarked, measuring 4frac316” x 6frac316”, which form an unsewn 8vo gathering. The poem begins on p. [161] (which has the signature 'M' in the right-hand corner at the bottom of the page), continues on pp. 162-163, and concludes on p. 164 (which carries at the bottom of the page, centered, 'LONDON: | BRADBURY AND EVANS, PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS.'). Moxon's advertisement of Tennyson's Poems, 10th ed., The Princess, 6th ed., Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington, 2nd ed., and In Memoriam, 6th ed. appears on p. [165]. Pages [166-167] are blank. On p. [168] is written in pencil, presumably in Nancie Campbell's hand, 'Proof of pp. 161-164 of | the | 3rd ed of Maud and | other poems 1856' (No. 4140, Tennyson in Lincoln, II, 19).

MS8, in the Rare Book Room, University of Virginia, consists of 55 lines in 6 stanzas, of which the first is unnumbered and the remainder numbered in Arabic numerals, with title and no footnote. It is written in black ink in Tennyson's autograph on the recto, verso, and recto of two conjugate leaves of white laid notepaper,


Page 37
unwatermarked, bearing the blind-embossed address in the upper right-hand corner of fol. 1, 'Farringford, | Freshwater, | Isle of Wight.' and the signature and date, 'A Tennyson | Apr. 10/64.' on fol. 2. This MS is preserved in a red morocco folding case, gilt-tooled. The spine reads, 'THE | CHARGE | OF THE | LIGHT BRIGADE | TENNYSON | AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT' and the front cover, 'TENNYSON | [short rule] | THE CHARGE | OF THE | LIGHT BRIGADE | [short rule] | AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT' (Call no. #6171). This MS does not figure in the lineal development of the text after Maud, and Other Poems [2nd ed.], 1856; but because it is an autograph MS that Tennyson wrote out, presumably as a gift to a friend, and because it is catalogued as existing in a major research library, its variant readings (which are only a few in accidentals) seem worth recording in the Historical Collation.

The Charge of the Light Brigade.

(Authoritative text, Eversley edition, II [1908], 225-227.)

1 Half a league, half a league,
2 Half a league onward,
3 All in the valley of Death
4 Rode the six hundred.
5 'Forward, the Light Brigade!
6 Charge for the guns!' he said:
7 Into the valley of Death
8 Rode the six hundred.
9 'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
10 Was there a man dismay'd?
11 Not tho' the soldier knew
12 Some one had blunder'd:
13 Their's not to make reply,
14 Their's not to reason why,
15 Their's but to do and die:
16 Into the valley of Death
17 Rode the six hundred.
18 Cannon to right of them,
19 Cannon to left of them,
20 Cannon in front of them
21 Volley'd and thunder'd;
22 Storm'd at with shot and shell,
23 Boldly they rode and well,
24 Into the jaws of Death,
25 Into the mouth of Hell
26 Rode the six hundred.


Page 38
27 Flash'd all their sabres bare,
28 Flash'd as they turn'd in air
29 Sabring the gunners there,
30 Charging an army, while
31 All the world wonder'd:
32 Plunged in the battery-smoke
33 Right thro' the line they broke;
34 Cossack and Russian
35 Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
36 Shatter'd and sunder'd.
37 Then they rode back, but not
38 Not the six hundred.
39 Cannon to right of them,
40 Cannon to left of them,
41 Cannon behind them
42 Volley'd and thunder'd;
43 Storm'd at with shot and shell,
44 While horse and hero fell,
45 They that had fought so well
46 Came thro' the jaws of Death,
47 Back from the mouth of Hell,
48 All that was left of them,
49 Left of six hundred.
50 When can their glory fade?
51 O the wild charge they made!
52 All the world wonder'd.
53 Honour the charge they made!
54 Honour the Light Brigade,
55 Noble six hundred!


Except for revisions listed subsequently in Alterations in the Manuscripts, this collation comprises the substantive and accidental readings in the documents listed (in chronological order of textual states with the corresponding symbols) that vary from the authoritative text of the poem in the Eversley edition (1908), which Tennyson and his son, Hallam, annotated. As a matter of convenience and to save space, Tennyson is referred to as AT, his wife as ET, and John Forster, the editor of the Examiner, as F.

  • MS1 Autograph manuscript with leaves and text partially torn out, so that parts of 37 lines (including end punctuation) that correspond to ll. 1-9, 16-25, 32-49 of the final text are lacking (there is no concluding stanza), Harvard University
  • MS2 ET's manuscript with title, corrections, last six lines, and footnote in AT's autograph, Tennyson Research Centre

  • 39

    Page 39
  • MS3 ET's manuscript with AT's corrections, Tennyson Research Centre
  • MS4 ET's manuscript, Tennyson Research Centre
  • P1 Proof with AT's corrections, belonging to Mr. Robert H. Taylor, on deposit in the Princeton University Library
  • P2 Proof with F's corrections, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 3871)
  • P3 Proof with corrections in unidentified hand (similar to AT's) and F's corrections and directions to the printer, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 3868)
  • E Examiner, 9 December 1854, p. 780 (poem printed in a single column)
  • MS5 Facsimile of autograph MS of ll. 32-38 (ll. 1-31 and 39-55 are therefore lacking) in William Harris Arnold's Ventures in Book Collecting (1923), p. 249
  • E1 Photocopy of the poem in the Examiner with ET's corrections, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 3873)
  • P4 Uncorrected proof from the Examiner type, printed in 2 columns, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 3870)
  • P5 Proof pulled from same type as P4, with AT's corrections, belonging to Mr. Robert H. Taylor, on deposit in the Princeton University Library
  • P6 Proof pulled from same type as P4 and P5, with AT's and ET's corrections, Yale University
  • P7 Proof-copy for the first edition of Maud, and Other Poems, 1855, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 4132)
  • 55 Maud, and Other Poems. Moxon, 1855
  • 55(a) Maud, and Other Poems. Moxon, 1855, with the text of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' deleted, University of Virginia
  • MS6 Autograph manuscript, Widener Collection, Harvard University
  • MS7 ET's manuscript with two autograph corrections by AT, Tennyson Research Centre
  • P8 Proof for quarto broadsheet sent to the Crimea ('the soldier's version') with F's corrections, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 3874)
  • C Quarto broadsheet sent to the Crimea ('the soldier's version')—a copy in the Tennyson Research Centre, No. 3875
  • P9 Proof-copy, pp. [162]-164 for Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition ['3rd ed.', i. e. 2nd ed.]. Moxon, 1856, Tennyson Research Centre (No. 4140)
  • 56 Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition [2nd ed.]. Moxon, 1856
  • 59 Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition [5th ed.]. Moxon, 1859
  • 61 Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition [7th ed.]. Moxon, 1861
  • 62 Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition [8th ed.]. Moxon, 1862
  • MS8 Autograph manuscript, April 10, 1864, University of Virginia
  • 64 Maud, and Other Poems. A New Edition [9th ed.]. Moxon, 1864
  • 70 Maud, and Other Poems [16th ed.]. Strahan, 1870
  • 72W The Works of Alfred Tennyson, Vol. III. [Imperial Library edition]. Strahan, 1872
  • 74 Maud, and Other Poems [17th ed.]. Henry S. King, 1874
  • 78W The Works of Alfred Tennyson. [Crown edition]. C. Kegan Paul, 1878
  • 84 Maud, and Other Poems [19th ed.]. Macmillan, 1884
  • 84W The Works of Alfred Tennyson. [Collected edition, first issue]. Macmillan, 1884

The methods used for recording both textual variations and alterations in the manuscripts are those detailed by Fredson Bowers in his article, 'The Transcription of Manuscripts: The Record of Variants', Studies in Bibliography, 29 (1976), 212-264, and exemplified in his apparatus for the definitive ACLS-Harvard edition of William James's Works (1975-). For ease in comparing the variant readings, as many alterations in the manuscripts as possible have been included in the Historical Collation. An ampersand for 'and' has not been considered a variant, but where a variant in a manuscript includes an ampersand, it is reproduced.

The number introducing each recorded variant is the line number of the Eversley edition (and The Poems of Tennyson, ed. Christopher Ricks [1969], pp. 1034-1036). Numbers separated by a slanting stroke, for example 4/5, indicate a line or lines, as the case may be, that existed in an antecedent text but not in Eversley. To identify each of the


Page 40
four lines that existed in a number of the early states of the text between lines 4 and 5 the designations 4/5(1), 4/5(2), 4/5(3), and 4/5(4) have been used. The lemma—the reading to the left of the bracket—is that of the authoritative text. The variants follow in chronological order to the right of the bracket. If the sigil—the symbol for one of the collated texts listed above—does not appear to the right of the bracket, the reading in that state of the text is the same as that of Eversley, except for the parts of 37 lines of MS1 that are torn out and the lines of the Arnold facsimile MS that are lacking. Failure of the sigil for one of these MSS to appear to the right of the bracket means agreement of the reading for extant lines and no reading where the lines are lacking. (Doubt as to which of these meanings can be resolved by referring to the extant lines for each MS set forth above and seems preferable to cluttering the Historical Collation with reminders of any variant line or part of a line that is lacking in one or both of the two MSS—i. e. MS1, MS5). In three instances (ll. 6, 13, 15) the reading of the lemma existed in a manuscript, became altered, and then was reverted to. For clarity in these circumstances, the sigil for the text in which the early reading is the same as the lemma is shown immediately to the right of the bracket and before the symbol for AT's alteration of a printed text or before the variant reading when the return to the original reading did not result from correction of a proof. In a few instances where a variant reading involves a word at the end of a line that has been torn out of MS1, the conjectural reading has been supplied in pointed brackets < >. Since the printed text of 55(a) (the author's copy of Maud, and Other Poems, 1855, with the text of 'The Charge' deleted) is that of the first edition, variant readings in the letterpress of 55(a) are not recorded, and the sigil 55(a) is omitted except for one instance—to show the poet's single autograph change of a colon to a semicolon in l. 34. The second issue of the first edition (552), which has this one variant of a semicolon, is treated in the same way. Readings resulting from AT's, ET's, or F's autograph alterations of a printed text are distinguished as AT/P1, ET/E1, F/P2, for example. Three alterations in an unidentified hand on P3 are designated U/P3. When these autograph alterations of the printed text result in the final reading of the authoritative text, the sigil is placed out of chronological order immediately to the right of the bracket or immediately after any early MS reading that is the same as the lemma. This practice provides emphasis and saves space. The alteration is easily understood by comparing the printed variant in the designated proof with the lemma.

A number of words or lines in the authoritative text do not exist in earlier versions, and they are accounted for by not, followed by the appropriate sigil(s). Stet means a substantive or accidental deleted and then marked to stand. A superscript 1 or 2 preceding a word identifies one or the other of two identical words in the same line. A vertical stroke | indicates the ending of a line. A sigil, a dash, and another sigil (for example, MS1-4 or MS2-P2) are used as a means of saving space to signify that a variant reading exists in MS1 and all subsequent states in which the word, phrase, or line appears through MS4 (i. e. MS2, MS3, and MS4) or in MS2 through P2 (i. e. MS3, MS4, P1, P2). Informational comments concerning variants that do not include a revision in a MS or a printed text are provided in parentheses. Information concerning the nature of a revision appears in brackets.

Two arbitrary symbols have been employed in this Historical Collation: the section mark (§) and the double dagger (‡). The section mark beside a line number indicates a variant involving wholly or in part an alteration that has not been recorded in the Alterations in the Manuscripts and has been included instead in the Historical Collation. The double dagger indicates that a variant in a MS is part of an alteration which is not easily transferable to the Historical Collation but which can be found particularized in the Alterations in the Manuscripts.

When alterations in the MSS are included in the Historical Collation (and in some instances concerning autograph alterations of a printed text), the processes of revision are described in square brackets. The quoted text outside a revision in brackets is always the final version in a corrected MS. When no words precede the description of an alteration in a MS (or of an autograph alteration of a printed text), the description


Page 41
applies to the lemma. Some readings are reproduced formulaically. In order to specify the words in the text that are affected by the description in square brackets, an asterisk (*) appears before the first word to which the description in square brackets applies. When there is no asterisk, the description in square brackets applies to all the words of a reading preceding the brackets, or the affected word or words are written in the square brackets along with the description—usually the record of a deletion. AT's alterations in a MS in ET's hand are shown with his initials in parentheses (AT).

In the descriptions of alterations in the MSS, over means a correction by writing over a letter(s) of a word on the original line; interlined (abbreviated intrl.) means added between lines. Above (ab.) positions an interlineation with respect to a word or words in a line, which are usually deleted (del.) but sometimes are not (undel.). Inserted (insrt.) refers to an addition in the margin. No distinction has been made between interlineations and insertions made with or without a caret or guideline. In order to focus upon the alteration achieved and to save space by not detailing the means of achieving it, the general description altered from (alt. fr.) has been used occasionally. Other abbreviations are as follows: aft. for after, bef. for before, transpd. for transposed, indent. for indented.

  • THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.] not MS 1,3,5-7; The Charge of the Light Brigade* (asterisk for footnote) MS2; The Charge of the Light Brigade MS4; THE . . . BRIGADE.* P1—E, E1—P6; the | CHARGE . . . BRIDAGE. (error) P7; the | CHARGE . . . BRIGADE. AT/P7, 55, P8—62, 64—74, 84; The Charge of the | Light Brigade MS8; THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT | BRIGADE. 78W, 84W.
  • (Stanzas numbered in Roman numerals)] (stanzas unnumbered) MS1—P6, MS8—C; [stanzas misnumbered in Arabic numerals] AT/P6; (stanzas numbered in Arabic numerals) P7—MS6, P9—74, 84
  • §1-4 Half . . . hundred.] not MS1; [separate stanza aft. l. 17 del. (AT)], [stet and transpd. to beginning of poem (F)] MS2; [insrt. as separate stanza aft. ll. 16-17 (AT)] MS3; (continued stanza aft. ll. 16-17) MS4, P3; [transpd. to continue stanza aft. ll. 16-17] F/P2; [transpd. to beginning as separate stanza] F/P3; (separate stanza at beginning) P1-2, E, E1, P4-6
  • 1 Half] Half MS2—E, E1—P6, MS6-7,8
  • 1 1league,] ˜∧ MS3,8
  • 1 2league,] ˜∧ MS3-4,8
  • 2 Half (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS4, P3
  • 2 onward,] ˜∧ MS2-3,8
  • 3 valley] F/P8; Valley MS2, P8
  • 3 Death] death MS3,6
  • 4 Rode (indent.)] F/P3; (not indent.) MS4, P3
  • 4 hundred.] ˜: MS8
  • §4/5(1) Into the valley of Death] MS2, P1-2, F/P3, E, E1—P6; [del.] AT/P6; Into . . . *valley [ab. del. 'jaws'] . . . De<ath> MS1; Into . . . *jaws [ab. del. 'valley' (AT)] . . . MS3; Into . . . jaws . . . MS4, F/P2, P3
  • 4/5(2) Rode (indent.) the six hundred,] MS3, P1-2, F/P3, E, E1—P6; [del.] AT/P6; Rode (indent.) . . . hund<red>∧ MS1; Rode (indent.) . . . ˜∧ MS2; Rode (not indent.) . . . ˜∧ MS4; Rode (not indent) . . . ˜, P3
  • §4/5(3) For up came an order&c.rat; which] MS2, P1-2, F/P3, E, E1—P6; [del.] AT/P6; For * up [ab. del. 'down'] . . . o<rder>∧ . . . MS1; For . . . ˜, . . . MS3-4, F/P2, P3
  • 4/5(4) Some (indent.) one had blunder'd.] F/P1-3, E, E1—P6, [del.] AT/P6; Some (indent.) . . . blu<nder'd>∧ MS1; Some (indent.) . . .˜∧ MS2; Some (indent.) . . . ˜; MS3; Some (not indent.) . . . ˜; MS4; Some (indent.) . . . ˜, P1-2; Some (not indent.) . . . ˜. P3
  • 5-6 'Forward . . . said:] "Charge," was the leader's cry; P7; "Charge . . . captain's . . .; AT/P7, 55
  • 5 'Forward,] '˜∧ MS4,6-7,8; "˜, P8—62, 64-74, 84
  • 5 Light] light MS1-4,6
  • 5 Brigade!] F/P2; ˜, P1-2; ˜!' F/P1-2; ˜∧ MS8
  • 6 &c.rat;Charge for] AT/P5; &c.rat;Take you MS1; &c.rat;Take MS2-4; 'Take P1-E, E1—P6; '˜˜ AT/P6, MS7; "˜˜P8—62, 64-74, 84
  • ‡6 guns!'] ˜∧' MS1-4, AT/P6, MS6-7,8; ˜,' P1—E, E1—P6; ˜!" P8-62, 64-74, 84
  • 6 he] MS1, AT/P5-6; Nolan MS2—E, E1—P6
  • 6 said:] ˜; MS3-4; ˜∧ MS8

  • 42

    Page 42
  • §7 valley] F/P3; jaws [ab. del. 'valley' (AT)] MS3; jaws MS4, F/P2, P3
  • 7-12 Into . . . blunder'd:] not P7, 55
  • 8 Rode (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1-4, P3
  • 8 hundred.] ˜∧ MS6,8
  • §9 'Forward,] '˜∧ MS2,4—P2, F/P3, E, E1—P6, MS7,8; Honour [ab. del. 'Forward' (AT)] MS3; Honour MS4, F/P2, P3; "˜, P8-62, 64-74, 84
  • 9 Light] light MS1-4,6
  • ‡9 Brigade!'] F/P1-3; ˜'! MS2,8; ˜, MS4—P3, F/P2; ˜!" P8-62, 64-74, 84
  • ‡10 Was there a man] AT/P5-6; No man was there MS1-2, P1-2, F/P3, E, E1—P4; Hearts that were not [ab. del. 'No man was there' (AT)] MS3; Hearts, that were not MS4, F/P2, P3
  • ‡10 dismay'd?] AT/P6; ˜∧ MS1; ˜, MS2—E, E1—P6; ˜, ? AT/P5
  • 11 Not&c.rat;] ˜, AT/P6
  • 12 Some (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS4, P3
  • 12 blunder'd:] F/P3; ˜! MS4, F/P2, P3
  • 13-14 Their's . . . why,] transpd. P7, 55
  • 13 Their's] MS1; Theirs MS2—E, E1—P6, MS6-7,8
  • 13 reply,] ˜∧ MS2
  • 14 Their's] Theirs MS1—E, E1—P6, MS6-7,8
  • 15 Their's] MS1; Theirs MS2—E, E1—P6, MS6-7,8
  • 15 die:] ˜∧ MS1; ˜, MS2—E, E1—61, MS8
  • ‡16-17 Into . . . hundred.] F/P3; [del.], So they rode onward [insrt. (AT)] MS3; So (not indent.) . . . onward; MS4, P3; So [indent.] . . . onward; F/P2
  • 17 Rode (indent.)] ˜ (not indent.) MS1-2
  • 18 them,] ˜∧ MS2-3
  • 19 them,] ˜∧ MS2-3
  • 21 Volley'd (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1,4, P3
  • 21 thunder'd;] ˜∧ MS3
  • §22/23 Tho' *horse [ab. del. 'men'] & *hero [ab. del. 'horses'] <fell,> MS1; Tho horse and hero fell, [del. (AT)] MS3
  • 23 well,] ˜; P7, 55; ˜∧ MS6
  • 24 Death,] Hell MS1; ˜∧ MS2-3,6
  • 25 Hell&c.rat;] ˜, MS2-4, P7, 55
  • 26 Rode (indent.)] AT/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1-4, P3
  • 27 Flash'd all] AT/P1, U/P3; We saw MS1-4, F/P1-2, P3; He (error) saw P1-2
  • 27 bare,] ˜∧ MS1—P3, E1
  • 28 Flash'd] AT/P1, U/P3; Flash MS1—P3; ˜, MS6
  • ‡28 as they turn'd] AT/P6-7; all at once MS1—E, E1-55
  • 28 air&c.rat;] F/P1-3; ˜, MS1,3—P3, P7, 55, MS6-70; ˜, [comma del.], [stet.] F/P2
  • 30 army,] ˜∧ MS6,8
  • 31 All (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1,3-4, P3
  • 31 wonder'd:] ˜; MS4
  • 32 Plunged . . . battery-smoke] [del.], [insrt.] AT/P6; Full was the cheer that woke: [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6
  • 32 Plunged] Plung'd MS1
  • 32 battery-smoke] AT/P5; batter- <ysmoke,> MS1; batterysmoke, MS2-4; ˜∧˜, P1—E, E1; ˜∧˜∧ P4-6; batterysmoke&c.rat; MS5,7; ˜-˜, MS6
  • 32/33 With many a desperate stroke MS1-E, E1; [del.] ET/E1
  • 33 Right . . . broke;] AT/P6; Strong was the sabrestroke: [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6
  • 33 Right thro' the] The Russian MS1—E, E1; Fiercely the MS5, ET/E1, P4-55; . . . thro&c.rat; . . . AT/P6
  • §33 line] foe AT/P6; [intrl. aft. del. 'square' ab. del. 'foe'] MS6; [ab. del. 'foe'] MS7
  • 33 broke;] F/P2, ET/E1; <broke,> MS1; ˜, MS2-3, P1-2; ˜∧ MS5; ˜: AT/P7
  • §34 Cossack and Russian] ET/E1, ET/P6, [alt. fr. 'So was the Russian line'], MS6-7; not MS1—E, E1; [del.], Right thro the line they broke [insrt.], [del.], So was the Russion line [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6; Strong was the sabre-stroke: P7, 55; Strong . . .; AT/P7, AT/55(a), 552
  • §35 Reel'd . . . sabre-stroke] ET/E1, ET/P6; not MS1—E, E1; [del.], Making an army reel [insrt.], [del.], Struck by the sabrestr[oke] [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6; So was the Russian line P7; Making an army reel AT/P7, 55; [alt. fr. 'Struck by the sabrestroke'] MS6; [alt. fr. 'Struck by the Sabrestroke'] MS7
  • 35 sabre-stroke&c.rat;] sabrestroke&c.rat; MS5, ET/E1, P4-6, ET/P6; sabrestroke, MS6; ˜-˜, MS8
  • 36 Shatter'd . . . sunder'd.] ET/E1, ET/P6; [del.], [insrt.] AT/P6; not MS1—E, E1
  • 36 Shatter'd (indent.)] ˜ (not indent.) MS5, ET/P6, MS6-7; Shaken (indent.) AT/P7, 55
  • 36 sunder'd.] ˜∧ ET/E1, ET/P6
  • 37-38 Then . . . hundred. (continued stanza)] F/P9; (separate stanza) MS5, ET/E1, P4-6, MS6-7, P9

  • 43

    Page 43
  • 37 Then . . . back,] AT/P6; Then . . . back as | Before (not indent.) they rode onward | Half a league back MS5; Then . . . back as | Before (indent.) they rode onward, | Half a a league back, ET/E1, P4-6
  • §37 rode] U/P3; turn<'d> MS1; [ab. del. 'turn'd' (AT)] MS2; turn'd MS3-4, F/P2, P3
  • 37 not&c.rat;] ˜, MS3-4, P7, 55
  • 38 Not (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1-4, P3, MS5
  • 38 hundred.] ˜! MS4; ˜∧ MS5, ET/E1
  • 39 them,] ˜∧ MS3, MS6
  • 40 them,] ˜∧ MS3, MS6-7
  • 42 Volley'd (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1,3-4, P3
  • 44 While . . . fell,] [stet] AT/P6; Thrust at by lancers while | Horsemen & horses fell, AT/P5; [del.], Hack'd at & hew'd at till | Horsemen & horses fell [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6
  • §45 They] Those MS1—E, E1-55; [alt. fr. 'Those' (AT)] MS7
  • 46 Came] Rode AT/P6-55
  • §46 thro'] AT/P6; from MS1—E, E1—P6; [alt. fr. 'through' (AT)] MS7
  • 46 Death,] F/P2; ˜∧ MS2, P1-2, F/P3, MS6-7, P8-74, 84
  • 47 Back] Up P7, 55
  • 47 Hell,] F/P8; ˜∧ MS7, P8
  • 47/48 Half a league back again&c.rat;] [insrt.], [del.] AT/P6; Half . . . ˜, P7, 55
  • 48 them,] ˜∧ MS8
  • 49 Left (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS1-4, P3
  • §50-55 When . . . hundred!] not MS1; Honour the brave & bold! | Long shall the tale be told, | Yea, when our *babes [ab. del. 'sons'] are old— | How (indent.) they rode onward. AT/P7; Honour . . . and . . . onward. 55
  • 50 fade?] ˜∧ MS3
  • 51 made!] ˜∧ MS3
  • 52 All (indent.)] F/P3; ˜ (not indent.) MS2,4, P3
  • 52 wonder'd.] ˜∧ MS3; ˜; MS4, F/P2
  • 53 made!] ˜∧ MS3; ˜, MS6
  • §53/54 No man was there afraid;] MS2, P1-2; [del.] AT/P1, F/P2; No . . . ˜∧ [del. (AT)] MS3
  • 54 Light] light MS3-4,6
  • §55 Noble (indent.)] F/P3; [bef. del. 'All the' (indent.) (AT)] MS3; ˜ (not indent.) MS4, P3
(no footnote or concluding message)] MS1,3-4; (footnote ¶ *Written after reading the first report of the Times&c.rat; correspondent&c.rat; where only 607 sabres are mentioned as having taken part in the charge. (AT)MS2; . . . Times∧ correspondent&c.rat; . . . . P1-2; . . . Times' correspondent, . . . F/P1-2—E, E1; (no ¶; footnote in single line) P4-6; (concluding message in F's autograph) Having heard that the brave soldiers in the Crimea, whom I am proud to call my countrymen, have a liking for my ballad on the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, I have ordered a thousand copies of it to be printed ['and then sent' del.] for distribution among them. No writing of mine can add to the glory they have acquired in the Crimea; but if what I have heard *be [ab. del. 'is'] true&c.rat; they will not ['object' del.] be displeased to receive these copies of the ballad from me, and to know that those who sit at home love and honour them. (left hand of page) 8th August 1855. (right hand of page) Alfred Tennyson. P8; . . . soldiers before Sebastopol in . . . Ballad . . . [not 'distribution among'] . . . true, . . . Ballad. . . . (left hand of page) 8th August, 1855. (right hand of page) ALFRED TENNYSON. C


All alterations in manuscripts made during the course of writing and revision that have not previously been shown in the Historical Collation are recorded here. The medium is black ink.

The lemmata—readings to the left of the bracket—are those of the Eversley edition and ordinarily represent agreement of book and manuscript. To permit a condensed entry in one instance (l. 14), a single dagger (†) prefixed to the line reference warns the


Page 44
reader to use the Historical Collation for the exact manuscript reading where it is not precisely that of the lemma and has not been specified in the descriptive part of the entry.

  • 3 All in] ab. del. 'All in' bef. del. 'Into' (AT)MS3
  • 6 Charge . . . guns!'] 'Take you the guns' ab. del. 'There is the foe' MS1
  • 7 Death] 'D' over 'd' MS6
  • 9 the] ab. undel. 'the' (AT)MS3
  • 9 Brigade!] comma aft. del. '!' MS4
  • 10 Was . . . dismay'd?] 'No man was there dismay'd' ab. del. 'Take the guns Nolan said' MS1
  • 11 Not tho' the soldier knew] intrl. MS1
  • 13 Their's not] alt. fr. 'Not their's' MS1
  • 13 make reply,] ab. del. 'reason why' MS1
  • †14 Their's not] alt. fr. 'Not theirs' MS1
  • 14 reason why,] ab. del. 'make reply' MS1
  • 14/15 'Theirs to move onward; | Theirs not to make reply,' insrt., del. (AT)MS2
  • 15 and] over 'or' (AT)MS3
  • 16 Death] 'D' over 'd' MS6
  • 23 Boldly] ab. del. 'Wildly' insrt. bef. del. 'Boldly' (AT)MS2
  • 24 Death] 'D' over 'd' MS6
  • 28 as they turn'd in] 'all at once in' ab. del. 'in the dazzled' MS1
  • 36 Shatter'd (indent.) . . . sunder'd.] insrt. (not indent.) with ampersand for del. 'Shatter'd (indent.) & sunder'd.'; 'a' ab. blotted 'a' in insrt. 'Shatter'd' MS6; insrt. (not indent.) for del. 'Shatter'd (indent.) and sunder'd.' MS7
  • 37 they] aft. del. 'back' MS1
  • 44 horse] ab. del. 'men' MS1
  • 45 had] insrt. MS6, MS8



Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir (1897), I, 381.


Letter to John Forster, 6 December 1854, The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, ed. James O. Hoge (1974), p. 70. Tennyson's wife is contradictory concerning the date of composition itself. In the letter to Forster, she refers to the poem as 'written yesterday' (5 December); but the entry in her Journal under 2 December confirms the son's date: 'A. wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade" & sent it to The Examiner' (Lady Tennyson's Journal, ed. James O. Hoge [1981], p. 40). A letter from Tennyson to Forster with a postscript by his wife, also dated 6 December (printed below), establishes that he and his wife actually posted the poem to the Examiner on 6 December.


For a bibliographical description of this MS and the other MSS and proofs compared in this article, see the Bibliographical Note below.


This letter is in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln Public Library, Lincoln (abbreviated TRC). Hereafter the whereabouts of other unpublished letters will be given in the text. For permission to print from letters, MSS, and proofs, the authors are grateful to the Lord Tennyson, Mr. Richard Garnett, Mr. Robert H. Taylor, and the authorities of the Lincolnshire Library Services, Harvard University, The Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University. In printing letters, we observe exactly the orthography and punctuation (or lack of it) in the original (or in a typescript or printed text, when the MS original is not available), with the following exceptions: we regularly indent paragraphs, put postscripts at the end of the letter (regardless of where they actually appear), and separate without a stop the 'A' and the 'T' of Tennyson, which the poet often wrote together in his signature.


In the leader of 13 November, The Times had first said 'about 700 strong' and then later 'seven hundred'; in the second edition of 13 November and on 14 November, the special correspondent's report had given both '607 sabres' and a total of 607, while the leader of 14 November had spoken of 600. Working from recollection, the poet and his wife seem to have transposed the chronology of the numbers: she wrote to Forster concurrently with Tennyson on 6 December of the 'first report of The Times which gave the number as 605. He prefers "six hundred" on account of the metre but if you think it should be altered to 700 which from later accounts seems to have been the number he says you are to alter it' (The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, p. 70). Actually, 673 horsemen began the charge, according to E. L. Woodward; '113 were killed and 134 wounded; 475 of the horses were killed and 42 wounded' (The Age of Reform, 1815-1870 [1938; rpt. with corrections, 1946], p. 272.


MS4, in which none of the lines is indented from the left-hand margin, is a fair copy in Emily Tennyson's hand of MS3, a MS in her hand with emendations in the poet's. Presumably an additional MS is extant that seems to be a textual state slightly later than MS4 and coincident with the first proof (P1). It was lot 295 in the N. H. Lehman sale at the Union Galleries in New York, 17 April 1936; but its subsequent history and present whereabouts we have not been able to discover. For details concerning this MS, see the Bibliographical Note.


Emily Tennyson presumably had written separately to this effect in a letter now lost.


Forster's quoting 'muse of fire' (with 'ascend') from Henry V (Prologue: 'O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend | The brightest heaven of invention') calls up the fact that the Charge of the Light Brigade took place on the same day of the year, 25 October, as the Battle of Agincourt. In the discussion of the charge and of Tennyson's poem at the time, there seems to be no reference to this fact; but was Russell in The Times, 14 November, recalling 'band of brothers' when he wrote of the 'band of heroes'? And when The Times in a second leader of 13 November quoted 'those gentlemen of England who live at home at ease', was this coloured by Henry V's speech before Agincourt: 'and gentlemen in England, now a-bed'? The claims for Drayton's 'Ballad of Agincourt' as a source for Tennyson's poem (it was suggested at least as early as 1872: Richard Hooper, Notes and Queries, 4th ser., 10, 338) might gain some support from the coincidence of the battle-day; Tennyson denied the source (Eversley edition, II, 369), but one of Drayton's stanzas has as its arching rhyme 'wonder' | 'thunder'.


John O. Eidson, Tennyson in America (1943), pp. 144-145; Charles Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson (1949), p. 284; The Letters of Emily Lady Tennyson, p. 79, n. 1; Witter Bynner, The Sonnets of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1931), pp. 29-30; Samuel A. Golden, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1966), p. 38.


Hallam Tennyson, Materials for a Life of A. T. (n. d.), II, 149.


This statement of itself might be construed as exonerating Tuckerman.


Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., 'The Critical Reception of Tennyson's Maud', PMLA, 68 (1953), 399, n. 14.


'Down' for 'up' and 'Oh' for 'O' are misquotations by Massey of the text in the Examiner, and he omits two of the last four lines.


Lady Tennyson's Journal (p. 54) records on 14 October, 'A letter from the Senior Chaplain (Crimea) asking for a thousand more copies of "The Charge."' The letter is printed in full in Materials, II, 111-113.


Memoir, I, 411. Willingham F. Rawnsley (in 'Personal Recollections of Tennyson—I', The Nineteenth Century and After, 97 [1925], 8) floated the canard: 'Ruskin, remonstrating and telling him that it was the key to the whole thing, got him to put it back'.


The proof copy of 'A New Edition' of Maud, and Other Poems, 1856, in the TRC has '[3rd ed]' written in pencil on the title page, and Thomas J. Wise (A Bibliography of the Writings of Alfred, Lord Tennyson [1908, rpt. 1967], I, 131-132), alleging that a second edition was published in 1855, designates the 1856 volume the third edition. In fact, it was the second. The publisher's numbering, when he abandoned 'A New Edition' and put 'Eleventh Edition' on the title page in 1866, was correct (not off by one as Wise asserts), though there were several printings of the first edition, and though the preliminary advertisements bound in some copies of the first edition are dated July and in others August. Maud, and Other Poems sold rapidly in the first four months after publication (by 24 November 1855 Moxon was advertising the 'Nineth Thousand'—Athenaeum, p. 1377); but a second edition was not required until the end of 1856, and Tennyson did not send Moxon the revised text for the second edition until 11 October 1856 (Lady Tennyson's Journal, p. 76). Details of the publishing history of the first edition are as follows. Moxon apparently first printed 3000 copies, but soon added another 2000, writing Mrs. Tennyson in a letter dated 'Monday', presumably 23 July 1855 (five days before publication on 28 July), '. . . as we have already received orders for upwards of 3000 copies of Maud, I have requested the Printers to strike off immediately 2000 copies more, and to keep the type standing' (TRC). On 1 August the Publishers' Circular (18, 305) announced that the booksellers had subscribed 'for upwards of 4000'. Next Moxon reported to Tennyson in a letter dated merely 'Saturday' that he had 'had 2000 copies more struck off of Maud and that we are now selling the sixth thousand' (TRC). This third printing raised the total figure to 7000 copies, and finally Moxon had to print additional copies that brought the edition to 10,000. In one of the later printings, perhaps by the third, Moxon had changed, as Mrs. Tennyson had directed by letter, two accidentals in 'Maud' and the colon to a semicolon in 1. 34 of 'The Charge', so that there was a second issue of the first edition. On 15 October the Publishers' Circular (18, 385) declared, 'Upwards of eight thousand copies of Tennyson's "Maud" have already been sold'. By the end of the year, as the publisher's account with the poet shows (TRC), 8517 had been sold and 62 review, author's, and complimentary copies had been distributed. In the first part of 1856 Moxon informed Tennyson, 'As we have still on hand 900 copies of Maud, we shall not, if I may judge by the sale for the last three months, require a new edition much before autumn' (TRC). In late May there was the discouraging word, 'We have I find still on hand upwards of 500 copies of Maud. . . . Business I am sorry to say is at present exceedingly dull and will not I fear be much better till winter' (TRC). Although on 20 December 1856, Moxon was still advertising the 'Tenth Thousand' (Athenaeum, p. 1560), his account for 1856 records 1421 copies sold by 31 December, which exactly exhausted the first edition. Moxon's advertisement on 10 October 1857 (Athenaeum, p. 1256) of Maud, and Other Poems, 'Second Edition' clearly rules out a second edition in 1855 and establishes that 'A New Edition', 1856, was the second edition.


See Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. and Christopher Ricks, 'A Further History of Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington', Studies in Bibliography, 32 (1979), 141-146.


In the discussion that follows, line references for early readings in the Historical Collation appear in square brackets; others are in parentheses. All numbers key to the authoritative text in the Eversley edition, Works, II (1908), from which final readings are quoted. For convenience, the entire poem in this text is printed below, after the Bibliographical Note and before the Historical Collation.


Cf. 'Plunged in the battery-smoke | Right thro' the line ['square' originally in MS6] they broke' (Historical Collation, 33).


Cf. '"There is the foe"' (Alterations in MSS, 6).


23 January 1855; Catalogue of the William Harris Arnold Collection, for sale November 10-11, 1924, Anderson Galleries, p. 227, and William Harris Arnold's Ventures in Book Collecting (1923), p. 247. See also Tennyson Research Bulletin, 2 (1973), 75, for a slightly variant text and the possibility of a different date [?29 January].


Contrast Henry V (IV, iii), before Agincourt:

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester—
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.


Tennyson failed to capitalize 'death' [37] in MS3 and raised the lower case 'd', which he had first written, to a capital 'Death' (7, 16, 24) in MS6.


'Cossack and Russian' (34) did not appear in the text from MS1 through the Examiner and superseded (E1, P6, MS6-7—) 'the Russian line' [34, 35] (P6—55); and 'Cossack and Russian' owed something not only to the thrill of the word Cossack in English, but also to Russell in The Times: 'The ground was left covered with our men and with hundreds of Russians, and we could see the Cossacks busy searching the dead'.


Tennyson failed to capitalize 'Light', essential to its being felt as a name, in lines 5 and 9 in MS1-4,6 and in line 54 in MS3-4,6.


Tennyson briefly rescinded this repetition and replaced it with 'Honour the Light Brigade!' (MS3-4), but thought better of it in time for Forster to restore it in P3.


The charge, in more than one sense, is lacking from the Examiner's text: '"Take the guns," Nolan said' [6] (P1-E, E1-P6). (There were other accidental and substantive variants (MS1-4, P7, 55)). The Times (Russell) had: '"There are the enemy, and there are the guns, sir, before them; it is your duty to take them," or words to that effect, according to the statements made since his death'. 'Or words to that effect' is admirably honest in a war-reporter; inconceivable as applied to the words of a poem and their effect.


See Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Reason Why (1953), pp. 237-242.


A line that stood in place of lines 16-17 carried a 'they' in MS3-4, P2; and there was a 'they' in the last line of the poem in P7 and the Maud volume (1855).


'Those that had fought so well' [45] (MS1—E, E1—55, MS7) not only failed to manifest this simple supremacy of the pronoun 'They', but also might have implied an invidious distinction, as if 'Those that had fought so well' returned, and those others who did not return had perhaps not fought so well. 'They', because of its community and continuity with the ubiquitous 'they' of the poem, avoids this.


Although not perhaps so unfortunate as the earliest MS reading here (MS1), indebted to Russell in The Times, '"There is the foe" he said', to which the only answer would have been 'Tiens' or some Hotspur-like exasperation.


But 'our' is not so secure when Russell permits himself to say of the cannon-balls: 'Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks'.


See also Emily Tennyson's postscript to the letter first sending Forster the poem, 6 Dec. 1854 (p. 4 above).


In The Times (leader, 14 November) 'under the eyes of the whole world', with no such reciprocity as Tennyson's repeated cohesive 'All'.


For variants involving the replacing of 'jaws' by 'valley', see Historical Collation, 4/5(1), 7; and for a 'Death' | 'Hell' variant (MS1), see Historical Collation, 24.


Materials, II, 113.


Paradise Lost, I, 303, for 'Vallombrosa' recalled in the landscape of Hell; and VI, 576-586, for the Satanic artillery, with its cannons' 'mouths' that 'belcht'.


'Take you the guns' and 'Take the guns' [6] instead of 'Charge . . .' persisted in the text until P7.


To mark a copy of the poem with coloured inks, to bring out the repetitions and filaments, is a revelation.


Variants affecting stanza disposition and indenting may be found throughout; see Historical Collation, 1-4, 2, 4, 4/5(2), 4/5(4), 8, 12, 16-17, 17, 21, 26, 31, 36, 37-38, 37, 38, 42, 49, 52, 55.


For some time 'turn'd' [37] (MS1-4, P2-3) instead of 'rode' (37) was a reading.


The line 'Tho' horse and hero fell' [22/23] had originally appeared in MS1 and MS3, and Tennyson had deleted it in MS3. In MS1 instead of ending in 'Death', line 24, as well as line 25, terminated in 'Hell'.


Tennyson may have been sensitive to this procession of numbers in The Times (leader, 13 November); 'Two great armies, composed of four nations, saw from the slopes of a vast amphitheatre seven hundred British cavalry proceed at a rapid pace'.


T. Wemyss Reid, The Life, Letters, and Friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes (1890), I, 512; 16 July 1855.


Stanzas I, II, III, and V all have two such lines without terminal punctuation; and VI, none. For the arrival at this circumstance in IV, see Historical Collation, 28, 32, 35, 37. Revisions affecting terminal punctuation may be found throughout the Historical Collation.


Audrey Tennyson, Hallam Tennyson's wife, noted that on 15 May 1890 at Farringford the poet 'said down the phonograph' 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' (Works, 10 vols. [London: Macmillan, 1884-93], II, 223, in TRC—Tennyson in Lincoln: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Research Centre, comp. Nancie Compbell, II [1973], 2: No. 3650). The modern recording is a 33 1/3 RPM disc (1969), issued by the Tennyson Society. See also Bennett Maxwell, 'The Steytler Recordings of Alfred Lord Tennyson: A History', Tennyson Research Bulletin, 3 (1980), 150-157.


The dramatic immediacy of 'knew' is the more inescapable when compared to the enfeebled transitional (rather than urgently transitive) 'which' of Tennyson's enjambement, earlier in the poem as first published: 'For up came an order which | Some one had blunder'd' [4/5(3)-(4)]. Cf. the 'as' of 'Then they rode back as | Before they rode onward' [37] (MS5-P6). This instance is possibly even worse than the 'which'.


Quoted in The Times (leader, 13 November). Woodham-Smith (The Reason Why, p. 247) attributes it to the French General Pierre Jean François Bosquet (1810-61).


Tennyson originally wrote 'Not their's to. . .', 'Not theirs to. . .' [13-14] in MS1. His improvement is a matter of the positive force then given to the negative concept; the military mission is not just that it is 'not theirs' to make reply or question why, but that it is positively 'theirs not' to do such things; as when it is said that if it is not your duty to do such-and-such, it may be your duty not to do it.


Emily Tennyson's inadvertent slip into 'do or die' [15] in MS3, Tennyson immediately corrected.


Tennyson originally wrote 'men & horses' before changing the reading to 'horse & hero' [22/23] (MS1).


Memoir, I, 388.


The adjectives 'desperate' [32/33] (MS1—E, E1) and 'strong' [34] (P7, 55), Tennyson did not retain.


'Scattered and broken' Russell wrote in The Times, but of the Brigade.


If 'wild' had not been qualified so, it could have been damaging (undisciplinedly wild?), as in Tennyson's second thought 'Wildly' [23] (MS2) for 'Boldly', in 'Boldly they rode and well' (23).