THIS MONTH’S PARODY (Feb 2014) The Charge of the Light Brigade

This poem was written to memorialize a suicidal charge by light cavalry over open terrain by British forces in the Battle of Balaclava (Ukraine) in the Crimean War (1854-56). 247 men of the 637 in the charge were killed or wounded. The date of the Battle was October 25, 1854 and Tennyson wrote this famous poem in the same year.

One could hardly imagine a more bathetic use of these verses than Anon’s somewhat forced parody. The Village Choir is the Light Brigade, half a league becomes half a bar, and the brave six hundred is reflected in the hymn tune the Old One Hundredth (Anon calls it the ‘Old Hundred’), to which we sing ‘All people that on earth do dwell’, a metrical version of Psalm 100.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
`Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
`Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

 

THE VILLAGE CHOIR

Anon.

Half a bar, half a bar,

Half a bar onward!

Into an awful ditch

Choir and precentor hitch,

Into a mess of pitch,

They led the Old Hundred.

Trebles to right of them,

Tenors to left of them,

Basses in front of them,

Bellowed and thundered.

Oh, that precentor’s look,

When the sopranos took

Their own time and hook

From the Old Hundred!

 

Screeched all the trebles here,

Boggled the tenors there,

Raising the parson’s hair,

While his mind wandered;

Theirs not to reason why

This psalm was pitched too high:

Theirs but to gasp and cry

Out the Old Hundred.

Trebles to right of them,

Tenros to left of them,

Basses in front of them,

Bellowed and thundered.

Stormed they with shout and yell,

Not wise they sang nor well,

Drowning the sexton’s bell,

While all the Church wondered.

 

Dire the precentor’s glare,

Flashed his pitchfork in the air

Sounding fresh keys to bear

Out the Old Hundred.

Swiftly he turned his back,

Reached he his hat from rack,

Then from the screaming pack,

Himself he sundered.

Tenors to right of him,

Tenors to left of him,

Discords behind him,

Bellowed and thundered.

Oh, the wild howls they wrought:

Right to the end they fought!

Some tune they sang, but not

Not the Old Hundred.

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