National Poetry Day

I missed National Poetry Day. I guess it was October 1st this year. When I was a kid, I used to write poems all the time. Topics ranged from my grandma’s food, my grandpa buying lottery tickets, why I loved baseball, etc… I was far from a talented poet. I would never have been able to make a living as a poet!

There are many famous poets, who you no doubt will know by name: Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Shel Silverstein, Carl Sandburg, and many, many more! Growing up I was very familiar with them as we often read their poems in school. Shel Silverstein had a book out called Where the Sidewalk Ends that my teachers seem to read aloud from often. In junior high and high school, we had these thick hard cover Literature books which were full of short stories, classics, and many poems. I recall reading Poe’s The Raven from one of these.

When I think of poetry, there is ALWAYS one that comes to my mind – and not for any reasons you might think! The poem is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade. I recall one class where we had to pick a poem and read it aloud in front of the class. I chose this one. Why is this the one I remember? I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote this in 1854 about the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. (It sounds like I am a history buff, right? In all honesty, I had no idea about the details of this battle or even the Crimean War until I looked it up!) He wrote this poem based on two articles he had read about the battle.

According to one source: 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. Britain entered the war, which was fought by Russia against Turkey, Britain and France, because Russia sought to control the Dardanelles. Russian control of the Dardanelles threatened British sea routes.

Many in the west best know of this war today because of Florence Nightingale, who trained and led nurses aiding the wounded during the war in a manner innovative for those times. The War was also noteworthy as an early example of the work of modern war correspondents.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Here is the poem:

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & 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 & 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 & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & 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 & 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!

Enter – Alfalfa

So why do I remember this poem? Would you believe because of the Little Rascals?

Growing up, we watched the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and the Little Rascals. In one particular Little Rascals comedy (Two Too Young from 1936), Alfalfa puts some firecrackers in his back pocket that he and Spanky have conned Porky and Buckwheat out of. After returning to class, the teacher asks who knows the recitation. To Spanky’s surprise, Alfalfa raises his hand. He stands and begins to recite the poem. Porky spots the fireworks and proceeds to light the fuse using the sun, which provides some “battle sound effects” to accompany the poem. “Cannons to the left of me…….”

Alfalfa in Two Too Young (1936)

So there you have it – a bit of culture today for National Poetry Day. Have no fear, this is about as cultural as this blog will ever get!

Porky and Buckwheat!

Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite poet? Favorite Poem?

A Curly Classic!

One thought on “National Poetry Day

  1. “There was a lady from Nantucket…” Nahhh just kidding.

    I like a few from Ralph Waldo Emerson… I remember a quote by him “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”…I had that one on my computer desktop…the only time I was ever let go or laid off…they mentioned this on my screen when they let me go…it must have hit home to them. My job now wants out of the box thinking…which I deliver lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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