The poems, The Charge of the Light Brigade written by Lord Alfred Tennyson and I Felt a Funeral in My Brain written by Emily Dickinson have a similar theme. These two poems talk about the theme of death in two different settings. Emily Dickinson’s poem, I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, is an allegorical description of the feeling experienced by the narrator that the normal function of her brain had come to an end, the similar way a person’s normal function of their bodies end when they die. Therefore, the funeral in her brain can be explained as a metaphor for the death of the mind of the narrator (Cameron Para. 1). On the other hand, The Charge of the Light Brigade poem, written by Lord Alfred Tennyson talks about six hundred soldiers who literally rode into the valley of death on horsebacks for half a league. The soldiers were obeying the command given to them to charge against the enemy forces that had been seizing their guns. Although they knew that the command had been a blunder, they still had to obey it. In this context, many of them died while a few made back.
In Emily Dickinson’s I felt a Funeral in My Brain, the poem commences with her ‘feeling’ the funeral, then she later describes not ‘feeling’ all through the narrative of the poem. However, in the second to last stanza, she expresses that it is about what is taking place inside of her mental state that she is expressing and not an actual funeral. She uses the systematic, articulated funeral rites and ceremonies to describe her funeral so that the reader may easily comprehend her state and her feelings. Without the use of such narrations, it could have been difficult for one comprehend or apprehend the aguish of the exact situation of her state of mind. Through the use of this allegory in dramatizing what took place with herself, she indicates that a straightforward description of her decent into madness could not be sufficient in expressing her situation narrator (Cameron Para. 1-3)
Dickinson describes her situation in the past tense to indicate that it is something that has happened to the speaker. The speaker narrates the horrors associated with death by giving vivid descriptions and pictures of her own coffin and herself in it. She knows that this is something that majority of people do not want to view and picture themselves in their coffins. This picture vividly explains the horrific experience of the speaker of losing her sanity. In addition, the speaker narrates the events of the funeral without mentioning of any other person. As the funeral is conducted, the reader can see that there is no interaction of any degree, no sentence is ever said, no wailing, no eulogy, no mourning costume is described, no sobbing and actually, no sadness of any degree. The mourners can be seen to be devoid of any feeling. It is as though the speaker did not actually exist. If indeed she is person represented as the one who died, she has no connection with the living and therefore experiences isolation and loneliness.
In the poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade written by Lord Alfred Tennyson, the theme of death is also well expressed. Six hundred soldiers are given a command to go and charge against the enemy force that had been seizing their guns. As if their lives were not important or significant, their commander instructed them to charge forward and get back what they had lost. Even though every soldier realized that their commander had blundered, there was no single soldier who refused to charge forward into the enemy camp. The speaker points out that the soldiers were assaulted with all sorts of shots from all sides. Nonetheless, they relentlessly charged forward into the jaws of death and into the mouth of hell. It is expressed that the six hundred soldiers rode into the artillery smoke. There were canons from behind and in front that attacked them with shots and shells (The Guardian Para. 3).
The stanzas of the poem are six in totals that fluctuate in length from about six to twelve lines. In every line there are two stressed syllables followed by two unstressed syllables. This is important in the sense that it makes a dactylic rhythm in the poem. The utilization of “falling” rhythm in the poem and the “falls off” stresses the overwhelming fall of the British Brigade. Additionally, the rhyme scheme is also well employed in the poem. However, the rhyming varies with every stanza. An example is found in these three lines: “Flashed all their sabres bare / Flashed as they turned in air / Sabring the gunners there” (Tennyson Para. 4). Furthermore, Tennyson uses anaphora which the repetition of the same word at the beginning of lines or sentences. We often meet the word canon used severally at the start of sentences. For example, these three sentences: “Cannon to right of them / Cannon to left of them / Cannon in front of them” (Tennyson Para. 3) bring out the emphasis of how the soldiers were assaulted from every side. This resulted in massive loss of life of the soldiers. Nonetheless, the whole world just watched as they died and seemed not to care. Worse still, the commander did not relent or fall back so as to save lives but was determined to accomplish his goal irrespective of the lives lost.
The two poems, The Charge of the Light Brigade written by Lord Alfred Tennyson and I Felt a Funeral in My Brain written by Emily Dickinson have therefore, explored the theme of death in different ways. However, the occurrence of death in both poems does not cause a reaction from the world that indicates that they are concerned or worried of the losses of life that has occurred. In Dickinson’s poem, neither does the speaker experience any concern from the outside world of her funeral nor does she feel any emotional attachment to the people who were officiating her funeral. The similar scenario is seen in Tennyson’s poem since the commander and rest of the world just watched as the British Brigade soldiers got shot from every side and died.
In summary, the two poems have explored the theme of death in different states. One is through a metaphor where the speaker narrates her own funeral experience in the mind while the other is the actual description of the physical death of soldiers. Both poems have also employed different stylistic features in expressing the message to the reader such as rhythm, metaphor and rhyme.
Cameron, Sharon. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain. N.d. Accessed < http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dickinson/280.htm >
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. The Charge of the Light Brigade. 1870. < http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174586 >
The Guardian. Poem of the week: The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Tennyson. 2013. Accessed < http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/jan/20/poem-of-the-week-charge-light-brigade-tennyson >