What is the compromise in "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The word "compromise" does not appear in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade." In fact, the common concept of the word, which is to settle a dispute by mutual concession, is not in the poem, either. After considering some synonyms for the word and rereading the poem, probably the best definition of compromise which applies to this poem is cooperation.

Six hundred men rode bravely into battle, saying “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Unfortunately, in the second stanza of the poem, it becomes clear that this was a battle they should not have entered and probably will not win. 

Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
 
Someone in command had made a mistake and the soldiers all knew it; yet they chose to move forward together, without accusation or complaint. This is the point of cooperation (compromise) in the poem. The obedient soldiers, even in the face of certain death, rode forward together with unquestioning loyalty. 
 
Today this sounds rather foolish and irrational; however, this poem is based on an actual event in history and Tennyson wanted to depict these men as heroes for their obedience and loyalty (see the links posted below). In either case, their solidarity in moving forward without question or pause is the moment of compromise in this poem. The men understood what they were giving up (their lives) but chose loyalty; and that was a compromise they willingly made. 


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