Both “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Sohrab and Rustum” are poems which dwell mainly on heroism and present the ideas of war and combat in a false light. Although “The Charge of the Light Brigade” does portray suffering and injuries, it does not dwell on them as it was written in the 1800s and in this period of time, one could not criticise war or the government or serious action would be taken. “Sohrab and Rustum” presents combat and war as magnificent and fantastic but rebels against father and son or family members fighting. “Sohrab and Rustum” was also written in the 1800s, more specifically in the 1830s; during this day and age, combat and fighting was seen as a manly ‘activity’ that was not frowned upon.
Right away, the two prestigious fighters, Sohrab and Rustum are described as “two eagles on one prey”. Eagles are associated with being large, magnificent, heroic, and noble predators. “Sohrab and Rustum” is a very exaggerated, heroic style, surreal combat poem. First of all, although just a figure of speech, “come rushing down together from the clouds” gives the reader a very early implication that this poem is not real, more supernatural than anything. The poet already makes both fighters possess god-like or angelic qualities. Then, the clashing of the two combatants is described as a “din…of hewing axes, crashing trees”. This makes the combat seem that much more glorious, magnificent and epic, which is how the people in that period of time liked to see it. The poet then portrays the unnaturalness of the poem to us, directly; “sun and stars took part in that unnatural conflict”.
The weather is also a sign of the surrealism of the poem; this is the use of pathetic fallacy. As soon as the combatants clash “a cloud grew suddenly in Heaven, and dark’d the sun over the fighters’ heads; and a wind rose under their feet”. It is very artificial and cartoony, the contrast is so strong that the fighters are “alone”, in darkness, stormy weather, and “gloom”, whereas “the on-looking hosts on either hand stood in broad daylight, and the sky was pure, and the sun sparkled on the Oxus stream”. The word “gloom” is repeated several times throughout the poem, but only in the parts where the combat is described, as they are detached from everything else around them and it represents the consistent negative atmosphere. Then, toward the closing of the poem, the weather changes again as the victor stood “safe upon his feet” the “sun broke forth, and melted the cloud”.
“Sohrab and Rustum” is also a poem that does not dwell on the suffering and pain in the fighters, it implies that they do not feel any pain as they are men, the earth, surroundings and the nature however, do feel pain but are detached from the fighters, the nature suffers for the fighters, “moaning swept the plain”. The next small implication of pain is in the fighters’ eyes. The eyes are described three times in the poem and each time they get worse, “bloodshot eyes…dreadful eyes…blinking eyes”. When either one of the fighters are stabbed or hit, they still do not feel pain, but anger, the anger takes them over, “Rustum pluck’d it back with angry groan”. Aswell as nature feeling the fighters’ pain, so do the animals, “the horse, who stood at hand, utter’d a dreadful cry”.
The main theme of this poem however, is the idea of rebelliousness against the fact that it is father and son fighting, not against the combat itself. The “moaning” of the land and the “cry” of the horse is all in protest of the family feuding, even the simple sibilance on ‘s’ gives that rebelliousness.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” is a very different poem. It is one, which does not dwell on injuries, casualties, and failures not because it does not want to, but because the poet couldn’t write such things. Although the poet has included subtle yet noticeable criticisms toward generals and war in general, the readers of that day did not realise that what Tennyson was saying was criticism as he wrote in a very clever way, which made every sentence seem like it had a double meaning and could be interpreted in two ways.
Alfred Tennyson wrote like other war poets who wrote in the 20th century. Although he did not have as much freedom of speech as they did, he still conveyed his feelings and attitudes to war in a very sophisticated manner. He, also like 20th century war poets, criticised the high-ranking officers and praised the soldiers for obeying orders and doing what they were told to do, whether right or wrong.