This poem leaves me torn. It speaks to both the honor and bravery to follow impossible orders into the jaws of death, trusting that there is a purpose and your lives are not simply being thrown away, and the tragedy and stupidity of pointless death when a leader screws up. Yes, there is glory, but there is also profound sadness.

As a note, “theirs not to reason why” isn’t about following orders blindly as unthinking, brainwashed automatons. The alternative, taking time to debate an order in the midst of a battle, can easily lead to the loss of the army or battle. 

That is why they are noble, and that is why this event is such a tragedy. They were willing to trust their orders and face near-certain death to do their duty. The tragedy wasn’t being sent off on a suicide charge (as there are circumstances where in their death they may win the day or save lives – see Thermopylae ), but being sent on a pointless one, especially since they were not intended to make a frontal assault against the main batteries, but to harry a different set entirely, and somewhere along the line the orders got screwed up.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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 soldiers knew
  Some one had blunder’d:
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.

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 turned 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!