"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" — Reading nd Discussion Questions (2)Glenn Everett, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennesview at Martin
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To acquire into this poem, Browning needs that you usage your creative thinking andoffers just sufficient detail to stimulate your creation of the scene. Thisimplies that you have to read closely and also attract inferences regarding what thesedetails imply.
"My first assumed was, he lied in eincredibly word,/ That hoary cripple, withmalicious eye,/ Askance to watch the functioning of his lie. . . ." This is apretty odd means to begin a poem. Who might this "hoary cripple" be? What isit he lies around, and is tright here any kind of tip that the narrator ever decideshe was informing the truth? Does this character indicate similarities withother poems, say Coleridge"s "Rime of the Old Mariner"?
We gain no description of the narrator, except what is implied in hisactions. What execute you know around him by the end of the poem?
Look carefully at stanzas 3 - 8. If the old cripple lied, why doesChilde Roland also follow his directions? Is he courting death? failure? despair?
Stanza VII suggests to us that Roland and the other members of "TheBand" have been seeking the Dark Tower. This incredibly name makes the searchvarious than one for the Divine Grail. What symbolic valuecould the tower and the search for it have? Why would Roland require anyunique fitness to fail?Compare the landscape through that of other romantic quests, choose that ofTennyson"s Percival. How necessary is it that Roland also loses the method backimmediately after he turns off the road?
Several things indicate that this is all a nightmare: the landscapealters immediately after Roland turns off the road; Roland shuts his eyesin stanza XV; in stanza XVIII there is no sound or sight, yet a tiny riverunexpectedly shows up instantly thereafter; the plain unexpectedly provides way tomountains (simply as it happens "in a poor dream perhaps" (ll. 163-171); andRoland all of a sudden discovers that he has actually reached the Tower. Suggesting thatthe whole tale is nothing more than a poor dream undercuts our expectationsabout narrative. What does Browning gain from such a suggestion?
The poem ends exceptionally unexpectedly, simply at the moment Childe Roland also blows hischallenge on the "slug-horn." If you are acquainted with tales of knighthoodand also chivalry, you understand that this is a conventional moment, and that the defenderof the Black Tower has hung the horn on the tree as a difficulty to allcomers. He will soon come out and execute fight via Childe Roland.
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One interpretation of this poem suggests that it is an allegory around the plain believer"s confrontation withmid-nineteenth century spiritual doubt, and also that the evil which should beconfronted is Despair, which is traditionally the deadliest of the Salso DeadlySins. Do you discover this analysis satisfying and compelling? What would Freudhave actually made of this poem?