Just yesterday I was deep in discussion with a friend of mine about Stephen King and his Dark Tower series, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time. He made me aware that the entire series was based upon a poem by Robert Browning, and a favorite one of mine at that. “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a fantastic work describing the journey of the protagonist hero to this Dark Tower on some heroic quest, which is never clearly explained. One gets the impression that the “Childe” Roland (‘childe’ in this context serves as a title, a medieval term for an untested knight) of Browning’s poem is also the Roland of the famous Chanson de Roland or Song of Roland, which tells the tale of a famous knight fighting for Charlemagne against the Muslims in Spain.
While Stephen King took his inspiration from Browning, Browning took his inspiration from Shakespeare; King Lear to be precise.
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
King Lear, Act 3, scene 4
It’s a wonderful phrase and it gives me chills whenever I read it. It feels heroic and unearthly and speaks of legendary, nameless deeds in a land out of time. Some claim that the poem demonstrates the conquering of despair through faith to the Ideal. Others still claim that the poem is indicative of the importance and psychological nature and impact of the journey itself as opposed to focusing on the heroic endgame of the deed itself. I personally relish it for its insight into the human psyche as it fights itself to survive in the face of despair and insurmountable odds, natural and otherwise.
What do you see in it? Come and find out. This one is a long one, so here it is behind the cut. Continue reading