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“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a poem by English author Robert Browning, written in 1855 and first published that same year in the collection entitled Men and Women. The poem has influenced many other authors including modern horror writer Stephen King in his seven book epic, ‘The Dark Tower’, featuring The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain.
2,137 words, with a reading time of ~ 0.12 hours (~ 8 pages), and first published in 1855. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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I My first thought was, he lied in every word, That hoary cripple, with malicious eye Askance to watch the working of his lie On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby. II What else should he be set for, with his staff? What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare All travellers who might find him posted there, And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare, III If at his counsel I should turn aside Into that ominous tract which, all agree Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly I did turn as he pointed: neither pride Nor hope rekindling at the end descried So much as gladness that some end might be. IV For, what with my whole world-wide wandering, What with my search drawn out thro' years, my hope Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope With that obstreperous joy success would bring, I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring My heart made, finding failure in its scope. V As when a sick man very near to death Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end The tears and takes the farewell of each friend, And hears one bid the other go, draw breath Freelier outside ("since all is o'er," he saith, "And the blow fallen no grieving can amend"); VI While some discuss if near the other graves Be room enough for this, and when a day Suits best for carrying the corpse away, With care about the banners, scarves and staves: And still the man hears all, and only craves He may not shame such tender love and stay. VII Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest, Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ So many times among "The Band"--to wit, The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed Their steps--that just to fail as they, seemed best, And all the doubt was now--should I be fit? VIII So, quiet as despair, I turned from him, That hateful cripple, out of his highway Into the path he pointed. All the day Had been a dreary one at best, and dim Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim Red leer to see the plain catch its estray. IX For mark! no sooner was I fairly found Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two, Than, pausing to throw backward a last view O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round: Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound. I might go on; nought else remained to do. X So, on I went. I think I never saw Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve: For flowers-as well expect a cedar grove! But cockle, spurge, according to their law Might propagate their kind, with none to awe, You'd think; a burr had been a treasure trove. XI No! penury, inertness and grimace, In some strange sort, were the land's portion. "See Or shut your eyes," said Nature peevishly, "It nothing skills: I cannot help my case: 'Tis the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place, Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free." XII If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk All hope of greenness? 'tis a brute must walk Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents. XIII As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood. One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare, Stood stupefied, however he came there: Thrust out past service from the devil's stud! XIV Alive? he might be dead for aught I know, With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain, And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I never saw a brute I hated so; He must be wicked to deserve such pain. XV I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart. As a man calls for wine before he fights, I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights, Ere fitly I could hope to play my part. Think first, fight afterwards--the soldier's art: One taste of the old time sets all to rights.