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Page name: Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came [Exported view] [RSS]
2006-12-12 20:32:18
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Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came



I

My first thought was, he lied in every word,

That hoary cripple, with malicious eye

Askance to watch the workings 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 through 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 the one bid other go, draw breath

Freelier outside, ('since all is o'er,' he saith

'And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;')

VI

When 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 backwards a last view

O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round:

Nothing but plain to the horizons bound.

I might go on, naught 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 treaure 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 Judgement's fire must cure this place

Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.'

XII

If ther pushed any ragged thistle-stalk

Above its mates, the head was chopped, the bents

Were jealous else. What made these 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 very bone a-stare,

Stood stupified, 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.

XVI

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face

Beneath it's garniture of curly gold,

Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold

An arm to mine to fix me to the place,

The way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!

Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.

XVII

Giles, then, the soul of honour - there he stands

Frank as ten years ago when knighted first,

What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.

Good - but the scene shifts - faugh! what hangman hands

Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands

Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst.


Stanzas XVIII-XXXIV


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