Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came' is a major dramatic monologue in Robert Browning’s collection Men and Women (1855). Following the form of a dramatic monologue, which dominates that collection, the poem is an ironic exposure of the self. It is also an inversion of the traditional quest narrative, evoking a world divested of stability. Because the poem is as much a journey in as a journey out, it is a perfect fit for Spatial Type Two. The landscape is filtered through the speaker’s paranoia, internal and external combine leaving everything – self and surroundings – out of focus and uncertain. In fact, it is this very fuzziness that characterises the poem; the speaker is held between a bleakness within and a bleakness without, and the two are so interwoven as to become indistinguishable.

The maps for the poem illustrate this perfectly. For a poem of over 200 lines, they are markedly simple. This is because so much of text is concerned with the internal landscape, that places (topoi) and place references (toporefs) are limited by the highly subjective stance of a speaker both linked to yet repulsed by his surroundings. The maps’ simplicity also highlights a key justification of our chronotopic approach. The structure of the poem is symbolic, and meaning accumulates through imagery. Our method extracts the underlying forms, seen with particular clarity in the syuzhet (plot) map, exposing a chronology and connections not immediately apparent through reading.