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Allusion in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Allusion Examples in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came:

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

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"As when a sick man very near to death..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

John Donne’s 1633 poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” features a stanza very similar to this one. In both poems, a group surrounds a man on his deathbed to witness his last moments. However, where Donne’s concerns the body, Browning’s focuses on the dying man, registering the farewells of his friends and hoping “he may not shame such tender love.” This and the next stanza attend to the speaker’s thoughts of death, of perishing in pursuit of the Dark Tower. In this meditation, he questions whether or not he is worthy of remembrance.

"(See Edgar's song in "Lear") ..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

Browning repeatedly denied any conscious literary influence on this poem other than this nod to Shakespeare’s King Lear, in which Edgar, feigning madness as Poor Tom, sings of his struggles to King Lear in almost nonsensical verse. The torments he describes include a “foul fiend” who leads Poor Tom “through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlipool, o’er bog and quagmire….” This allusion frames the poem not only by foreshadowing the course of the speaker’s journey, but also by casting doubt on the reality of all the events since Edgar’s song is told under the guise of madness.

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