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Vocabulary in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Vocabulary Examples in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came:

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

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"ominous tract..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

In this case, the noun “tract” bears multiple meanings. On one level, “tract” refers to the expanse of land to which the old man directs the speaker and which encompasses the Dark Tower. On another level, a tract can refer to a written agreement or pact. By taking the old man’s direction and heading to the tower, the speaker is, in a certain sense, accepting a tract. That the tract is “ominous” foreshadows the dark nature of the journey ahead.

"knights..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

The noun “knights” conjures images of chivalric tales, in which heroes battle evil and retrieve priceless treasures, as in the Arthurian Legends. The word “Childe” in the poem’s title refers to an untested knight, one who has yet to be granted knighthood. If the speaker is indeed the titular Roland, then his quest may be the test he faces in order to become a knight.

"what crutch 'gin write my epitaph..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

The abbreviation “‘gin” is an Elizabethan shorthand for “begin.” Browning uses this form to help the line conform to the meter of his poem. The speaker wonders what laugh would come from the hoary cripple as he writes the speaker’s epigraph, or grave inscription, upon the road with his staff, referred to here as a crutch. It is a bleak fantasy, one of many the speaker entertains throughout the poem.

"to waylay with his lies..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

The verb “to waylay” means to obstruct someone from going somewhere or to attack someone from a hidden place. Since the hoary cripple does so with “his lies,” his motivations are obscured. The speaker does not know whether the hoary cripple intends to mislead him and send him down the wrong path or whether he intends to slow the speaker’s progress for a nefarious purpose.

"malicious eye..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

A malicious eye has historically served as a curse in folklore, in the sense of someone giving another the “evil eye.” Edgar Allan Poe even went so far as to use such an eye as a character’s justification for murder in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Here, the speaker marks the malevolent gleam in the hoary cripple’s visage, a sign that causes him to doubt the man’s advice.

"hoary cripple..."   (Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came)

Browning’s speaker encounters the “hoary cripple,” whom he immediately suspects of lying to him. The adjective “hoary” describes someone as having gray or white hair from old age. In a broader sense, it can also mean “extremely old,” with connotations of respectability, as in an ancient legend or tradition. The cripple is therefore placed among the wizened old men that appear throughout heroic epics, offering their wisdom to the questing heroes; however, Browning subverts the archetypal helpful wizard with the deceitful seer.

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