1. What associations may be found in the title? What is a "Childe"? Who was Roland? What may be the Tower, and why would it be "dark"?
  2. What are some features of the poem's language--its rhythms, word choice, and stanza patterns? In what ways do these convey a tone, or reinforce its meaning?
  3. What do you make of the fact that the poem opens with a statement that the speaker's first thought was that someone has lied? What is the effect of omitting an explanation of the speaker's identity and quest?
  4. Will your opinion of the accuracy of this first claim--that the hoary cripple has lied--change during the poem? What is revealed about the mind-state of the speaker?
  5. What do we learn about the landscape? Does this landscape remind you of other (archetypal) literary scenes and places?
  6. What seems to be the speaker's mood and character?
  7. How do the poem's sounds help reinforce its meaning, for example, in stanzas II and IV? X-XIV?
  8. Stanza III: What do you make of the fact that all agree that the Dark Tower lies within the ominous tract he has reached?
  9. Stanzas III and IV: What seems the speaker's chief goal at this point? What does this reveal about his state of mind?
  10. Stanzas VI and VII: What is shown by his self-comparison with a man who hears others discuss his death and "only craves/ He may not shame such tender love and stay"? What do we learn about his character and ideals?
  11. Stanza VIII: What is unconventional about Childe Roland's description of the sunset? Who is the "estray" to which he refers?
  12. Stanza IX: Why is it important that after he turns into the plain he can no longer see the road behind him?
  13. Stanzas X-XIV: What things does the speaker especially notice on the plain? What is added by introducing a personification of Nature? Is this plain ecologically salvageable?
  14. What kinds of footprints does he see? What is the effect of the description of grass "as scant as hair/ In leprosy"? Are the poet's descriptions of nature "factual" and objective?
  15. Stanzas XIII-XIV: How is the horse described? What is the speaker's reaction to him, and what does this reveal about his psychological state?
  16. Stanzas XV-XVII: Why does the speaker seek to remember his past? What has happened to his comrades?
  17. Stanza XVIII: What is the significance of the speaker's statement, "Better this present than a past like that"? What happens next?
  18. Stanza XIX-XX: What symbolism may be associated with the river? What seems to be the speaker's state of mind at this point?
  19. Stanzas XXII-XXVI: What are some descriptions of the land beyond the river? How is the cleft oak described?
  20. What are some characteristics of the sounds and rhythms of stanza XXV?
  21. Stanza XXVII: What symbolism might be associated with the "great black bird, Apollyon's bosom friend"? What is his response to the bird, and are you surprised?
  22. Stanza XXVIII-XXIX: What change has occurred? Is it significant that he hadn't noticed it before?
  23. Stanza XXX: How does the recognition that he has reached the Tower come on him? What do we learn about his past life?
  24. Stanza XXXI: What symbolism inheres in the description of the Tower? Did you expect something more dramatic?
  25. Stanzas XXXII-XXXIVa: What final scene confronts the speaker? Why would this setting have been particularly difficult for him?
  26. Stanza XXXIV: What is the significance of the speaker's use of the word "yet"? What is the meaning of his blowing of the horn? Of the fact that he is "dauntless"?
  27. How do you interpret the last line? Why is it placed in italics? Why is it in the third-person? Is it a statement of triumph? Of despair? Of neutrality?
  28. What symbolism inheres in Childe Roland's arrival at the Tower? Does the Tower represent death? Fulfillment? A loved one? The facing of his inner demons?
  29. Browning claimed that this poem was based on a dream. Are elements of this poem dreamlike?
  30. Do aspects of this poem suggest an autobiographical reading?
  31. Is this poem an allegory? Of what? Can you see how it might have evoked more than one interpretation?
  32. How would you compare Browning's style in this poem with that of other Victorian poets you've read, such as Tennyson or Morris? Based on chronology, what might you guess about who would have influenced whom?