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Carl Sandburg - Manitoba Childe Roland

LAST night a January wind was ripping at the shingles over our house and whistling a wolf
song under the eaves.
I sat in a leather rocker and read to a six-year-old girl the Browning poem, Childe
Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
And her eyes had the haze of autumn hills and it was beautiful to her and she could not
A man is crossing a big prairie, says the poem, and nothing happens—and he goes on and
on—and it’s all lonesome and empty and nobody home.
And he goes on and on—and nothing happens—and he comes on a horse’s skull, dry bones of a 
dead horse—and you know more than ever it’s all lonesome and empty and nobody home.
And the man raises a horn to his lips and blows—he fixes a proud neck and forehead toward 
the empty sky and the empty land—and blows one last wonder-cry.
And as the shuttling automatic memory of man clicks off its results willy-nilly and 
inevitable as the snick of a mouse-trap or the trajectory of a 42-centimeter projectile,
I flash to the form of a man to his hips in snow drifts of Manitoba and Minnesota—in the 
sled derby run from Winnipeg to Minneapolis.
He is beaten in the race the first day out of Winnipeg—the lead dog is eaten by four team 
mates—and the man goes on and on—running while the other racers ride—running while the 
other racers sleep—
Lost in a blizzard twenty-four hours, repeating a circle of travel hour after hour—fighting 
the dogs who dig holes in the snow and whimper for sleep—pushing on—running and walking 
five hundred miles to the end of the race—almost a winner—one toe frozen, feet blistered 
and frost-bitten.
And I know why a thousand young men of the Northwest meet him in the finishing miles and 
yell cheers—I know why judges of the race call him a winner and give him a special prize 
even though he is a loser.
I know he kept under his shirt and around his thudding heart amid the blizzards of five 
hundred miles that one last wonder-cry of Childe Roland—and I told the six-year-old girl 
all about it.
And while the January wind was ripping at the shingles and whistling a wolf song under the 
eaves, her eyes had the haze of autumn hills and it was beautiful to her and she could not 

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Added: Feb 4 2004 | Viewed: 977 times | Comments and analysis of Manitoba Childe Roland by Carl Sandburg Comments (9)

Manitoba Childe Roland - Comments and Information

Poet: Carl Sandburg
Poem: 21. Manitoba Childe Roland
Volume: Cornhuskers
- Cornhuskers
Year: Published/Written in 1918
Poem of the Day: Mar 3 2015

Comment 9 of 9, added on October 16th, 2015 at 3:09 AM.

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Comment 7 of 9, added on April 14th, 2014 at 1:54 AM.
In “Childe Roland to

In “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, it is difficult to say wethehr Childe Roland is a representation of a failure or not because his journey seemed doomed to fail from the very beginning of the poem. The title of the poem informs the reader that the hero is a man yet to be knighted. Browning does not present him in an ideal manner or describe him as a superior being of any kind. Our first impression of Childe Roland is one of paranoia as he expects the old man giving direction to be a fraud and take pleasure in his lies. We immediately doubt that he will fulfill his quest when he takes direction from the man who he previously deemed a liar. He continued on in the direction the old man pointed while doubting his honesty, “Yet acquiescingly I did turn as he pointed, neither pride Now hope rekindling at the end descried” (lines 15-17).Childe Roland’s quest involves traveling through a wasteland, a setting Browning fills with images of death and desolation, “Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve: For flowers as well expect a cedar grove!” (Lines 56-57). Browning’s graveyard setting doesn’t allow for hope that Childe Roland will succeed in his journey. We don’t fully believe that the obstacles which he encounters are real. Other dramatic monologues such as “Porphyria’s Lover” and “My Last Duchess” Browning ask his audience to question the psyche of the protagonist. In “Porphyria’s Lover” our hero murders Porphyria for reasons that are not apparent, but likely because of her female sexual desires. In “My Last Duchess” we learn the duke murdered his late wife because of her flirtatious nature. Having knowledge of Browning’s attempts to explore the sadistic minds of murderers in other dramatic monologues, it makes us suspicious of Childe Roland’s mental state. Although Childe Roland does not explicitly murder a woman in his dialogue, we still wonder wethehr he is fully sane or not. Many hardships that he faces could be figments of our hero’s imagination as he wanders through a wasteland looking for the Dark Tower which the reader knows nothing about. Although the ending of the poem is rather ambiguous, it is unlikely that Childe Roland is successful.

Jocyla from Georgia, Republic of

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