If you haven’t read Robert Browning’s epic poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”, then I recommend you do… Especially if you enjoy the grotesque and despicable nature of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian like I am right now (my third reading of this unique post-modern text). If you would like to read it (its fairly short and easy to read) - Here's a link. And if you haven’t read Blood Meridian then I recommend giving it a try and stomaching what it has to offer.
Well anyways, let’s get to the point… shall we? I believe that Cormac McCarthy had drawn inspiration from Browning’s “Childe Roland” to write up the horrific masterpiece known as Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West). I’m absolutely in love with both of these texts. “Childe Roland” was written in the latter half of the 19th century and portrays a dreadful world set deep in the future. The other, Blood Meridian, was written in the late 20th century and the terrifying and cruel world the novel is set in, is back in the latter half of the 19th century. Literally the texts are swapping their dates with one another…
Childe Roland, the main character of Browning’s poem, is an old soldier who has nothing left to live for. All he desires to do now is walk the long and weary road to reach the “Dark Tower” which I believe represents death. The land surrounding him is a wasteland where every living thing that is left is evil or at least is supposedly evil. This is very similar to the landscape presented to us in Blood Meridian.
Like I said a second ago, Roland is an old soldier. What I mean by this is that he is actually no longer a soldier at all. The war(s) he fought in is/are over and all his mates that fought at his side are dead. Perhaps this is what the future holds for Blood Meridian’s “the kid.”
The kid could be considered a soldier. The first warring party he joins is slaughtered. Then he joins another, and it seems that he is always headed down a road that leads to nothing but death… for him and all those that travel the road as well. What is actually very interesting to myself, is that throughout the text of Blood Meridian, the phrase “rode on” is said over and over again. Here is a list of just some of the pages that the phrase is said on: (76), (94), (95), (109), (118), (119), (134), (“We went on.” (137)), and (“We climbed on.” (137)). It is an interesting phrase and if I may say so myself, I believe it to have some symbolic meaning to it. Road vs rode and rode on as in they rode on a horse, but also the idea that one goes on even if they don't want to but have no other choice. They push forward.
In the novel Blood Meridian, McCarthy uses a boat-load of horses and horse imagery… particularly in chapter 9. Horses do seem to die a lot – those poor, innocent creatures that man taints with their maliciousness. In “Childe Roland”, the passage below shows a horse as well, not quite as gruesome as Cormac’s own descriptions, but gruesome all the same:
As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
- Robert Browning's "Childe Roland" (Lines 73-84)
We can see here how Browning uses imagery to just tug at our heartstrings and make us hate the world we are reading about.
I could just go on and on with ways as to relate these two very similar texts, but I’m tired now and I want to go home... And this post is long and pointless enough. If you have any thoughts, please don't hesitate to share. I will most likely be posting more on McCarthy's Blood Meridian when I finish it.
Browning, Robert. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2013. 2131-2137. Print.
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West. New York, NY: Random House, Inc. 1985. Print.