Source: LibriVox (mp3)
Length: 13 minutes
Reader: Algy Pug
The poem: In The White Company, Conan Doyle mentions the great knight Roland as the company travels from France into Spain through the Roncevaux Pass in the Pyrenees Mountains. Roland, a knight of King Charlemange, died while holding the rearguard in a battle in the pass, made famous by the French epic poem The Song of Roland.
This poem, composed hundreds of years later, follows a legendary earlier quest by Roland to the Dark Tower. Browning describes a desolate landscape full of imagery of death, reminding him of other knights who have failed this quest. Roland himself holds little hope of himself succeeding at finding the Dark Tower, but continues on anyway. Browning, perhaps, is commenting on the futility of life as well as our duty to keep living as best we can. The depressing nightmarish land described in the poem have been a inspiration to other writers, notably Steven King's The Dark Tower series and Gordon R. Dickenson's Childe Cycle.
Rating: 8 /10
The reader: Pug does an adequate job here reading a very difficult poem. He has a strong Australian accent, but it did not inhibit my understanding of the words. I did have trouble following the poem due to its complexity and had to follow along by reading the text. Each stanza heading (1, 2, 3, 4) is read out loud, which, although faithful to the text, is somewhat distracting. Though Pug's reading does little to aid the interpretation of the poem, his neutral tone is probably best for those wishing to find their own sense of meaning.