In 2009, when I was 18 – or just turned 19 – I wrote a poem which was an allegory of a girl committing a murder while also, at the same time, being an allegory of her having sex for the first time. I thought it up in my student room. I then evolved a series of 7 poems which tell the journey this girl goes on, and simultaneously the psychological journey of her friend Roland who journeys into accepting her even when told about her murder. One of the seven poems was published; it also had a losing virginity allegory and was about Roland’s journey. The series takes place in Edinburgh – especially the Southbridge – and Edinburgh landmarks are referenced. The main point of the series is a psychological journey (for both the girl and Roland) rather than the physical acts of murder or sex. There are also Egyptian references that are less blatant than the Edinburgh references, as it is hinted that the girl is not an ordinary person, and that the events may never have happened/not happened in the way they appear as she is not really – or fully -in Edinburgh. For example, she did not actually go through with the murder, though her intent was real.
The literature fans amongst you will realise by now that the published poem must have been inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’. I first came across a reference to it aged 13 when reading Alan Garner’s ‘Elidor’, obviously inspired by the folk tale ‘Rowland and the King of Elfland’ but containing a preface featuring the last line of Browning’s epic poem, which is the same as the title. As soon as I read that line, I felt a sense of deja vu as if I had read the line before. The part about a dark tower, especially. I had to read the whole book – poorly wriiten as it was – because of that sense of deja vu. Years later, after writing a couple of poems in the series, I Googled for the poem (I remembered the quote in full) and realised Browning, whose other poems I’d read, had written it. I also found out about the Song of Roland poem, and Shakespeare’s reference to the folk tale as well as Stephen King’s series.
My own 7-poem series possibly inspired my subsequent story ‘The 7 Nights’, a yet-unfinished BDSM/rape/pantypooping story about Chastity and the pervert Roland.
A few days ago I was reminded of Browning’s poem and suddenly realised that the guy I’m selling myself to, whom I call Roland on this blog, did of course make the deal with me in the Tower (a top-floor restaurant on the Southbridge in Edinburgh). And of course the event was indeed about losing virginity and also about acceptance of doing something socially stigmatised, though not as badly stigmatised as murder.
I sometimes wonder if everything I write is doomed to come true. Like in my first year of uni, I wrote a story about my flatmates but then stopped because some things I wrote came true and it was getting creepy. Then, my extended fantasy about police and government spanking and torture in a particular country (inspired by Lochlan’s holiday there in 2009, the time of writing the poem series) was actually true (though not the spanking bit). Upon knowing it was true, I simply relocated the fantasy to Britain, embellished it a lot, threw in a lot of political stuff and called it ‘The UK Government Torture Act’. Now, with accusations against MI6, I worry that this story is also true, albeit that in real life Britain/MI6 gets other people to do their dirty work for them instead of doing it themselves like in my story. But hopefully the accusations aren’t true. All I know about the accusations is just hearsay – it always seems like if I watch the news religiously it is all unimportant, yet if I miss a day, something earth-shatteringly shocking happens. And no, I will not Google it! I can’t bear to hear about this sort of thing! I will just hope that the next update on this story happens on a day when I’m watching the news.If they’re guilty I will freak out, if they’re innocent I will freak out because they obviously destroyed the evidence/lied and got away with it.Interestingly, in the Tower, Roland claimed that MI6 frequently send people to other countries to be tortured so they could get valuable information from them by trusting those countries to pass on whatever the victims revealed. And that politicians knew about this. He said he knew it was true because he read an article online. This was before the recent accusations against MI6. However, what he said goes way beyond the accusations against MI6, which are only tied to 2 specific contexts: Libya and the CIA/Guantanamo.
A ‘childe’ was an untested knight. Like Browning’s Roland, pervert Roland journeyed towards the Tower to have a unique experience, and once turning onto this path he could not go back, instead moving inexorably toward his goal, then doing nothing except announcing his arrival. Though the journey is really mine, not his. And Pervert Roland knew why he wanted the experience – the virgin-whore art thing – while Browning’s Roland did it out of duty or fatalism. And I move inexorably toward the brothel where the artistic porn film/loss of virginity will take place; perhaps it is my own dark tower. And the loss of virginity, will, Roland has hinted, mean the killing of my ‘secondary personality’ Chastity (the murder theme). Another similarity is that, in the poem series, the girl confides in Roland (a character inspired by Lochlan) that she has murdered – a crime she imagines as loss of virginity/innocence. In real life, Lochlan was the first person I told about selling my virginity, and remains the person I feel most comfortable talking to about it.
The dark tower crops up in a lot of imagery: LOTR (Orthanc, Barad-dur), Harry Potter (Azkaban, Grindelwald’s home), C S Lewis’ unfinished story, The Dark Tower, the film Van Helsing, Stoker’s Dracula…though perhaps a lot of these images were inspired by Browning’s poem itself. Although the poem is depressing, I believe it has a positive interpretation, especially in Roland’s final show of defiance and the fact that he unbelievably succeeds in finding the tower. I don’t think the poem is morbid or that the tower represents death.
The ‘dark tower’ literature evolution
Analysis ( all non-academic, short analyses):