Elizabeth Barrett Browning sets forth the elements of good writing in her poem, Aurora Leigh. Here is what she advises:
1) Good writing should comfort and encourage; Aurora tells us how she writes what her admirer (Romney) says, and how this strengthens her in time of need.
To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears,
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read at night
When weary, or at morning when afraid... (from Book 1 of Aurora Leigh)
2) True art speaks of spiritual considerations. Anyone who writes without thought for the human need to combine the practical with the spiritual deals deceitfully with one's readers.
And spiritual,–who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points. (from Book VII of Aurora Leigh)
3) True art portrays a hidden, transcendental realm which refines man and mirrors humanity's quest for meaning and redemption.
Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. (from the Seventh Book of Aurora Leigh)
4) A writer or poet should write from his/her heart; one's writing should be authentic in context and content.
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence. (from Book 1 of Aurora Leigh)
In Robert Browning's poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, the narrator is on a quest to find the Dark Tower. Why the Dark Tower is important to him, we do not know. His quest may represent a futile cause or a genuine goal. Either way, the poet leaves it up to us to define the meaning of Roland's journey. What we do know is that he has exhausted many years of his life in search of this nebulous tower. In the poem, he agonizes over the fact that he may not be successful in achieving his goal.
Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among ’The Band’ to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search addressed
Their steps - that just to fail as they, seemed best,
And all the doubt was now - should I be fit?
As E.B. Browning attests, good poetry describes a transcending experience which refines man's soul. This is true in Robert Browning's poem as well. Our narrator endures strange, emotionally draining experiences as he ventures deeper into treacherous environments on the road to the tower. His struggle to attain self-actualization is circumscribed by earthly considerations. E. B. Browning tells us that good writing explores the harder 'social questions' of the day.
And I will carve the world new after it,
And solve so, these hard social questions,–nay,
Impossible social questions,–since their roots
Strike deep in Evil's own existence here,
Which God permits because the question's hard
To abolish evil nor attaint free-will. (from the Eighth Book of Aurora Leigh).
Our narrator in Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came relates how the men who had gone before him failed to achieve the quest for the Dark Tower. He remembers how brave and courageous many of them were and how, one by one, all were lost. When he finally reaches the Dark Tower, his success is bittersweet; it is marred by his memories of the dead. However, as he walks toward the Dark Tower, he sees a flaming vision of his once-living peers ushering him towards the completion of his task. Thus, good writing successfully depicts the human journey towards self-determination and self-actualization. Compare the last stanzas of Childe Roland to the Dark Tower and Aurora Leigh and you will see how similar the two are:
It is the hour for souls;
That bodies, leavened by the will and love,
Be lightened to redemption. The world's old;
But the old world waits the hour to be renewed:
Toward which, new hearts in individual growth
Must quicken, and increase to multitude
In new dynasties of the race of men,–
Developed whence, shall grow spontaneously
New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom, new societies
Excluding falsehood... (from Book Eight of Aurora Leigh).
There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. ’Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’(from the last stanza of Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came).