Summary of Last Ride Together

The ‘Last Ride Together’ is a poem of unrequited love. The lover is rejected. But he does not blame his mistress. He is magnanimous and accepts the position in a brave and noble way. In order to show that he can control himself and make the situation easier for her he requests her for the last ride together. After a little hesitation, the lady grants his request. The lover is happy that he is not banished from her sight. He imagines that the world may perhaps end tonight and the happy moment may turn into an eternity. This is a remarkable reaction.

The two ride together. The lady lays her head on the lover’s breast. He feels that he has gained all the wealth of the world. Once he was sad but now he is full of joy. He wants to forget the past. He is not sorry for his failures. All make attempts but very few succeed. Success and failures are not important. Our achievements never match our expectations. He has been successful as his beloved is with him. There is always a difference between planning and achievements. Man fails to do according to his planning. Great men earn name and fame but in the end, they all meet death. After they are dead they are remembered only in a few lines.

The poet describes the achievements of brave soldiers, a poet, a sculptor and a musician in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth and stanzas show that the achievements of all these are not everlasting. In the final tenth Stanza Browning’s protagonist concludes that the life of the lover is the best. He is absorbed in the present life in love and joy with his beloved. The poem ends with optimism that this happiness of the lover with his beloved would be everlasting in his life after death in Heaven.

Critical Analysis

Last Ride Together is a dramatic monologue and it shows Browning at his best in the handling of this poetic form. It has also been called a dramatic lyric because it is not an expression of his own personal emotions, but that of an imagined character. It is spoken by a lover who loved his lady over a long period of time, and who, after making him wait for so long, finally rejected him, and turned to another lover. The lover then prayed to her to grant two requests of his. First, that she should remember his love of her, and secondly, that she should come with him for the last ride together. To his great joy, the lady consented.

Such is the love situation out of which the monologue grows. It is spoken by the lover as he rides by the side of his beloved for the last time. As they commence their ride, the beloved for a moment bends over him and places her head over his shoulders. It seems to him as if heaven itself had descended over him, so great is the bliss he experiences at the moment.

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As they ride along, the lover experiences a heavenly bliss. His soul which had lost its happiness and on which grief had left its ugly marks and wrinkles, now smoothens itself out like a crumpled sheet of paper, which opens out and flutters in the wind. All his hopes of success in love, all hopes of a happy life with his beloved, were now dead and gone. His love was now a matter of the past. But the lover does not despair. He shares Browning’s optimism and says that it is no use to regret or to feel sorry for life which has been ruined. What is ended cannot be mended. It is no use speculating over his possible success if he had acted and spoken differently. It is just possible that had he acted differently, instead of loving him, she might have hated him. Now she is only indifferent to him. Now at least she rides by his side. He derives consolation from this fact, instead of brooding sadly over the dead past.

The lover then reflects over the lot of humanity in general and derives further consolation from the fact that he is not the only one who has failed in life. Such is the lot of men that all try, but none succeeds. All labor, but all fail ultimately to achieve their ends. How little of success and achievement, and how much of failure does the whole world show! He is lucky in the sense that at least he rides by the side of his beloved. Others do not get even that much of success. There is always a wide disparity between conception and execution, between ambition and achievement.

The only reward, even of the most successful statesman, is a short obituary notice and that of a heroic warrior only an epitaph over his grave in the Westminster Abbey. The poet, no doubt, achieves much. He expresses human thoughts and emotions in a sweet, melodious language, but he does not neglect any of the good things of life. He lives and dies in poverty. The great sculptor and musician, too, are failures. From even the most beautiful piece of sculpture, says a statue of the goddess, virus, one turns to an ordinary, but a living, breathing, girl; and fashions in music are quick to change. Comparatively, he is more successful, for he has, at least, been rewarded with the company of his beloved. At least, he has the pleasure of riding with her by his side.

It is difficult to say what is good and what is not good for man in this world. Achievement of perfect happiness in this world means that one would have no hopes left for life in the other world. Failure in this world is essential for success and achievement in the life to come. He has failed in this life, but this is a blessing in disguise. It means that he would be successful in the life to come. He can now hope for happiness in the other world. Because he did not get his beloved here, he is sure to enjoy the bliss of her love in life after death. Now for him, “both Heaven and she are beyond this ride.” Failure in this world is best. Further, so hopes the lover, “the instant may become eternity” and they may ride together forever and ever. Who knows what the world may end that very moment? In that case, they will be together in the other world and will be together forever.

Style and Versification

Browning’s style is a pictorial style; it is also rich in the use of imagery, similes, metaphors, etc. His images are usually starting in their originality and daring. Often they are drawn from the grotesque in nature. Nature is constantly used to illustrate the facts of human life. Often the concrete is used to clarify and bring home to the readers the spiritual and the abstract.

The beauty of form in poetry also depends on the style and diction of a poet. Browning was a highly original genius, his style is entirely individual, and so far want of a better name it is called Browning esque.

He uses the smallest number of words that his meaning allows. In the very beginning of his career, he was once charged with verbosity, and since then, “he contented himself with the use of two words where he would rather have used ten.” This dread of being diffuse resulted in compression and condensation which made him often, if not actually, obscure, at least difficult to understand.

Just as in his style, so also in his versification, Browning is often rugged and fantastic. Sometimes, this ruggedness is justified by the subject; sometimes the use of a broken, varying, irregular verse is essential to convey the particular emotion or the impression which the poet wants to convey. Browning had a peculiarly keen ear for a particular kind of staccato music, for a kind of galloping rhythm.

Often he uses double or even triple rhymes to create grotesque effects. The real fault does not lie with such artistic use of the rugged and the fantastic; the real fault arises when such use is not necessary when it is not artistically justified. And Browning’s search for novelty frequently betrays him into using such clumsy and irritating meters, and this clouds his intrinsic merits as a metrical artist.

“He is the greatest master in our language, in the use of rhyme, in the amazing variety of his versification and stanza forms, and in the vitality both of his blank verse and rhymed verse. Browning is far indeed from paying no attention, or little, to meter and versification. Except in some of his late blank verse, and in a few other cases, his very errors are just as often the result of hazardous experiments as of carelessness and inattention. In one very important matter, that of rhyme, he is perhaps the greatest master in our language; in single and double, in simple and grotesque alike, he succeeds in fitting rhyme to rhyme with a perfection which I have never found in any other poet of any age. His lyrical poems contain more structural varieties of form than those of any other preceding English poet.”

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Browning’s philosophy of life is characterized by robust optimism. The universe and the beauty of Nature is an expression of the creative joy of God and so he finds the principal of Joy at the very Centre of Creation. This does not mean that he is blind to human imperfections; rather he builds hope for the future on these very imperfections. His is a philosophy of strenuous endeavor; true joy lies in the effort, and not in success or achievement. Rather failure here means success in the life to come. Faith in God, faith in the immortality of the soul, faith in the earnest endeavor are the cardinal points of Browning’s philosophy of human life.

The monologue lays bare before us the soul of the lovers he muses over his past failure in love, his bliss in the present, and his hopes for the future, we get a peep into his soul. He is a heroic soul who is not discouraged by his failure in love. He derives consolation from failure itself. He shares the poet’s cheerful optimism, his faith in the immortality of the soul, and believes, like him, that, “God creates the love to grant the love.” It is better to die, “without a glory garland around one’s neck,” for there is a life beyond and one should have some hope left for it, “dim-descried”.

Assessment Questions

Choose the correct answer from amongst the three alternatives given below each question :

The poem has :

(a) Eleven Stanzas

(b) Six Stanzas

(c) Ten Stanzas

The poem ends with :

(a) frustration

(b) love

(c) optimism

The speaker in the poem is :

(a) the lover

(b) the poet

(c) the listener

The lover rides with his beloved for :

(a) the first time

(b) the last time

(c) the eternity

The lover prays to his beloved to grant him :

(a) one request

(b) two requests

(c) nothing

The lover says that there is no need to:

(a) repent for a life that has been ruined

(b) wait for his beloved

(c) request his beloved

It is a poem of :

(a) frustration in love

(b) happy ending

(c) unrequited love

The lover in the poem is :

(a) not discouraged by failure in love

(b) encouraged by success

(c) discouraged by failure in love

The best reward according to the lover is :

(a) riding with his beloved

(b) an inscription on the tomb

(c) an award given by the King

The lover concludes that he is :

(a) unfortunate

(b) a hero

(c) fortunate

Answers to SAQs

(c) ten stanzas

(c) optimism

(a) the lover

(b) the last time

(b) two requests

(a) to repent for a life that has been ruined

(c) unrequited love

(a) not discouraged by failure in love

(a) riding with his beloved

(c) fortunate

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