The Last Ride Together By Robert Browning
One of the finest dramatic monologues of Browning “Last Ride Together” is a monologue of a rejected lover that expresses his undying love for his beloved. The title apparently gives out the notion that this is their last ride together. A dramatic monologue, as you know, is a poem in which an imaginary speaker in a critical situation addresses an imaginary listener or audience. The speaker here is a lover who is rejected by his sweetheart but is finally, granted a last ride with her.
A major poet of the Victorian period, Browning was basically a dramatic poet. Though a great admirer of Shelley, he drew more from, the tradition of John Donne. As a dramatic poet his chief interest lay in the drama of the human mind. Obviously, in his poetry, the stress was on ‘incidents in the development of the soul’. Browning perfected the dramatic monologue form, and this remains his distinct Contribution to English poetry. As a poet, his supreme achievement lies in his dramatic lyrics and monologues. Borrowing held a dynamic view of’ life, based on trust in the love of God and faith in a life after death. Though modern critics view him. more as a sceptic, a faith that looks through death informs his entire poetry.
Summary/ Analysis of The Last Ride Together
The Last Ride Together is taken from Men and Women. Browning opines that it is ignoble to have a low aim. It is better to fail in a high aim than succeed in a low one. In this poem, the hero is rejected by his lady-love. He did approach her with some hope. But the does not become melancholic and desperate. His love for the lady was sincere and noble and intense. Rejection makes him philosophic and it is transformed into a spiritual experience. There is spiritual gain, although the lady is lost. Douglas Bush writes “His (Browning’s) general position was indeed much like Tennyson’s the human capacity for love is the irrefragable proof of the all-embracing reality of divine love. Browning’s faith in human and divine love carried with it his special emphasis on ‘apparent failure’ on the worth of aspiration, on the finite imperfection of earth and man and the infinite perfection of heaven.”
The lover gets a final answer from his lady. The story is presented from his point of view. We know nothing about him, like who is he or where he lives. The reason for the lady’s refusal is not given weightage. Unwanted details are left out. The man is disappointed and he nobly accepts his fate. His efforts to win her have become futile Note his nobility. He does not censure her or curse her. He is grateful to her for she has given him sweet memories. His last request is to have just one ride with her in his carriage.
The lady has an attractive personality. She has dark eyes and bent brows. Her pride does not allow her to consent to his request but pity drives her to agree. Lady’s decision is crucial to him. It is a question of his life and death. He waits with his breath suspended. He is relieved when her acceptance comes. His joy makes him feel like God.
So, one day more am I deified. The world is like heaven because he has an angel beside him. The thought that this ride is going to be the final one makes him wish that the world comes to an end then and there.
The lady sits in his carriage, leaning on his shoulders with closed eyes. His eyes turn towards the western sky. He cloud is radiant there is the glow of sunset and the brilliance of the evening star and the lustre of the rising moon. What is beautiful in the sky is transformed into this lady on the earth. “Flesh has faded forever” the physical reality exists no more. Supreme bliss is experienced by him.
As they begin their ride, the lover begins to think freely. He wonders if he had behaved in a different way could he have changed the course. But he wonders that instead of gaining a different action would probably have made her hate him. One consolation is that he is not disliked by her.
As the wheels move further, his mind wanders into the past. He realizes that failure is universal. All men aspire for something but they never succeed in their ambition. What they achieve is small. What they have; not is vast. They start with hope and end up in despair.
Failure is the lot of all men. Can man execute all that he imagines? “What hand and brain went paired:” Imagination moves fast but man’s action cannot keep pace with what he conceives.
“What heart alike conceived and dared?” The physical limitations come in the way of execution Even if one manages to reach the goal he may not get the rewards (crown) he expects. All that a noble statesman who has dedicated his life to the service of his country get is a tribute often lines in papers. The general who plants his country’s flag after vanquishing his enemy gets a burial in lucky because he in his own lifetime has the luck to enjoy his lady’s company.
A poet transforms his glorious dreams of love into beautiful verse. He sings out his love through music. But in his own life, he remains sick, poor and worn out and dies a premature death. He does not experience even a small fraction of what he writes. The lover’s lot is far superior as he shouts in glory “sing for me, I ride.”
The sculptor expends his talent on stone. He takes years to crave a beautiful figure of Venus. But people prefer a living girl to cold venues. A musician spends his youth to perfect a style only to discover that he is not liked by people. This lover’s is definitely better.
Browning expresses his philosophy through the lover. If one is to get supreme bliss, what is to be sought after death. There will be emptiness in the life to come life here is a kind of probation. If earth is good, heaven should be better. It is not right to desire full satisfaction on earth.
The best part of our dreams is fulfilled in heaven. Not the word ‘upturned’ which indicates the nobility of our aspirations. The lover has experienced happiness which is enough for the rest of his life. This memory will sustain him throughout his life. With perfect claim, he will enter into eternity.
Heaven offers perfection. So why should one feel miserable on this earth? The heaven will probably offer him this blissful experience in a more pure and intensified form. His optimism makes him feel that his experience will become eternal.
A single voice is heard throughout the poem but the lady’s presence is felt throughout. The familiar language effectively contributes to the dramatic element. Browning’s ‘obscurity’ has drawn the attention of readers. Does the distortion of syntax contribute to obscurity or the complexity of thought? Rightly a critic observes: “Browning’s more ambitious works are not read today. But his shorter pieces continue to appear in anthologies. Happily, a number of these shorter poems continue to be read as triumphs of both concrete and psychological drama.”
The Last Ride Together As Dramatic Monologue
The Last Ride Together is one of the finest dramatic monologues of Browning. The dramatic monologue as perfected by Browning is a poem in which a speaker other than the poet, speaks to an imaginary audience at a decisive moment in his life. The speech invariably reveals a state of mind or set of beliefs. Since there may be a contradiction between the speaker’s apprehension and articulation of reality and objective reality irony becomes a key factor in dramatic monologues. The poem is a dramatic monologue in that it is the imaginary utterance of a person, to an imaginary audience at a decisive moment in his life, expressing his state of mind and set of beliefs. The speaker here is a lover. He is in a critical moment of his life – he is rejected by his sweetheart. And, he discloses his mind to a silent audience who is the reader. The lover asks for the only favour of the last ride with his lady and she grants it. In the ride together, he gathers up the rapture of a lifetime, and with no further heaven to be hoped for, he wishes that the ride may lengthen out into eternity.
The lover is rejected by his sweetheart. But he accepts his fate with dignity. He thanks and blesses her for all the joy her love has given him. Though she hesitates, the ride is finally granted, and he feels deified for one more day, and even imagines the very end of the world. She leans on his bosom and he experiences joy as that of one who admires a resplendent cloud and gradually feels it upon him. As they ride along he reflects on his lot. His life has been twisted out of shape. But he realizes that it is no use struggling to set it right. Equally futile are speculations on how he might not have lost his love if he had said this or done that. Past is past and what matters is the present. If the worst had happened he might not have had even the present bliss of the last ride.
He is not the only person who has failed. In fact, all strive and only a few succeed. All those who labour have to endure failure. When a person looks back and contrasts his hopeful past with the present he can see that he might have done a great deal, but he has achieved only a little. He too hoped to win his lady but has failed.
There was, in fact, never a person whose actions matched his aspirations, who could carry out all that his mind conceived. And, there is no will that has not felt the fleshly frailties and fallen short of fulfilment. Those, with realisable goals, have their own rewards. For the statesman, there is the reward of a one-line biography in a history book, and for the soldier, the reward of a plaque with an inscription, in Westminster Abbey. But their rewards are trifles when compared with the reward of his love – the last ride together.
The poet’s achievement is great. His brain throbs with music, and he puts into words what others can only experience. He considers beautiful things as the best things in the world and makes thoughts ride in rhyme. All the same, he does not get for himself what the world values most highly in life – health, wealth and youth. Though he risks his health, wealth and youth, he does not come one bit nearer his goal than the lover and his lady. His vocation, the lover thinks, is indisputably superior to that of a poet.
The sculptor devotes his entire time to art and is her slave. After years of toiling, at last, he creates his Venus, his masterpiece. But it is still inferior to an ordinary village girl one may see crossing a stream. The lot of the composer is no better. He also grows grey in the service of his art. But after all his labour, when he gives his masterpiece to the world the only praise he gets is that though ambitious, it cannot be popular for long.
If he had succeeded in love, then he would have no ‘bliss to die with’ nothing to look forward to, after death. Then heaven would have no meaning for him. It is, therefore, inevitable that he should fail here, in order to succeed in heaven. If heaven is a perpetuation and perfection of the earthly conditions – ‘the instant made eternity – then he and his lady will ever be as they are now, riding together in each others company.
In the monologue, there is less probing of the self and development of character.
The poem is, in fact, a sustained reflection on the role of love, even when rejected, as a maker of happiness, and the meaning of failure. As a maker of happiness love is superior to all the arts – poetry, sculptor and music. And, failure is the token of triumph.
The poem contains the core of Browning’s philosophy. Browning is an optimist. He holds that life is a persistent struggle for an ideal or perfection. It implies that man is imperfect or imperfection or failure is part of human nature something inevitable in life. Man can attain perfection, not only in the general matter of living but in his chosen occupation, in heaven. Heaven is where ‘life’s flower is first discerned. ‘ In other words, Browning believes that there is a life after death for man – a heavenly life. Man can attain perfection in that life. Heavenly life, therefore, is a perfected version of earthly life – ‘the instant made eternity’. Heaven will have meaning only if a man has ‘a bliss to die with’, an unrealized ambition. Thus in his view, as he observes in Abt Vogler also, failure is something to be rejoiced, for, it is the very evidence of spiritual triumph, the very basis of heavenly success. The poem conveys this cardinal point of Browning’s philosophy.
Questions and Answers of The Last Ride Together
Q.1 The speaker considers his fate better than others?
Ans. The poem ‘Last ride together’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue. It is a poem of the sublimation of unrequited love in a state of noblest resignation to the order of fate. The speaker in this poem is reflected in his love and consider that it was written in his face and wash bound to happen. Still, there is no regret or disappointment in his tone. He considers his fate better than those of others because he gets a chance to ride with his beloved for one last time. He feels glad that his last wish was at least fulfilled. This last ride makes him experience heavenly bliss in the company of his beloved. His soul teaches a new height of spirituality during the last ride. He says that many people die with most of their wishes unfulfilled but he finds the fulfilment of all his desires in the last ride together with his beloved. So his fate is better than those of others.
Q.2 The speaker in the poem says to the poet ( You ) sing, riding’s a poy, for me, I ride?
Ans. The speaker compares his achievement with that of a poet & says that a poet is more skilful in this art. He has the talent of composing beautiful poems. He gives words to thoughts. He can express in rhyme what we can only think. But even after giving so many years of his life to his art, the poet can’t say that he has achieved what is best for men. A poet can only hope all his life to achieve his dream. Most of the time his dreams ( desires) remain in his poems only. They do not reach their fulfilment. The lover considers his achieved greater than of the poet because he actually enjoys his fulfilment of desire in his dream ( ride). He says that a poet can only hope his ride (desire ) to come true but he ( the lover ) is luckier as he actually enjoys his ride.
Q.3 To the man of ……… fine, How does he prove achievement?
Ans. The speaker compares his achievement with that of a musician & says that the musician dedicated all his life & grows old to create his best music. At the end of his life, he has nothing but only his musical notes for which he gets praise from his friends. The speaker says that undoubtedly the music of his Opera is deep & impressive but then when we talk of music, all know how soon the likings of people get changed. The people who praise the musical notes, soon change their likings of people get changed. The people who praise the musical notes, soon change their likings & move to some other piece of music. Even the best of music does not remain eternal. The speaker says that he also gave his youth to his love but could not get it. All that for which his life meant, fail. Still, he feels glad that he gets the fulfilment of his desire in the cost ride with his beloved. For him, the joy of his ride is greater than any other achievement & there is nothing that he can wish for. So his achievement is greater that of a musician.
Q.4 How will you explain ….. concept.
Ans. The speaker says that no one knows what is good for us. The fate of all people is like a rolled manuscript which is unknown. People aspire so much in life but hardly get the fulfilment of their aspiration. The speaker facts to achieve the love of his beloved but this failure is a blessing in disguise. He finds the fulfilment of all his aspirations in the last ride together with his beloved. He experiences all the joy of the world in this last ride. He feels elated like a god in the company of his beloved. He says that he can die blissfully as he knows that the glory garland of his achievement will be with him even after his death. The degree of optimism reaches a new height when he says that the world may end tonight & this moment will turn into an eternity. In this way, he and his beloved will be together for eternity.
Q.5 Discuss ‘The last Ride together’ as a dramatic monologue.
Ans. The poem ‘the last Ride together’ is a dramatic monologue written by the great English poet Robert Browing the poet is widely acclaimed for dramatic monologues. This is a kind of poem in which the speaker is supposed to address some unknown listeners. In his address, the speaker reveals his life or some important incidents of his life. The reader by the address of the speaker comes to know about his life. The speaker also expresses the philosophy of his life in this process. This form of poetry is perfected in English by Robert Browning.
This poem the last ride together is a perfect example of Browning’s class. He handles the poem to perfection. In the poem a lover after being rejected in love by his beloved claims only past memories of his love. His only wish is to go on a last ride with his beloved. When he is given the consent of the last ride, he feels elated like a god. He gets spiritual experiences during his last ride. He feels as if he has achieved all desires & nothing is left for him to achieve in this life. The speaker also gives his philosophy of past & present in his address.
Q.6 Discuss in detail Browning as a poet of love.
Ans. The poem written by Robert Browning seems to be a philosophical poem but it is more of a love poem which establishes Browning as a poet of love. The poem is very intense in emotions & feelings. It expresses the love of the speaker with greater intensity. When the speaker is rejected in love, he does not feel disheartened but his heart rises up to bless his beloved in pride & thankfulness. He does not have any expectations from her but only claims the past memories of his love & the last ride with her. When he gets the consent of the last ride, he feels as if he gets back his life. Is love for his beloved is such that he feels elated like a god in her company?
The love of the speaker is wonderfully expressed in the lines.
“So, one day more am I defied
Who knows but the world may end tonight”
In these lines the speaker hopes that the world may come to an end tonight so that the moment of his last ride will have come eternal.
The expression of love can intensely felt in this poem. So Browning can truly be called as a poet of love”.
Q.7 What degree of optimism is revealed in the poem.
Ans. The poem by Robert Browning is just not a love poem but it also reveals the philosophy of optimism. The poem gives the message that it is always better to live in present than the hopeful past. The poet through the address of the lover expresses his philosophy life revealing a greater degree of optimism. He says that all people work hard in their lives but only a few get the fulfilment of their desires but it does not mean that one should become a pessimist & lose all hopes in life. One should always try to find the fulfilment of his desires in present. One should realise that the past howsoever is hopeful has gone & will not come again. So rather than living in past with a grief of unfulfilled desires, it is always better to be in present & enjoy the present achievement.
Q. 8 What thoughts pass through the speaker’s mind when he and his beloved were riding.
Ans. The lower touches new height of spirituality during his ride with his beloved. He experiences heavenly bliss in the company of his beloved. He feels dazzled at his achievement & could see his beloved also going through all sorts of emotions. When he & his beloved ride together he thinks that the world may end tonight. In this way, the moment of this last ride would turn into an eternity. He would enjoy eternal happiness in life.
Q. 9 How does the speaker find his fulfilment in present.
Ans. The speaker who is rejected in love by his beloved does not lose his heart & says that all work hard but only a few get success. He is not the only one who failed in his achievement. He left the hopeful past behind & finds his contentment in present. He says that he hoped that his beloved would love him but It didn’t happen. He considers a hope of the past that is already left behind. At present, he enjoys the ride with his beloved which is the greatest achievement for him. He feels as if his spirit flew & he got new experiences of life. There is nothing more for him to achieve now.
Q. 10 How does the statement ‘Who knows for us’ reveals?
Ans. The speaker in this poem expresses his firm faith in fate. He says that no one knows what is good or bad for us. The future is unseen & a secret for all of us. We only hope that we wish to achieve maybe there in our dousing. In the poem, the speaker after being rejected in love says that it was written in his fate & was bound to happen. So he does not feel regret at his rejection.
Q. 11 Why does the speaker consider the earth a favoured place.
Ans. The speaker is glad to get the company of his beloved & feels elated like a god. The last ride with his beloved give him new spiritual experience & his spirit touches never before height. He finds the fulfilment of all his desires during his last ride. He feels that nothing is left for him to achieve in this life. He considers the Earth a favoured place in comparison to heaven because here on the Earth only he has found all his contentment, fulfilment & buses. There is no wish left in him for any heaven. He has experienced heavenly bliss right here on the earth.
Q.12 Explain the significance of the expression.
Ans. The lover is dazzled at his achievement & can’t hope to get anything better than the joy of his last ride with his beloved. He says that everyone hopes to get that achievement with which they can die blissfully. For him, the ride is the glorious moment of his life & this glory garland would remain with him even after his death. This last ride is the fulfilment of all his physical & divine wishes.
Answer each in a paragraph of 80 words.
1. How does the lover take his rejection by his lady? Why, in your opinion, does he take it so?
2. What are the rewards of a statesman and a soldier? How does the lover compare them with his ride?
3. Why does the lover think that his achievement is better than those of the poet, sculptor and musician?
4. What does the lover think of heaven? Is he so sure that they will ride forever in heaven?
5. Browning’s philosophy as reflected in the poem.
c. Attempt an essay
1. Consider the poem as a dramatic monologue.
2. How does his rejection by his mistress become a ground for spiritual exultation for the lover, in The Last Ride Together?