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.
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?
SHARING IS CARING!
Sharing knowledge has helped humanity to survive and evolve into the smart and productive species that it is today.A Candle loses nothing by lighting another candle."Margaret Fuller says, "If you have the knowledge, let others light their candles with it."