Last Ride Together by Robert Browning Questions and Answers 10
Q. 1. Examine The Last Ride Together as a dramatic monologue or a dramatic lyric.
Ans. Browning wrote plays. These include Strafford (1837), Pippa Passes (1841), The Return of the Druses (1843), A Soul’s Tragedy (1846), In a Balcony (1853). But in spite of his ‘unquenchable appentency for drama,’ he did far better in his dramatic monologue than in his plays. The dramatic monologue is a little drama. It is not the ‘drama of the outer world of events, but of the inner world of the soul, where nothing is of importance until it is transfused into a form influencing mind and character’. The men and women here are usually in a state of mental disturbance or conflict; indeed they think much more than they act. Browning seizes upon the particular situation and particular moments and lays bare the inner mind of the character. Hence the dramatic monologue is often called a kind of ‘comprehensive soliloquy.’
The Last Ride Together is a perfect example of the dramatic monologue. Notice’its abrupt beginning: ‘I said-Then, Dearest, since ’tis so……. “The situation just before the lover begins to speak is not mentioned but sufficiently suggested dramatically. The young man had long intimacy with his sweet-heart and had supposed the intimacy had ripened into love. They used to ride together day after day. Then one day the girl tells him that she cannot love him. The man discovers his error. Browning seizes upon this situation and depicts the emotion evoked in the heart of the rejected lover.” The very soul of the rejected lover is laid bare and his temperament disclosed. The complex feelings of the lover-his disillusionment in love, spiritual exaltation, etc., find fullest expression. The rejected lover accepts his fate in a spirit of tacit resignation. His heart rises up to bless the beloved:
since ’tis so.
Since now at length my fate I know, Since nothing all my love avails, Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails, Since this was written and needs must beMy whole heart rises up to bless Your name in pride and thankfulness! However, the rejected lover gathers his heart together and prays …. …. 1000
“if you will not blame, Your leave for one more last ride with me.” ….
The lady-love waited for a moment. The lover awaits in suspense:
‘Fixed me a breathing-while or two With life or death in the balance:’
With the grant of the prayer, he enthusiastically consoles himself: I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified-
Who knows but the world may end to-night? The ride begins. The rush of the wind soothes his soul. He dismisses all thoughts of what might have happened if he had said or done this or that. He is fortunate enough that they are riding together. He consoles himself saying that he does not alone fail in his pursuit of love. He finds all men strive in the world but few succeed. Our execution falls far short of our conception. The achievements of the statesman, the solider, the poet and the sculptor are nothing in comparison with his partial success in love. He consoles himself with the thought that had he achieved what he aspired for he would have nothing to hope for in heaven. He reaches the culmination of his arguments. He indulges in fond fancy that they may be thus riding side by side for ever as two who are known to each other as old lovers. They will ever remain fresh and new. Their life will not be changed in its nature but only in its intensity of love. What if we still ride on, we two, With life for ever old yet new, Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,
And Heaven just prove that I and she Ride, ride together, for ever ride?
Q. 2. Bring out the Browningian philosophy underlying The Last Ride Together.
Write a note on Browning’s philosophy of life as revealed in The Last Ride Together.
Ans. Browning’s genius is dramatic and at the same time metaphysical. Every poem written by the poet contains a robust philosophy of life. The Last Ride Together too is raised to a pedestal of great truths.
The poet has a great faith in life after death. He believes in the existence of God and in the immortality of soul. Death is not the be-all and end-all of life. It takes us to a new world of perfect peace and happiness. When one dies, it is better that one should look forward for further happiness to be enjoyed in heaven. Life on earth is a “broken arc,” it is in heaven “a perfect round”. The lover in the poem says:
Proposed bliss should sublimate. My being; had I signed the bond
Still one must lead some life beyond, -Have a bliss to die with, dim-described. The philosophy of failure and success looms large in the poem. Nobody can say what is good for us-failure or success. Failure, the lover argues, is the evidence of final triumph. Failure here on this earth means success in heaven. If our soul experiences the supreme joy of the fullest realization of our ideals, heaven would lose its meaning. It would then be a dull, insipid existence to live in heaven. Real happiness lies in endless pursuit and not in attainment. Life is a persistent struggle to reach our goal in life and this struggle has its continuance in heaven. The lover thus philosophizes in the poem: This foot once planted on the goal, This glory-garland round my soul, Could I descry such? Try and test! I sink back shuddering from the quest—
Earth being so good, would Heaven seem best? Now, Heaven and she are beyond this ride. The poem further offers a complete philosophy of love. “Love does not mean to Browning a gross sensual appetite as it does to Byron; it does not even mean the rich sensuousness of the Cavalier poets or even the fine intoxication of the romantic Keats; it does not mean an undefined reflection of the Platonic ideal as it means to Shelley.” Love to Browning is an alchemic power which transmutes, etherealises and elevates the human soul. Love, in his opinion, belongs as much to the body as to the soul. But it has nothing carnal in it. The lover in The Last Ride Together
thinks that love deified him, ‘So one day more am I deified’. His ladylove leant and lingered on his breast for a moment and “flesh must fade for heaven was here.”
The poet spins out a philosophy of life and art in the poem. Life is greater than art. The artist only imagines and is happy. But he does never enjoy the relish of true happiness in living actually a life of joy and beauty. The lover says:
What does it all mean, poet?
…. …. Have you yourself what’s best for men? Are you-poor, sick, old ere your timeNearer one whit your own sublime Than we who never have turned a rhyme? Even the masterpieces of great art, being inert and cold, fall below the most commonplace beauty of living persons. However, perfect a work of art may be, we instinctively look at something living and real. The lover in the poem says:
And you, great sculptor-so you gave A score of years to Art, her slave, And that’s your Venus-whence we turn To yonder girl that fords the burn!
Q. 3. Write a short critical estimate of the poem The Last Ride Together.
Consider The Last Ride Together as the representative poem of Browning.
Ans. The Last Ride Together is a dramatic monologue. The particular situation is all important here. The emphasis is laid here on the portrayal of the inner world of the soul, where nothing is of importance until it is transfused into a form influencing mind and character. The lover has passed his youth in loving his lady-love only. But all on a sudden he is rejected by his love. The poet promptly seizes upon this tense situation of the rejection and disillusionment of the lover. The lover speaks in his own person. The situation reveals the state of the mind of the lover who has suffered disillusionment but who does not give up hope.
The poem is dramatic as well as metaphysical. Here we have the glimpses of the Browningian philosophy of love and failure. ‘Love does not mean to Browning a gross sensual appetite as it does to Byron; it does not mean even the rich sensuousness of the Cavalier poets or even the fine intoxication of the romantic Keats; it does not mean an unde red reflection, of the Platonic ideal as it means to Shelley.’ Love, to the poet, is a great force which transmutes and etherealises. It has nothing of the carnal in it. It belongs as much to the body as to the soul. In regard to the philosophy of failure, the poet says that failure here means success in life hereafter. Real happiness lies in pursuit and not in attainment. Life is a continuous struggle to reach goals in life and this struggle continues in the next life too.
Nature in the poem always an important role. It is a fitting background to human emotions. The lover in the poem feels a divine joy in the company of his lady-love:
‘Hush! if you saw some western cloud All billowy-bosomed, over-bowed By many benedictions-sun’s And moon’s and evening-star’s at onceAnd so, you, looking and loving best, Conscious grew, your passion drew Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too, Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!
The poem is free from the charge of obscurity as is generally levelled against Browning’s poems. Its style is simple and has a sustained elevation. “The rhythmic beat of the verse is a fitting accompaniment to the movement, thought and mood of the poem.”