“The Last Ride Together” by Robert Browning is a monologue of a rejected lover exploring the end of a love affair. The title suggests the last ride that the lover has spent with his love. However, the poet wants to convey through the narrator that rather than feeling sad about the end, he should be happy for the love that he underwent and which remains in his memory.
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The first stanza presents a self-consolation. It’s based on the underlying theory of ‘blame it all on fate’. Of course the poem talks about love and its attendant failures. The speaker thinks that failure is inevitable as he himself has failed. He is attempting to reduce his pain by trying to curtail his desires. Words are so chosen to convey the feeling of polite resignation and acceptance of defeat. The word ‘since’ is used five times in the same paragraph which in one hand may indicate to the fact that Browning got involved in an emotional flow and lost control over his poetic polish of words. Moreover, the diction is superficial, and of superhuman psychology because a man who has been ditched can’t have too many good things to say about the former flame unless of course he is ironical about it. Generally, browning though a Dramatic Monologist is one of the profoundest lyricists which can be determined by the rhyme scheme – aa, bb, caa, bb, c and the predominant rhythm i.e. iambic pentameter. In fact the whole paragraph is rhetorical.
The second stanza deals with the anticipation of a response by the speaker from the mistress. It is this dilemma and wait for the answer that contributes to the dramatic effect of the poem. The stanza progresses thus – from spine chilling excitement and anticipation to joy to relief and finally to ecstasy. The images of the mistress bending her brow, her “deep dark eyes”, her breathing and consequent heaving of the bosom and her blush conveys an almost erotic charm to the poem. In a superb metaphor – “With life or death in the balance”. The speaker compares yes with life and no with death. Rhythm and rhyme adds a lyrical charm to the dramatic poem. The diction provides a picture of the action in the man with which Browning was more concerned. It clearly brings out the anxiety and the emotional turmoil in the speaker’s brain. Words like – ‘bent that brow’ refers to the brooding of the lady over the proposal. ‘Fixed’ and ‘breathing’ clearly brings out the anxiety of the speaker. The condition of ‘yes and ‘no’ has been beautifully painted as ‘life’ and ‘death’ respectively. The stanza could also be memorable for the line – “Who knows but the world may end tonight”. This line affirms the stupid optimism of the speaker who becomes as a much a butt of ridicule as the people he satirizes for their failures.
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