Analysis and Poetic Devices of The Patriot- An Old Story by Browning

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Critical Analysis of The Patriot- An Old Story:

Written in a form of a dramatic monologue, The Patriot- An old story by Robert Browning is an account of a man’s fall from power to disgrace. From the title of the poet, The patriot, one gathers that the poem is about an individual. On the other hand, the subtitle, “an old story” can be deciphered as it is a universal story that can be applicable to anybody. This is in line with the contrast that is projected in the poem.


The first stanza begins with the description of the Patriot’s arrival into the town and the magnificent welcome given to him by the townspeople. His path has been laden with roses and fragrant myrtles and people are clambered on their roof tops to catch a glimpse of and congratulate the Patriot. The past tense used in the first stanza creates a retrospective narrative. It has been implied that the town is a very cluttered and old one. “Old walls rocked” in the second stanza is an evidence to this. The poet has religious beliefs and this can be seen in the first and second stanza where he mentions churches and bells, also the last stanza has him reaching out to God’s safe haven for justice. But, the patriot is shown as a man who values permanence more than temporary glory. This is reflected in his asking the townspeople to fetch him the sun, as it is the ultimate symbol of power, glory, and immortality.

True to the title of the poem, the patriot himself fetches the sun for his beloved friends, but it is then that regret enters his tone. His feeling of betrayal is quite clear when he mentions about despite his good deeds what he is reaping. “A year has run” signifies that something eventful has taken place through that one year which has had some adverse effects. This is when he starts narrating the current scenario. The mood of the poet changes to sarcastic and ironical as he draws a contrast by juxtaposing the full roofs in the past with the present empty ones. The fickle nature of the townspeople can also seem as the same people who were celebrating the patriot, are now gathered near the gallows to cheer his execution. To emphasize on the Patriot’s emotions, his walk of shame is described where the Patriot comments on the transitory nature of man, who might love today and hate tomorrow. Despite this sorrowful tone of the poem, one notices that Browning ends a poem on a note of optimism as he hopes that regardless of the misunderstanding and evils contaminating the world, God always does justice and it is in death that the patriot will be granted what he truly deserves and will rest peacefully in God’s safe haven. This is also an example of the faith he places in God and religion.

Stanza wise annotations of The Patriot- An Old Story:

Stanza 1

Roses, roses all the way-The path is heavily laden with roses; rose symbolises love, happiness, celebration

Myrtle- Evergreen shrub with white flowers

Mixed in my path like mad- The myrtle has been spread out with the roses, a celebratory gesture of welcome

House roofs seemed to heave and sway- People were crowding on their roof tops to get a glimpse of the poet. This abundance of people created an image of the house roofs themselves moving with the throng.

Church spires flamed- The flags that had been put up, they were so fiery in colour that they made it look like the church spires were on fire.

Stanza 2

The air broke into a mist with bells- the chime of the church bells injected the air

Old walls rocked- the crowd of people created a din, causing a noisy atmosphere. The noise was such that it is described as “even the walls shook”. 

Good folk, mere noise repels— 
But give me your sun from yonder skies!- the poet addresses the people who are celebrating and welcoming him with cries of joy. He says, “Dear folks, more than your cries of celebration and joy, I would appreciate it if you give me your sun.” Sun is symbolic of power, glory, respect. 

Stanza 3

Alack-Alas

To give it my loving friends- to give it to my beloved friends.

Nought- no

Now a year is run- A year has passed

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Stanza 4

Palsied- crippled, unhealthy
Shambles’ gate- gate to the slaughterhouse, the gallows

Scaffold- wooden platform used for the execution of criminals

Trow- think or believe

Stanza 5

A rope cuts both my wrists behind- a rope is cutting through the wrists which have been tied behind.

Stanza 6

Thus I entered, and thus I go- I am leaving the same way that I entered.

Paid by the world, what dost thou owe 
me?- you have been paid by all the people of the world, so what do you owe me?

‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so- God shall truly repay for his deeds, do justice. Hence, he is safer in death than in life. 

Poetic devices in The Patriot- An Old Story:

Rhyme Scheme:

With six stanzas, each consisting of five lines, The Patriot by Robert Browning has a rhyme scheme ABABA. This makes this poem a Sicilian Quintain. This poem has an Iambic Pentameter.

Pathetic fallacy:

“I go in the rain”

: The rain here is symbolic of a number of things. The Patriot gets wet by the rain, losing his dignity. Also, it can be viewed that the rain washes him clean, representing his innocence. The rain also works to create a tense atmosphere. 

Juxtaposition:

The image projected in the beginning of the poem is juxtaposed with the current scenario. This can be seen when the roof tops were swaying with people in the first stanza, but in the fourth stanza, it is empty. This shows how the Patriot went on from becoming loved to hate. 

This effect works in creating a contrast, which is actually the central idea of this poem.

Alliteration:

“Roses, roses”

“Myrtle mixed”

“Crowd and cries”

“Dropped down dead”

This use of alliteration adds rhyme and rhythm to the poem.

Metaphor:

The use of roses in the first stanza has been to symbolize people’s love and affection towards him. The celebratory attitude of the people and their honoring the Patriot has been metamorphosed as roses.

Glory, power, and immortality have been metamorphosed as the sun. He asks the men for the sun as it is the ultimate symbol of power.

“And you see my harvest, what I reap”. In this line, the Patriot’s deeds have been referred to as harvest and the consequences have been metamorphosed as reaping.

Personification:

“The house roofs seemed to heave and sway”. The roofs of the houses have been given the human characteristic of heaving and swaying. This has been done to refer to the crowd on the roofs and their frenzy on seeing the Patriot, which is causing them to clamber over each other and give an impression of swaying.

 

Imagery:

The poem begins with an image of the past where the patriot is being welcomed back to his town with paths laden with roses and myrtles. The use of roses projects a positive picture as they symbolize love. The heaving roof tops are evidence to the fact that the town is a very cluttered and crowded one. 

They create a contrast between the past and the present, the image of crowded roof tops is juxtaposed with the image of empty roof tops and roads. Rain acts as a negative agent as it creates a scene of misery and works in changing the mood of the poem. The Patriot is walking through the town and is bleeding and in pain. The reference to safety in God’s abode ends the poem on an upbeat note as the imagery is of positivity and optimism. 

 

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