The Patriot- An Old Story: Central Idea
The central idea of the poem revolves around the rise and fall of one’s fortunes. The world is a dynamic, fickle, and transient place. Here the opinions of people change rapidly, without lending much thought to justice and truth. The Patriot is the first hero-worshipped and celebrated, but within a year, he is taken down for execution. Justice is not meted out to him, and he believes that real justice can only be delivered by God. By this, he also creates a contrast between the fickle nature of the public and the divine nature of God.
The Patriot- An Old Story: Theme
The Patriot is majorly based on the theme of rising and fall of fortune. The narrator, the patriot, is welcomed with feverish joy and paths of roses in the first two stanzas by the townspeople. But, by the end of the poem, we see that those same people have humiliated and executed him within a year. This shows that glory and fortune do not last forever. People are fickle-minded and change their opinions without a second thought. Someone who is loved today may easily be hated tomorrow.
The poem has undertones of religiosity. The first stanza itself mentions flags fluttering on the church spires also; the patriot is welcomed with ringing bells. The final stanza has the Patriot being optimistic about death as he believes that God does justice to one and all, and he will recognize that the patriot has done nothing immoral. This faith in God and the belief that he will be safe in God’s abode shows that a patriot is a religious man. Also, there is a biblical reference when the poet mentions the reaping of the harvest.
Betrayal is also a minor theme in the poem as the poet fetched the sun for the townspeople, and in return, they stamped him as a criminal and executed him. All his good deeds were forgotten, and he was brought to a humiliating and painful death.
The Patriot- An Old Story: Tone
Narrated in a first-person account, the Patriot has an ironic tone. The irony in the poet being that the people who had, in the beginning, welcomed him with flowers are the ones who stone him and hang him within the span of a year.
The poem begins with a retrospective tone since the first two stanzas are in the past tense. The poet reflects back upon the days when he was welcomed with rose-laden paths. Then, there is tension in the narration when the poet mentions the now empty rooftops. The Patriot’s tone becomes laced with agony and sarcasm when he notes how the people who apparently were ready to worship him are now cheering his execution.
The poem ends on an optimistic note as the Patriot believes that God truly knows who is moral or immoral, and he will do justice to the Patriot after his death.
Within its six stanzas, The Patriot encompasses the universal phenomenon of rising and fall from power. Written in the form of a dramatic monologue, the fickleness of public opinion and the transient nature of fame are the central themes of this tragic verse by Robert Browning. The picture of crumbling houses of the Victorian era, heaving housetops, din created by the public is an exemplar of Browning’s superb use of imagery. The flow of the poem ensures that the reader gains sympathy for the patriot. Also, despite the agony and the anguish of the patriot throughout the poem, the contrast created in the end by his optimistic note sends out the message of justice and fairness.
You can also find The Patriot- An Old Story: Critical Analysis here.