Critical analysis of The Last Ride Together:
This poem is witness to the fact that the outstanding thing about Browning as an artist the variety and originality of his poetic forms. Browning may be described as “the father of modern experimental verse.” It is Browning’s love of realism which makes him give a hearing even to a rascal as the lover is. Prisoners, cheats, murderers are all given a hearing. But these characters are never given any name. So that they could be generalised. As Chesterton says, Browning does not take up ordinary situations or obvious morals. He rather shows us the crisis of a life of the individual may depend on his reaction to it. Again and again, Browning selects and holds out into clear relief the important moment which decides the spiritual basis of the soul involved and settles the pattern of its future existence. In The Last Ride Together Browning selected the ‘moment’ which is the result of quick thought or sudden passion and results in some action breaking the common place course of life.
The first few stanzas of the poem show the perfection of the dramatic monologue Browning was a great artist, incomparably greater than his more popular contemporary. His love poems and imaginative representation are in this form. A dramatic monologue is an exacting form and requires great skill. It has to tell a story and that too not at great length. The character of the speaker must be portrayed distinctly and vividly and should be dramatically appropriate to the theme. The thought of the poem should appear as a natural expression of the characters. Browning loves to work on the “great moment” but the movement in the monologues is not through action but in thought. This monologue too shows Browning’s knowledge of human nature, especially its dark recesses and pit falls. The more tangled the character, the more passionate and stormy the experience, the more labyrinthine the story, the greater was the zest with which Browning approached them. Cazamian calls his monologues “studies in practical psychology.” His characters of dramatic monologue are like the character of Shaw, only expressing the writer’s ideas. One can even say that Browning’s poems are the poetry of ideas. Browning’s characters are Browningesque (since they speak Browning’s ideas). However, his love of ideas prevents him from being fully dramatic. We feel that perhaps his, “. . . the purpose in creating characters was to make them serve as a question, objectors, answerers in the great debate that proceeds throughout his poems.” Broadly speaking we might divide Browning’s character into two categories: those in whom intellect is predominant and those in whom lofty emotions are predominant. He is more successful in presenting women characters rather than men yet he doesn’t romantically idealise women. They are present6ed as acting and reacting in varied circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant. Like Shakespeare and Meredith, he represents them as possessing a finer and stronger intellect than men.
In the Last Ride TogetherL as the lovers ride together a sense of resignation comes over him. Everyone strives few or none succeeded. And if it were otherwise – if the goal could be reached on earth – what care would one take for heaven? Then the peace which is in him absorbs the consciousness of reality. He fancies himself riding with the fancies himself riding with the loved one until the end, andime; and he asks himself if his destined heaven may not prove to be this. This poem is considered by many critics to be the noblest of all Browning’s love poems; for dramatic intensity for power, for its exhibition of what Mr. Raleigh has aptly termed Browning’s “. . . tremendous concentration of his power in excluding the object world and its relations.” It is a poem of unrequited love, in which there is nothing but the noblest resignation; a compliance with the decrees of fate, but with neither a shadow of disloyalty to the ideal; nor despair of the result of the dismissal of the lover’s own soul’s development. He may be deprived of his love but the ideal of his love but the ideal is there in his heart and no one can deprive him of that. This ideal shall be used to elevate and sublimate his desires, to expand his soul to the fruition of his boundless aspiration for human love, used till it transfigures the human in the man till it becomes divine. And so – as he knows his fate since all his life seemed meant for, fails – his whole heart rises up to bless the woman, to whom he gives back the hope she gave; he asks only its memory and her leave for one more last ride with him.
“who knows but the/ world may end tonight.”
The force of the hour, the value of the quintessential moment as factors in the development of the soul, have never been set forth, even by Browning with such startling power –
“The instant made eternity.”
Annotations of The Last Ride Together:
In the first stanza the lover is found blaming his failure in love on his fate liberating his beloved from the usual charges of infidelity. The lover asks her for one last ride together. In the second one, his mistress thinks over the proposal and agrees and he is happy for his last request was kept. Therefore he doesn’t care if the world ends that day. In the third stanza they ride on his mistress provides him ‘more’ than just a ride and he feels that all the universal blessings are showered on him and her.
Further, in the fourth stanza, the lover remembers the past and doesn’t bother himself with what could have happened if he would’ve acted like this or that. Again in the stanza the lover starts his comparisons with the other people of the world. For him, the trail is greater than success. Next stanza witnesses the love being compared and found superior to the statesman and the soldier. Next stanza sees the love greater than the poet as well. This could very well be a dig against Shelly. Since the lover points out that he has got what he has desired for – the last ride with his beloved but the poets never get what they want.
The same comparison is furthered in the next stanza where the lover is regarded as superior to the sculptor and the musician. The penultimate stanza shows Browning’s trust in life after death in heaven. Browning always believed in the fact that this life is just a dress rehearsal for our life in heaven. In the final stanza, the lover asserts the fact that heaven for him is the success he achieved by riding with her beloved where the instant of his success becomes eternal.
Looking at this particular poem one can make an educated guess at the main reasons for Browning to take up dramatic monologue other than trying to satisfy his urge for dramatic outlet could be these – first, Browning was highly sensitive and shrank from criticism, to which he thought he would be exposed if he uttered his transcendental thoughts directly. Secondly, he felt that truths inculcated directly glance off athwart the mind, and so defeat their own purpose. Finally, art succeeds best by oblique or indirect communication. So Browning’s dramatic monologue is based on the same principle.