Critical Appreciation of The Last Ride Together
Critical Appreciation of The Last Ride Together by Robert Browning
Robert Browning‘s “The Last Ride Together” is a dramatic monologue that delves into the complexities of love, desire, and the acceptance of fate. Published in 1855 as part of his collection Men and Women, the poem has garnered significant critical attention for its exploration of human emotions and its unconventional treatment of love. This essay aims to provide a critical appreciation of “The Last Ride Together,” highlighting its thematic richness, poetic craftsmanship, and the unique perspective it offers on love and the human condition. This critical appreciation will delve into the various elements of the poem, highlighting its profound insights into the human condition and Browning’s mastery of poetic techniques.
Love and Desire:
One of the central themes in “The Last Ride Together” is love and desire. The poem depicts a rejected lover who, instead of resigning to his fate, requests one final ride with his beloved. The poem’s opening lines set the stage for the exploration of love’s complexities:
“I said—Then, dearest, 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 be—”
These lines, as noted by critic Harold Bloom, reveal the protagonist’s realization of his unrequited love and his determination to make the most of the remaining time he has with his beloved.
The poem challenges traditional notions of love by presenting a speaker who chooses to celebrate the purity and intensity of his feelings, even in the face of rejection. Browning’s portrayal of desire is captured vividly in the lines:
“One more ride together! for old time’s sake,
Dutch courage! To the last!” (XIII)
The speaker’s desire for a final ride represents a yearning for shared experiences, a desire to extract joy from the last vestiges of a once-burning love. This unconventional perspective on love has sparked significant critical debate.
Critics like John Woolford have praised Browning’s ability to convey the speaker’s intense emotions, noting that “Browning paints desire with such vividness and intensity that it becomes almost tangible.” The poem’s exploration of love and desire presents a complex portrayal of human emotions, challenging conventional notions of love and offering a nuanced understanding of the human heart.
Acceptance of Fate:
Another prominent theme in “The Last Ride Together” is the acceptance of fate. The rejected lover, while longing for a shared future, ultimately accepts the reality of his situation. This acceptance is evident in the lines:
“So, we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
‘Neath our feet broke the brittle, bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And “Gallop,” gasped Joris, “for Aix is in sight!”” (XVIII)
These lines capture the acceptance of fate as the lovers ride together, reveling in the present moment rather than dwelling on what might have been. Critics have praised Browning’s exploration of this theme, considering it a testament to the speaker’s maturity and emotional growth.
According to critic Julia Kristeva, Browning presents the speaker’s acceptance of fate as a form of liberation. The speaker’s decision to seize the moment and experience the joy of the present exemplifies his growth as an individual, moving beyond the limitations of unrequited love. The poem’s conclusion, where the speaker declares his gratitude for the shared experience, exemplifies this acceptance:
“I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.” (LXXI)
The acceptance of fate in “The Last Ride Together” showcases Browning’s profound understanding of human emotions and the ability to find contentment within the limitations imposed by life.
Beyond its thematic depth, “The Last Ride Together” exhibits Browning’s exceptional poetic craftsmanship. The poem’s structure and use of poetic devices contribute to its overall impact. The use of iambic pentameter throughout the poem establishes a rhythmic and melodic flow, enhancing the musicality of the lines. Furthermore, Browning employs enjambment, as seen in the lines:
“To have gained, to have wished, to have still to possess!
To have, and to hold, till we both break in one!” (XXVI)
This use of enjambment creates a sense of continuous movement and energy, mirroring the emotional intensity of the speaker’s thoughts.
Browning also employs vivid and evocative imagery to bring the scenes to life, immersing readers in the emotional journey of the protagonist. Critic Catherine Maxwell praises Browning’s use of imagery, noting that it “engages the reader’s senses and draws them into the emotional landscape of the poem.”
Symbolism is also significant in “The Last Ride Together,” enriching its thematic exploration. For example, the image of the ride itself symbolizes the shared experience of love and the desire for one final moment of connection. The ride becomes a metaphor for life’s journey and the fleeting nature of love.
Furthermore, Browning’s use of rhetoric contributes to the poem’s impact. The speaker’s impassioned pleas and persuasive arguments demonstrate Browning’s ability to convey complex emotions through rhetorical devices. The lines:
“Think, when our one soul understands
The great Word which makes all things new,
When earth breaks up and heaven expands,
How will the change strike me and you
In the house not made with hands?” (LXX)
showcase the speaker’s rhetorical prowess, appealing to both reason and emotion.
“The Last Ride Together” stands as a testament to Browning’s poetic genius and his ability to explore complex themes with profound insight. Through the portrayal of love, the acceptance of fate, and the adept use of poetic techniques, Browning presents a multi-layered examination of human emotions. The poem’s exploration of love challenges traditional notions and offers a unique perspective on the complexities of desire. The acceptance of fate highlights the speaker’s emotional growth and resilience. Browning’s poetic craftsmanship, characterized by vivid imagery, rhythmic flow, and effective rhetoric, further elevates the poem’s impact.
Overall, “The Last Ride Together” exemplifies Browning’s ability to capture the intricacies of human emotion and presents a thought-provoking exploration of love, desire, and acceptance. Through the speaker’s journey, readers are invited to reflect on their own experiences of love, the fleeting nature of happiness, and the power of embracing the present moment. Browning’s masterful use of language and imagery continues to captivate readers, ensuring the enduring relevance of “The Last Ride Together” in the canon of English literature.
Written by Koushik Kumar Kundu
Koushik Kumar Kundu was among the toppers when he completed his Masters from Vidyasagar University after completing his Bachelors degree with Honours in English Literature from The University of Burdwan. He also completed B.Ed from the University of Burdwan.
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