The Last Ride Together
“The Last Ride Together” is a one-of-a-kind poem by English poet Robert Browning that was first published in his 1855 collection “Men and Women,” his first significant work after his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett. It was made up of fifty-one poems, each written by a different narrator. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of poetry of the Victorian era. “The Last Ride Together” is a ten-stanza poem that focuses on love and sorrow. It takes the style of a monologue delivered by a spurned lover as he reflects on the end of a love affair. The title refers to the last carriage ride the former couple took together. Although the narrator is saddened by the end of his romance, he wishes to express his gratitude for the time they spent together and the love he felt. The poem has a bittersweet tone that balances sadness with optimism.
The narrator blames the end of his romance on fate in the first stanza. He laments the fact that all he has tried has failed, and it appears that his love affair has come to an end. Despite this, he shows his love and admiration for the woman with whom he has spent years and praises her name. He simply asks for the memories of their time together and one last ride with her before she leaves.
The second stanza focuses on the woman’s reaction, as she looks at him with pride and sympathy. Waiting for her response is compared to life or death by the narrator, emphasising the emotional stakes that are always present when it comes to love and desire. Finally, they say yes, and the pair departs on their farewell voyage together.
The narrator waxes poetic about how lovely the time together feels in the third stanza, which focuses on the joyful experience of that last journey. He concentrates on the beauty of his surroundings, his passion, and the exquisite feeling he gets when she touches him. She has given him more than he asked for, and he is grateful for it.
The fourth stanza focuses on Browning’s notion of life’s transience. The narrator starts to let go of what was and enjoy what is. He describes his soul as smoothing out as he lets go of old dreams. He understands that speculating on what may have been is pointless. Things may be better or worse, but he chooses to simply enjoy the time that they are experiencing together.
The narrator contrasts himself with men who sought for other things and those who failed in the fifth stanza, which continues the ideas from the fourth. He does this to conceal his emotional grief about the end of his affair. He admits defeat and expresses optimism for a better future in heaven at the conclusion of his life.
The philosophical argument presented in the sixth stanza is that a life of reflection in love is far superior to any joys that the material world can bring. This stanza contains numerous allusions and analogies, such as comparing life’s greatest delights to a crown that can be attained. It contrasts the life of a lover with the lives of a statesman and a soldier, concluding that the lover’s life is preferable.
The seventh and eighth stanzas compare the love to a great poet, then to a great sculptor. The poet’s job is defined by how they produce rhyme and rhythm, while the sculptor commits years to a slab of rock and carves something beautiful out of it, according to the narrator. Later on, he does the same thing with a composer, stringing notes together. He compares these arts to the years he devoted to his love, seeking to create something beautiful from their union.
The narrator wonders what fate has in store for them in the ninth stanza, admitting he has no idea what would have happened if they had stayed together. He expresses grief that it must come to an end here, but realises that there is nothing he can do and chooses to let go, claiming that his life with his sweetheart is now as far away from him as heaven.
In the final stanza, he returns his attention to his sweetheart, observing her and noting that she has not spoken anything in a long time. He imagines what would happen if they simply rode forever, together, and this moment they shared became eternity. That is where the poem ends, on that wistful note for an eternity of this time, without the future apart that awaits them when the trip comes to an end.
Robert Browning authored thirty-one major works of poetry throughout his lifetime and is regarded as one of Victorian England’s most influential poets. Despite this, he was overshadowed in fame by his poet wife Elizabeth Barrett during his lifetime. Men and Women, as well as the book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book, were the two works that elevated his reputation and led to him being regarded as one of the defining poets of the era, and they are still widely read today, along with the rest of his work, though many of his earlier works are relatively obscure. Stephen King is perhaps his most significant cultural influence.
“The Dark Tower,” written by Stephen King, was inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland Came to the Dark Tower.”
Detailed Analysis of aThe Last Ride Together
“Last Ride Together,” by Robert Browning, is a monologue in which a rejected lover proclaims his eternal love for his sweetheart. The title seemed to imply that this is their final ride together. Nonetheless, what the speaker means is that he has spent his entire life on this ride, surrounded by the all-consuming grandeur of love. The poem is reminiscent of the ‘carpe diem’ idea of seizing the present. He confirms that he is well-versed in his past. Even still, everything he has stood for up to this point has been for naught when it comes to his unrequited love. His love is selfless and does not seek anything ridiculous; he is truly blessed with pride and delight in sharing the Last Ride with her, which will provide him with the joy of a lifetime. For this, he would even give up his most valuable possession: the hope of love that kept him going. If he is given the Ride, he promises that he will be satisfied with just the memory of the hope that drove him to continue.
The Lady drew her brows in response to the entreaty, pity smoothening the pride that had filled her dark gaze. The poet felt as if he were on the verge of death at the moment of her decision, and the colour fled his face for a fraction of a second. The positive signal, on the other hand, instantly refills the blood. He feels overjoyed at the idea of riding with her while the present lasts. And he declares that he is deified or exalted for one more day because no one knows when the world will end.
Following that, the poet refers to their physical proximity, hinting that the word “ride” has sexual undertones. The poet tells her that if she sees the Western cloud with its bosom packed with blessings; if she sees the sun, moon, and evening stars all at once, it is simply because heaven has descended upon them. The poet begs her to set aside her consciousness and allow passion to draw her. “Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,” he says. That they transcend above fleshly divisions to a spiritual oneness. She approaches the speaker with mixed feelings of delight and anxiety.
In the following verse, the poet focuses on the relevance of the present as he enjoys the ride. He ponders why humans place so much emphasis on the past and future rather than the present. His spirit, which was once a long “scramped scroll,” smoothens out. The phrase suggests living life to the fullest in elation and ecstasy for the time being. In extreme ecstasy, the scroll freshens and flutters in the breeze. Why does one get carried away by one’s own acts in the past:
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Why do individuals allow questions, suspicions, failure, and misgivings to haunt the present instead of shielding and deflecting from it? Every moment should be lived as though there is no room for regret. There was just one truth for him at the time:
And here we are riding, she and I.
The speaker did not expect ‘true’ love from his ladylove. He had failed in both words and actions. He consoles himself with the thought that all men aspire for achievement, but who achieves it? His spirit was still on a high in the present, as they passed through unfamiliar territory on their ride. According to the speaker, “the world rushed by on either side.” That is, because the poet was trapped in the moment in slow motion, the world seemed to fly by. Despite the setbacks, the world that was caught up in worldly desires remained with it. However, the bright future that promises great prospects compensates them for the small present. Similarly, the poet temporarily defies his own dictum by wishing that she would ever love him back. Thus, he contradicts himself, demonstrating that hope is instinctive and universal. Despite our best efforts, it cannot be exchanged for anything in the world.
What hand and brain went ever paired?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshly screen?
According to the poet, the hand (practice) and head (thinking) were never fully linked. The heart never ventured to express the actual emotions that it nurtured. No behaviour could even demonstrate the idea behind it. What ever happened to the hand and brain pairing?
He connects the Ride to the act of writing poetry in the second stanza. The Poet, on the other hand, expressed what the average person felt. Poets idealise particular things and put them into poetry, with the image and rhyme coexisting side by side. However, the speaker wonders if the Poet’s true life was as lovely as he depicted in his poems. Whether the Poet was truly impoverished, afflicted, or elderly. It is possible that his tragedies contributed to an iota of his sublime.
Are you—poor, sick, old ere your time— Nearer one whit your own sublime
Though the speaker loves the Ride since it is filled with joy as opposed to the poet’s singing. In truth, the speaker is a Poet himself.
The sculptor works for years to capture Venus’s beauty in his artistic masterpiece, but it is useless. The sculptor has worked in the field of art for many years. The speaker personifies Art, and the sculptor is Art’s slave. All of this servility is for naught because, when a person becomes increasingly drawn to home life, his gaze switches from the statue of Venus to a dame waddling (fording) through a stream of water (burn). The Sculptor acquiesces, hesitantly but unapologetically accepting fate. On the other hand, should not the speaker express his displeasure openly? Being a musician is similarly insignificant in contrast. While music has its own styles, and one type of music may not appeal to another generation, the musician spends his finest years in music. His only reward appears to be a friend’s praise. The speaker, too, has given up his youth, but he rides great since riding provides him the pleasure of a lifetime.
Only God knows what the future holds for us. If the poet had given himself to fate and fate had proposed happiness, he would not have found himself in such high esteem, for the poet works best when he is sad. Nonetheless, one must live a life beyond this ‘destined’ life and experience his or her own form of ecstasy. These previously undiscovered pathways of happiness should be condemned. In such a case, one’s feet appear to be planted on the goal, and glory appears to be wrapped around one’s neck. With Earth being so good, would heaven seem preferable? asks the poet rhetorically. He hints that if earth was as good as people believed it was, how come heaven was the best? But, as he declares, the experience itself has now transcended the object and result of the experience:
“Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.”
Throughout the ride, the beloved has not spoken to him. What if heaven is life at its best and brightest? With the gaze fixed on the initial fruition, which always brings infinite bliss. Being set in eternity eliminates the necessity for flexibility. What if they ride on, old with experience but always new in essence? Not changed in kind, but in degree: not in quantity, but in quality. A single instant is converted into eternity in such a case. Finally, what if they could ‘ride’ indefinitely without regard for action, intention, or inclination?