Trace the Thought process of the lover in Browning’s “The Last Ride Together”

The most important feature of a dramatic monologue – in which a character (dramatic personae) speaks at a decisive moment in his life – is its focus on the thought process of the speaker. It reveals a lot about the mental attributes of the person speaking, as well as, particular aspects of his/her views or philosophies of life and relationship. In Browning’s “The Last Ride Together”, the speaker is a lover. He is in a critical moment of his life - he is rejected by his sweetheart. The lover asks for the only favour of a last ride with his lady and she grants it. In the ride together, he gathers up the rapture of a life time, and with no further heaven to be hoped for, he wishes that the ride may lengthen out into eternity.

The lover dwells on the significance of the present as he concentrates on the ride. He contemplates on why people attach so much significance to the past and future, than focusing on the present. His soul that was hitherto a long “scramped scroll” smoothens itself out .The metaphor connotes living life to the fullest in elation and ecstasy for the moment. The scroll freshens and flutters in the wind in intense euphoria. Why does one get carried away by past actions:

Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.

Why do people leave room for doubts, suspicions, failure, misgivings that haunt the present instead of protecting it, and distracting the same? One should breathe each moment as though there is no room for regret. “The Last Ride Together” makes profound statements concerning the irrelevance of the past in relation to present emotions and sentiments. More specifically, the lover discusses hopes that have not been fulfilled, and places them in direct contrast to present circumstances. By revealing the idea that sentiments and events of the past often have little effect on future outcomes, he suggests that life should not involve dwelling on the past or hoping for the future, but living in the moment.

The lover as he rides with his beloved continues to think about the world. He says that brain and hand cannot go together hand in hand. Conception and execution can never be paired together. Man plans a lot but achieves a little. The lover feels that he has at least achieved a little success by being able to ride with his beloved. He compares himself with a statesman and a soldier. A statesman works hard all his life but all his efforts are merely published in a book or as an obituary in newspapers. Similarly a soldier dies fighting for his country and is buried in the Westminster Abbey, which is his only reward after death. Sometimes an epitaph is raised in his memory but that is all. The lover then compares his lot with that of a poet. He believes that a poet’s reward is too small compared with his skills. He composed sweet lyrics, but the reward he gets in return is very little and he dies in poverty in the prime of his life. Compared to the poet, the lover considers himself luckier as he has at least achieved the consolation of riding with his lover for the last time. The lover thinks that it would be a heaven on earth for him if he continues to ride with his beloved forever. He wishes that the moment should become everlasting so that they could continue to ride together forever and ever. That would indeed be heavenly bliss for him.

Thus in “The the Last Ride Together” Browning reveals a philosophy of life by focusing on the thought process of the lover at a critical juncture of his life. Some modern critics find ironic twists and “carpe diem” motives in the lover’s statements. Certainly, Browning does not approve all the sentiments of the characters of his dramatic monologues. Still, the lover’s reaction and sentiments touch a sympathetic cord in the reader’s mind – his audience. It implies that man is imperfect or imperfection or failure is part of human nature something inevitable in life.

Last modified: Wednesday, 12 July 2017, 1:37 AM