The Last Ride Together (Robert Browning)

The Last Ride Together:


The Last Ride Together is the utterance of a lover who is obsessed with love. The theme is one of Browning’s favorite themes- the importance of striving. The speaker has failed in getting his mistress’s love despite doing all that he could, and the fact that he has not been successful is of less importance. In the mere fact of striving there is a kind of success- the kind of success that makes life meaningful. The opening stanza has a theme that is unusual in a love story, a theme very far from the conventional lover’s complaint. The lover is defeated but not cast down. Who in this life he reflects- statesmen or soldier or sculptor or poet attains his complete ideal? He has been granted the grace of one hour by his mistress and he will carry the grateful recollection of this with him into the future as his best possession. The emphasis is on “ride” and not on “last”. The “good moment” may in fact not be the last. Although he has failed to secure his mistress’s total commitment at least for the time “Here we are riding, she and I.”

Comprehensive Summary:

A lover is rejected by the woman he loves. But he retains his manly faith in himself despite his tragic disappointment. He submits to his fate, but in it, there is no weakness, no appeal to our pity, no despair that all his ardent desires should thus end in hopeless disappointment. He does not blame the woman who has dismissed him nor his fate for engineering that dismissal. He is not even angry with the woman for not recognizing the worth that he recognized in himself. He is a true Browning hero in taking his stand upon the bedrock of an ideal. The fulfillment of love may have been denied to him, but he is glorified by the ideal love of his heart’s possession, and that he will always cherish. This ideal will be the means of liberating him from his desire and will elevate his soul until it is divinized. In this exalted mood, with the realization of the utter failure of the love that had meant so much to him, he yet pleases the woman and returns to her the hope she had given him. He will ask from her only the memory of his love, and only a last ride together.

She agrees and surrenders to him for a moment, and then the ride begins. He refused to discuss whether his speaking or acting in a certain manner would have led to better success. He only thinks that success belongs to a limited few, indeed hardly to any. How little is achieved, and how much yet remains to be done? There is only a striving for achievement, never for attainment. Why there should be this striving, the poet alone can explain, because he has the power of expressing what others only feel. But can the poet or the sculptor express what they actually feel? The feeling is the highest attainment, and so while others strive he will relinquish himself to this supreme bliss of feeling this ecstatic moment. But his consolation lies in the fact that transcending even the momentary bliss of feeling, is the hope of a greater bliss to come. It is better than a man should have “this ideal to die with dim-described.” He enjoys the rise, but how glorious it would be if this instant could be made eternal.

Write a brief summary of the poem “The Last Ride Together.”

A lover was rejected by his beloved. At first, he was bitter, but then he blessed the lady who had provided him company in the past. He requested a last favor from her. He wanted to ride in her company. The lady granted the wish. The lover felt extremely happy. He did not care even if the world came to an end that night, for she was with him.

The woman leaned on the lover’s chest for a moment. The lover’s joy knew no bounds. At the same time, he consoled himself at the thought that failure was not uncommon in the world. Every glory was inadequate. A good statesman was praised just in a line of epitaph. A brave soldier’s name was scratched on the Abbey walls. These were the only memorials for the great service rendered by these people.

The lover thought that his fate was better than that of an artist. A poet’s ideal could not be attained. A sculptor after seeing the living beauty of even an ordinary girl would repent for having created a lifeless beauty in the form of an image of Venus.

The lover then thought of life after death. The afterlife was perhaps full of bliss, but the best thing was to enjoy the heavenly pleasure in this world itself. On second thought, he felt that there should be greater happiness in heaven. In fact, his beloved’s company was Heaven to him.

Bring out the theme or the central idea of the poem “The Last Ride Together.”

“The Last Ride Together” depicts the emotions of a ride, that a finally dismissed lover has been allowed to take with his beloved. He has passed his youth mainly in loving her. But as this boon (of the last ride together) is granted, she lies for a moment on his chest. She might have loved him more. She might also have liked him less. As they ride away, side by side, a sense of resignation comes over him. His life is not alone in its failure. Everyone strives. Few or none may succeed. The best success proves itself to be shallow. And if it were otherwise, if this goal could be reached on earth, what care could one take for heaven? Then the peace that is in him absorbs the consciousness of reality. He fancies himself riding with the loved one till the end of time, and he asks himself if his destined heaven may not prove to be this.

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