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—
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness!
Take back the hope you gave,—I claim
—Only a memory of the same,
—And this beside, if you will not blame,
Your leave for one more last ride with me.
My mistress bent that brow of hers;
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fixed me, a breathing-while or two,
With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenished me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end tonight?
Hush! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosomed, over-bowed
By many benedictions—sun’s
And moon’s and evening-star’s at once—
And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!—
Thus leant she and lingered—joy and fear!
Thus lay she a moment on my breast.
Then we began to ride. My soul
Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well
She might have hated, who can tell!
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I.
Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
We rode; it seemed my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rushed by on either side.
I thought,—All labour, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
I hoped she would love me; here we ride.
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?
We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There’s many a crown for who can reach,
Ten lines, a statesman’s life in each!
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier’s doing! what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
My riding is better, by their leave.
What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you expressed
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
‘Tis something, nay ’tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what’s best for men?
Are you—poor, sick, old ere your time—
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turned a rhyme?
Sing, riding’s a joy! For me, I ride.
And you, great sculptor—so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that’s your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
You acquiesce, and shall I repine?
What, man of music, you grown grey
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend,
Greatly his opera’s strains intend,
Put in music we know how fashions end!”
I gave my youth; but we ride, in fine.
Who knows what’s fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I signed the bond—
Still one must lead some life beyond,
Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such? Try and test!
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.
And yet—she has not spoke so long!
What if heaven be that, fair and strong
At life’s best, with our eyes upturned
Whither life’s flower is first discerned,
We, fixed so, ever should so abide?
What if we still ride on, we two
With life for ever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,—
And heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together, for ever ride?
The ‘Last Ride Together’ is a poem of unrequited love. The lover is rejected. But he does not blame his mistress. He is magnanimous and accepts the position in a brave and noble way. In order to show that he can control himself and make the situation easier for her he requests her for a last ride together. After a little hesitation the lady grants his request. The lover is happy that he is not banished from her sight. He imagines that the world may perhaps end to-night and the happy moment may turn into eternity. This is a remarkable reaction.
The two ride together. The lady lays her head on the lover’s breast. He feels that he has gained all the wealth of the world. Once he was sad but now he is full of joy. He wants to forget the past. He is not sorry for his failures. All make attempts but very few succeed.Success and failures are not important. Our achievements never match our expectations. He has been successful as his beloved is with him. There is always a difference between planning and achievements. Man fails to do according to his planning. Great men earn name and fame but in the end they all meet death. After they are dead they are remembered only in a few lines.
The poet describes the achievements of brave soldiers, a poet, a sculptor and a musician in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth and stanzas shows that the achievements of all these are not everlasting. In the final tenth Stanza Browning’s protagonist concludes that the life of the lover is the best. He is absorbed in the present life in love and joy with his beloved. The poem ends with optimism that this happiness of the lover with his beloved would be everlasting in his life after death in Heaven.
Last Ride Together is a dramatic monologue and it shows Browning at his best in the handling of this poetic form. It has also been called a dramatic lyric because it is not an expression of his own personal emotions, but that of an imagined character. It is spoken by a lover who loved his lady over a long period of time, and who, after making him wait for so long, finally rejected him, and turned to another lover. The lover then prayed to her to grant two requests of his. First, that she should remember his love of her, and secondly, that she should come with him for a last ride together. To his great joy the lady consented.
Such is the love situation out of which the monologue grows. It is spoken by the lover as he rides by the side of his beloved for the last time. As they commence their ride, the beloved for a moment bends over him and places her head over his shoulders. It seems to him as if heaven itself had descended over him, so great is the bliss he experiences at the moment.
As they ride along, the lover experiences a heavenly bliss. His soul which had lost its happiness and on which grief had left its ugly marks and wrinkles, now smoothens itself out like a crumpled sheet of paper, which opens out and flutters in the wind. All his hopes of success in love, all hopes of a happy life with his beloved, were now dead and gone. His love was now a matter of the past. But the lover does not despair. He shares Browning’s optimism and says that it is no use to regret or to feel sorry for life which has been ruined. What is ended cannot be mended. It is no use speculating over his possible success, if he had acted and spoken differently. It is just possible that had he acted differently, instead of loving him, she might have hated him. Now she is only indifferent to him. Now at least she rides by his side. He derives consolation from this fact, instead of brooding sadly over the dead past.
The lover then reflects over the lot of humanity in general and derives further consolation from the fact that he is not the only one who has failed in life. Such is the lot of man that all try, but none succeeds. All labour, but all fail ultimately to achieve their ends. How little of success and achievement, and how much of failure does the whole world show! He is lucky in the sense that at least he rides by the side of his beloved. Others do not get even that much of success. There is always a wide disparity between conception and execution, between ambition and achievement.
The only reward, even of the most successful statesman, is a short obituary notice and that of a heroic warrior only an epitaph over his grave in the Westminster Abbey. The poet, no doubt, achieves much. He expresses human thoughts and emotions in a sweet, melodious language, but he does not neglect any of the good things of life. He lives and dies in poverty.The great sculptor and musician, too, are failures. From even the most beautiful piece of sculpture, says a statue of the goddess, virus, one turns to an ordinary, but a living, breathing,girl ; and fashions in music are quick to change. Comparatively, he is more successful, for he has, at least, been rewarded with the company of his beloved. At least, he has the pleasure of riding with her by his side.
It is difficult to say what is good and what is not good for man in this world. Achievement of perfect happiness in this world means that one would have no hopes left for life in the other world. Failure in this world is essential for success and achievement in the life to come.He has failed in this life, but this is a blessing in disguise. It means that he would be successful in the life to come. He can now hope for happiness in the other world. Because he did not ge this beloved here, he is sure to enjoy the bliss of her love in the life after death. Now for him,“both Heaven and she are beyond this ride.” Failure in this world is best. Further, so hopes the lover, “the instant may become eternity” and they may ride together for ever and ever. Who knows that the world may end that very moment? In that case, they will be together in the other world, and will be together for ever.