comment on Robert Browning's philosophy of love as espressed in the poem "The Last Ride Together"
Browning convinces the lady who has just broken up with him to go on one last ride before they say goodbye to one another. As they are riding, Browning also considers how the relationship might have turned out differently:
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 hater, who can tell
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I. (39-44)
These are certainly the thoughts that go through anyone's head as they break up a relationship—How could I have been different and stayed together? He considers that she may have loved him and not broken up, but she may have hated him, and they would not be currently riding together one last time, and he would not be be able to enjoy her company one last time. In fact, they may never have been a couple at all, so it was worth the time they had even though it did not end the way he wanted it to.
Browning also considers the role of fate in this matter of love if he could not have done anything differently. He states the following:
Who knows what's fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I sign'd the bond—
Still one must lead some life beyond. (89-92)
He reasons that if fate had wanted this relationship to work, then fate would have controlled (sublimated) his being, but he reasons that he did not sign a bond, or contract, for this type of control. He says, "Still one must lead some life beyond."
In the end, Browning still has hope that the relationship will last into eternity, but if not, he is glad to have made the journey thus far.
Browning's philosophy about love is very interesting in this poem and seems surprisingly modern in that the woman seems to have control, as she has ended the affair. Browning is describing the end of a love affair; 'Since nothing all my love avails' but rather than being sad Browning is suggesting, through his narrator, that we should be grateful for the love that was and revel in its memory. The poem seems to be about 'fixing' this moment in the mind so that it can live forever and bring fond memories.
Browning is suggesting that few people succeed in the endeavor to find real love but nevertheless love is very important; more importantt then wars and even art. For Browning striving seems to be the more important thing and regret pointless. Browning liked the form of the dramatic monologue as it allowed exploration of different ideas and has an immediate feel.