"The Last Ride Together" is a dramatic monologue in which the speaker takes one final ride with his lover, reflecting on the relationship they have had and pondering what he could have done to make her reciprocate his love. Browning was a Victorian poet, but in this poem...
"The Last Ride Together" is a dramatic monologue in which the speaker takes one final ride with his lover, reflecting on the relationship they have had and pondering what he could have done to make her reciprocate his love. Browning was a Victorian poet, but in this poem the speaker is a typical Romantic hero: he is sensitive, noble, and a martyr for love. In this way, Browning draws on an archetypal character from Romantic literature—popularized by Romantic writers like John Keats, Lord Byron, and Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
In the first half of the poem, the speaker reflects on how his lover (or, more precisely, his ex-lover) makes him feel "deified" and as if he can fly. On this final ride with his lover, he describes his soul as once again "fluttering in the wind," and he repeats the sentiment later: "it seemed my spirit flew." This repeating motif seems to signal that the poem is about how love can set one free and make one feel almost more than human.
Another possible interpretation of the poem is that the speaker's last ride with his lover is actually a metaphor, alluding to their final sexual encounter together. In this interpretation, the freedom that he feels—as suggested by the motif of flight noted above—is really an allusion to the ecstasy he experienced during that encounter. There are lines throughout the poem which lend credence to this interpretation. For example, there are multiple innuendos; in stanza three, "Down on you, near and yet more near"; in stanza six, "We ride and I see her bosom heave"; and in stanza nine (after the sexual encounter has reached its climax), "I sink back shuddering from the quest."
In the second half of the poem, the speaker questions imaginary artists and musicians and asks if their creations can possibly be as beautiful or as fine as this final "ride" that he is taking with his lover. He eventually concludes that their sculptures and their symphonies are made crude in comparison to his final ride. Yet, as beautiful as this final ride might be, the poem concludes with a moment of pathos as the speaker wishes, in vain, that he might "ride together, for ever ride" with his lover.