What is a critical appreciation of the poem "The Last Ride Together" by Robert Browning?

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Robert Browning's poem, "The Last Ride Together," consists of ten stanzas each containing eleven lines. The lines are written in the relatively regular iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme is AABBCDDEEEC.

The poem is a dramatic monologue . It is spoken in the voice of a male speaker...

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Robert Browning's poem, "The Last Ride Together," consists of ten stanzas each containing eleven lines. The lines are written in the relatively regular iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme is AABBCDDEEEC.

The poem is a dramatic monologue. It is spoken in the voice of a male speaker reflecting on a final ride with his beloved after she has indicated that she does not want to reciprocate his feelings. The use of the term "mistress" does not imply an illicit or adulterous relationship in this context, but simply refers to a female whom the speaker loves. 

The setting of the poem is not really described. Although we know that the speaker and the woman set out for a ride in the third stanza (we also know that the general references to nature suggest that the ride occurs outdoors), we do not even really know if the ride is real or imaginary. The time sequence is not portrayed realistically; instead, time expands and contracts, reflecting the speaker's mood and imagination, as we see in the lines, "sun’s/ And moon’s and evening-star’s at once ..."

In the final stanzas of the poem, we get the sense that even as the real relationship ends the speaker's love is being transmuted into poetry or art. Within the imaginary world of the poem, the speaker wonders if "I and she/Ride, ride together, for ever ride?"

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This poem is a dramatic monologue of a rejected lover who expresses his undying love for his beloved. The title gives the idea that this is their last time together and the speaker is attempting to live fully in that moment. The poem appears to suggest that the phrase 'carpe diem' is actually one to live by and that the speaker will be happy with the memory of this last ride.

Browning suggests, as he does in other poems, that the speaker has failed in some way but that this is not important as 'all men strive and who succeeds?' For Browning the present is all important as men spend too much time concentrating on the past or future as things are set out for us by fate and we cannot control them. Even art is not that important as the sculptor's gaze moves away from Venus to 'yonder girl that fords the burn'.

This poem is an interesting one as it explores ideas of how we should live in the moment and be content with that.

          

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When one writes a critical appreciation of a poem, one should offer an analysis of the poem's content and theme including investigations into how various elements of the poem—such as imagery, figurative language, rhyme, and so on—help contribute to the poem's overall meaning. One might also discuss how effective these elements are in terms of conveying that message or theme. The critical appreciation should also be structured like an argumentative essay, complete with: introduction and thesis; body paragraphs with topic sentences and evidence to support one's claims; and a conclusion that restates one's main ideas.

In this dramatic monologue, the speaker's mistress has just broken off their relationship (prior to the start of the poem). He asks her for one "last ride" together; she considers it and then agrees, and so he feels that "one day more [is he] deified." He feels like a god for one more day. The speaker is so thrilled by this final ride with her that "it seem'd [his] spirit flew." He feels as though he sees the world with her. He wishes that he could ride with her forever, "The instant made eternity." Indeed, the ride never seems to end—at least not in the poem itself. Perhaps the ride never actually happens. Could it all be in the speaker's head? Or, is the ride a metaphor for one final sexual encounter? These are all good questions to consider concerning this poem.

Another element that seems ripe for exploration is the poem's rhyme and rhythm. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is aabbcddeeec. This means that lines 1 and 2 rhyme (a), lines 3 and 4 rhyme (b), lines 5 and 11 rhyme (c), lines 6 and 7 rhyme (d), and lines 8, 9, and 10 rhyme (e). To begin, an eleven-line stanza is sort of odd, and it is also unusual to rhyme lines which are as far apart as lines 5 and 11. Moreover, the end rhyme of three lines in a row, as in lines 8–10, is also kind of peculiar. Why do you think Browning might use a stanza with an atypical number of lines and an atypical rhyme scheme such as this? In addition, the poem is written in iambic tetrameter, meaning that there are, typically, four feet per line (tetra-), each foot (called an iamb) consisting of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable. Here's line 1–2, for example, with each stressed syllable in bold and a "|" between feet:

I said | Then, dear | est, since | 'tis so

Since now | at length | my fate | I know

However, lines 10 and 11 of each stanza have an extra syllable, where an anapest (a type of foot with two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable) is substituted for the final iamb. Here are lines 10–11 of the first stanza, marked as above, and with the anapest in italics:

And this | be side | if you | will not blame

You leave | for one | more last | ride with me

Why would Browning so conspicuously alter the rhythm in the final two lines of each stanza? What might these unusual features of the poem—that is, its rhythm and rhyme scheme—say about the speaker or the relationship depicted here?

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The dramatic situation of Robert Browning's The Last Ride Together appears to be one in which the lover, upon being rejected by his mistress, asks for, and is granted, one last horseback ride with her across a mysterious landscape. The ride, however, seems to stretch out to eternity; there is no sense of time demarcation, but a continuous unfurling of landscape.

At the end of the poem. the narrator's focus shifts from the external circumstances of the ride to what various types of artist (visual, musician) have achieved as they grow old. The final artistic type mentioned is the poet, the narrator himself, who suggests that the ride will stretch into eternity, for as long aspeople read the poem. This theme, originally found in Horace, is captured famously in Shakespeare's Sonnet LV:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

As in the case of the Shakespeare's sonnet, the poet has the upper hand, because the relationship as he portrays it is the version that shall continue through its posterity.

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