The Last Ride Together

by Robert Browning

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A critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together" and its revelation of his philosophy of love

Summary:

"The Last Ride Together" by Robert Browning reveals his philosophy of love through its themes of acceptance and the fleeting nature of romantic experiences. The poem reflects on a final ride shared by lovers, emphasizing the importance of cherishing moments of happiness and understanding that love is often transient and imperfect, yet profoundly meaningful.

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What does Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together" reveal about his philosophy of love?

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.

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What does Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together" reveal about his philosophy of love?

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.       

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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

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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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

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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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

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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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

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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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

The speaker has just been rejected by his lover. But before they part once and for all, he makes a final request: that she leave with him for one last ride. It was perfectly normal in Browning's day for lovers to ride off together side by side. But the absence of any explicit mention of horses in the poem has led some scholars to argue that Browning is using the lovers' ride as a metaphor for sex.

In any case, Browning, here as elsewhere in his voluminous oeuvre, is showing his much importance he attaches to love—be it romantic, sexual, or whatever—by dramatizing it. This isn't just a couple of lovers hanging out together for the last time before they go their separate ways. There's something timeless and transcendent about their bond, a bond that will last forever. In that sense, the title is something of a misnomer, because whatever the state of their relationship down here on earth, the lovers will never truly be apart as their souls are joined together in eternity, their unbreakable bond metaphorized by a never-ending ride.

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What is your critical appreciation of Robert Browning's "The Last Ride Together"?

In "The Last Ride Together," the speaker has just been rejected by his lover. He reluctantly accepts this outcome but asks her to go horseback riding one last time. Evidence that she agrees to this is in the second stanza when he says, "I and my mistress, side by side, / Shall be together, breathe and ride," (19-20). As they ride, the speaker contemplates on how this experience is better than the work of statesmen, poets, and sculptors. Since they have broken up, the speaker considers that this will be their last ride. But he also imagines this experience continued in heaven, thereby extending the ride forever, necessarily making the "last" ride "last" forever ("The instant made eternity,-"). 

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

In some ways this is a typical poem by Browning in that it is a dramatic monologue; this means that Browning is writing in the first person as a created character. The poem is addressed to the lover of the speaker who never replies so we only get the point of view of the speaker.

The poem seems modern in its outlook when we consider that it is the woman who seems to hold the power in that she is the one who has decided to end the relationship. The speaker is sad about this but also does not regret the affair but rather is grateful for it. He acknowledges that 'all men strive and who succeeds?' but crucially this does not mean that we should not try. He tries to 'fix' the last moments he has with his beloved in his memory and is sure that the love they had was more important than 'A soldier's doing' as all they receive is the reward of being able to 'scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.'

For Browning it appears that love, although often intangible, is important and should be celebrated and that people should strive even when things are difficult.   

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