Central Theme: Browning’s theme in The Last Ride Together is highly idealistic, It is concerned with the spiritual exultation of disappointed love. A rejected lover asks the favor of the last ride with his ladylove. During the ride, the lover gives himself up to consoling and spiritual thoughts. He accepts his failure in a sense of resignation. He even turns his worldly frustration into an occasion for eternal success.
The theme of the poem expresses Browning’s firm conviction that earthly failures are but the prophecies of eternal success. Browning’s lover does not repent. He boldly defends his earthly failure. He sees a heavenly halo in his defeat and disappointment.
The Last Ride Together is to be taken not merely as a love poem. The purpose of the poem is not to celebrate the actual passion and the deep pain of love, but to signify the moral truth of life, The ladylove is here nothing but an unattainable ideal of life. The lover is the seeker of that ideal. The last ride symbolizes the persistent struggle of life to attain the same. The theme of the poem has a serious meaning. It contains a spiritual estimation of human life, with failure on earth, ennobled by the hope of success to come in the world next.
Critical Review: The Last Ride Together is one of the best love poems from Browning. It shows his high view of love, his optimistic interpretation of life and after-life and his dramatic exposition. Indeed, the poem remains a classic in Browning’s poetic art. Poetry is philosophy and philosophy poetry. The essence of Browning is felt in the fusion of poetry and philosophy. The Last Ride Together is a typical expression of Browning’s philosophy of life. Browning gives out here his optimistic reading of life and life beyond.
The theme of the poem treats the mood of a rejected lover. A man has been rejected by his ladylove. He boldly faces his failure and claims a memory of his love and the last ride together. In the course of his ride, he defends and justifies his failure and derives eternal success from his earthly failure.
This idealistic theme expresses powerfully Browning’s philosophy of life. The poet looks upon earthly failure as necessary to heavenly success. Browning contends that failure is a condition for spiritual success and moral progress. Man must die with a hope to achieve something greater in the world next. Browning’s lover fails, but he is quite confident of his success to come in heaven.
The poem is also rich with Browning’s inspiring treatment of love. To Browning love belongs as much to the body as to the soul. The lover, during his ride, gets a single touch of his beloved woman. That earthly touch gives him heavenly joy and seems to bring his heaven on this earth.
Browning’s dramatic genius is, too, present, in a great measure, in this poem. The poet seizes upon a particular situation from the lover’s life and reflects on his mood, arising out of that situation. The poem is an effective dramatic monologue of Browning.
Browning has often been blamed for obscurity. The Last Ride Together is, however, free from this defect of Browning’s poetry. The poem has a simple diction and a melodious movement. The melody of the verses is quite attuned with the poet’s thought and mood.
The Last Ride Together is certainly one of the most popular poems in English literature. Browning’s popularity is now on the wane, and his philosophy of life receives hardly any encouraging response today. But the fascinating charm of this great poem has persisted even in modern times, and the number of its lovers is always great.