Home > poetry > The last ride together.

The last ride together.

THE LAST RIDE TOGETHER

by: Robert Browning (1812-1889)

I said –Then, dearest, since ’tis so,
Since now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my love avails,
Since all, my life seem’d meant for, fails,
Since this was written and needs must be–
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness!
Take back the hope you gave,–I claim
Only a memory of the same,
–And this beside, if you will not blame;
Your leave for one more last ride with me.

My mistress bent that brow of hers,
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fix’d me a breathing-while or two
With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenish’d me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?

Hush! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosom’d, over-bow’d
By many benedictions–sun’s
And moon’s and evening-star’s at once–
And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!–
Thus leant she and linger’d–joy and fear!
Thus lay she a moment on my breast.

Then we began to ride. My soul
Smooth’d itself out, a long-cramp’d scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
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 hated, who can tell!
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I.

Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
We rode; it seem’d my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rush’d by on either side.
I thought,–All labour, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
I hoped she would love me; here we ride.

What hand and brain went ever pair’d?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshly screen?
We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There’s many a crown for who can reach.
Ten lines, a statesman’s life in each!
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier’s doing! what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
My riding is better, by their leave.

What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you express’d
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
‘Tis something, nay ’tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what’s best for men?
Are you–poor, sick, old ere your time–
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turn’d a rhyme?
Sing, riding’s a joy! For me, I ride.

And you, great sculptor–so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that’s your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
You acquiesce, and shall I repine?
What, man of music, you grown gray
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend?–
‘Greatly his opera’s strains intend,
But in music we know how fashions end!’
I gave my youth: but we ride, in fine.

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,
Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such? Try and test!
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.

And yet–she has not spoke so long!
What if heaven be that, fair and strong
At life’s best, with our eyes upturn’d
Whither life’s flower is first discern’d,
We, fix’d so, ever should so abide?
What if we still ride on, we two
With life for ever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,–
And heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together, for ever ride?

HT: twitter.com/puneet86

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  1. August 17, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Nice!
    For some reason, this reminds me of the scene in Matrix revolutions, this one:

    {The Logos crashes}
    Neo: Trin? Trinity? Trinity???
    Trinity: I’m here.
    Neo: Where?
    Trinity: Here.
    Neo: We made it.
    Trinity: You said we would.
    Neo: It’s unbelievable, Trin. Lights everywhere. Like the whole thing was built with light. I wish you could see what I see.
    Trinity: You’ve already shown me so much.
    Neo: What is it, Trinity? What’s wrong?
    Trinity: I can’t come with you, Neo. I’ve gone as far as I can.
    Neo: Why? Oh, no. Oh no, no, no.
    Trinity: It’s all right. It’s time. I’ve done all that I could do. Now you have to do the rest. You have to finish it. You have to save Zion.
    Neo: I can’t. Not without you.
    Trinity: Yes, you can. You will. I believe it, I always have.
    Neo: Trinity… Trinity. You can’t die. You can’t. You can’t.
    Trinity: Yes, I can. You brought me back once, but not this time.
    Neo: *sniffs*
    Trinity: Do you remember… on that roof after you caught me… the last thing I said to you?
    Neo: You said: “I’m sorry.”
    Trinity: That was my last thought. I wished I had one more chance, to say what really mattered, to say how much I loved you, how grateful I was for every moment I was with you. But by the time I knew how to say what I wanted to, it was too late. But you brought me back. You gave me my wish. One more chance to say what I really wanted to say… Kiss me, once more. Kiss me.
    {They kiss, and Trinity dies}
    Neo: *sobs*

    • August 17, 2009 at 10:46 pm

      Interesting that that is what it reminded you of unawoken. I read it differently, as an ode to a passion perhaps.

  2. wanderlust
    August 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    🙂
    Wish you would summarize/opine along with the poem. I like to read you… not a poet who inspired you.

    • August 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm

      wanderlust, here is my short summary:

      I think this is an ode to passion and love. Not necessarily for a woman, but more generally.

      To an extent it speaks to me of losing your innocence.

      It speaks to me of the poets realization that life is an experience to be enjoyed rather than a means to an end.

      I think also that abstract art (where the meaning is not unambiguous and there is much room for interpretation) is a mirror to one’s soul. I read of the poem what I want to read of it. Unawoken, or TUIB, or you might read it very differently.

  3. August 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Wow, all of this sounds so dramatic..the beginning especially so.

    I was not sure what this was about. I thought maybe it was a metaphor for one last meeting with his lover or something.

    Then I read about him and his love for Elizabeth Barrett and now, the Matrix Revolutions scene seems an apt comparison.

    And I love the last four lines. So beautiful. A whole lifetime and more, in a single moment.

    Thank you. I am glad I read this. 🙂

    • August 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm

      I am not sure what Browning had in mind when he wrote it. I made my own interpretation 🙂

      This “not really knowing” is true about most forms of communication, no?

      • August 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm

        “not really knowing” is true, but I personally would not like to romanticize it.
        (in the sense of this: http://thingsundone.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/the-big-guy-speaks/)

        • August 18, 2009 at 12:01 am

          agreed unawoken. The big guy always makes a lot of sense.

          I was echoing Shreesh’s sentiment (on the homeless guy leaves 4 million thread) that a persons reaction to this poem says more about the person than the poem!

  4. August 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Beautiful. Intense. Passionate.
    He seems to be so much “into” her, but still unsure of her. What is he waiting to hear from her? They seem to be at par at what they want from life, but still so undecisive. I like the way the poet leaves out the essence for individuals like us to bear our own translation of his point.
    I also like the strength and burn of his undecisive nature, so much so that he cannot step away from what he is doing and expects in his mind of what should happen, but still leaves it to “life” to decide what will be in store for him and his fate (wrt her).
    Moments such are reminisced forever, never to be erased from the sands of time.

    • August 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

      Welcome to the blog wordsfromyonder!

      I wonder who the “her” in this poem really is. Is it a person or is it an emotion.

      • August 18, 2009 at 10:02 am

        Such deep thoughts can arise only for a person or for an emotion that a human feels and exhibits. There isnt any other developed species today that has the capacity to hold such high degree of emotion.
        Imagine if there were no words, as in this poem that the poet has so profoundly expressed his thoughts and emotions in, what if he couldnt express it this way, would he become a maniac?, a crazy? with such passion muddled in his head and heart and no way to let it out. Thank god that he can express it, hence i believe it cant be anything but an intense emotion towards a fellow human. 🙂 and/or an intense emotional outbreak in itself 🙂

        • August 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

          So, you didn’t answer my question 🙂 Is it a person OR an emotion?!

  5. August 18, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I strongly feel its a person since a person is only capable of being the recipient of passion of this gravity.

    It could also be a heartfelt emotion that the poet is expressing in poetic rhythm. That said, waste it is, coz sadly there isnt anyone to receive it and appreciate it, except passive readers like us who then spend hours evaluating its existence or origin, worthwhile for sure.

    So, debating around this, I will stick to “her” being a “person”.

  6. Sandeep
    February 8, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Its one of the greatest creation by browning i know.

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