Chesterton calls Browning “ the greatest of love-poets ” and his poetry the “finest and truest love – poetry in the world”. Though this may sound a hyperbole , yet there is hardly any denying that Robert Browning as a love poet describes the passion of love with utmost sincerity and energy. His great poems are , in some sense or other , intellectual study of love, rhymed passionately. “The Last Ride Together”, “Porphyria ‘ s Lover” and “Fra Lippo Lippi” are three of his celebrated love poem.
“The Last Ride Together”, which W. H. Philip calls one of the greatest love poems in all literature, is a dramatic monologue of a rejected lover. The failure in love gives the speaker an occasion to philosophise on the general fate of mankind . When rejected by his lady , he makes an appeal for “one memory of the same”, a last ride together . When his prayer if granted , the elated lover lays bare his mind.
The real interest of “ The Last Ride Together” lies in the calm resignation with which the rejected lover accepts his fate . The opportunity to ride together with the aspired lady is a great achievement to the lover and tie consoles himself by saying ” Fail I alone in Words and deeds ? ” The physical proximity rouses his passions once more and the moment turns into eternity .Leaving behind past hopes , he looks at the future life where , he believes , his aspiration will be fulfilled- “now Heaven and she are beyond this ride”.
Here love is just a symbol of man ‘ s striving on this earth to attain perfection . The failure of the lover in gaining his beloved is seen as a symbol of man ‘ s greater failures in life . The poem ends with the lover indulging in the fond fancy that this moment is turned into eternity and this ride never ends-
“And Heaven just prove that I and she
Ride, ride together , for ever ride ?”
Love , therefore , is seen here “as an inspiration which was not to be realised here at all , but must have its completion in the other life” , says J. T. Nettleship .
In “Porphyria ‘ s Lover” Robert Browning as a love poet presents an altogether different philosophy of the lover. This dramatic monologue is a calm and callous narrative of a murder of a lady by her lover . The dismal opening lands one into a cottage in a dark and stormy night where the beloved lady Porphyria appears out of the storm to meet the apparently depressed narrator. Her appearance, however, gives him little joy although she makes a passionate declaration of her love for him and attempts at Physical intimacy .
Though enjoying the physical proximity with Porphyria , her lover starts finding faults with her . She appears
” Too weak , for all her heart ‘ s endeavour ,
To set its struggling passion free . . . “
Though proud at being ‘worshipp’d’ by Porphyria , the lover strangles her with her yellow tresses . To him , it is an act not of hate , anger or revenge , but of love . Her ” laughing eyes” even at death indicate her pleasure at being so close to her lover and her effort to remain smiling even at her death . With her head on his shoulder there they sit for the whole night . Thus the lover seems to turn the instant into eternity like his counterpart in “The Last Ride Together” by holding her in a perfectly happy moment , when she is his alone .
In “Fra Lippo Lippi” Browning shows the attraction of physical love . Though a monk , Lippo is instinctively attracted towards girls as he has been forced to live a life of strict asceticism ever since he was a boy of eight . Therefore , when caught by the guards after visiting brothel , he feels no sting of conscience as he considers it no crime to mix with girls . Browning here seems to advocate that man can attain fulfillment by accepting the pleasures and pains of this world .
Love , therefore , appears in all its guises in Browning ‘ s poetry . The variety found in his treatment of love is simply amazing.