The Patriot-And Old Story
About the poet-
Born on 7th May 1812, Robert Browning was an English writer and dramatist whose authority of dramatic verse, and specifically the dramatic monologue, made him one of the first Victorian writers. The Patriot-An Old story is an example of his works containing dramatic monologue. His sonnets are known for their incongruity, portrayal, dark humor, social editorial, authentic settings, and challenging vocabulary and language structure. At the point when Browning passed away in 1889, he was viewed as a sage and scholar artist who through his verse had made commitments to Victorian social and political talk – as in the sonnet Caliban upon Setebos, which a few commentators have seen as a remark on the late hypothesis of development. Strangely for a writer, social orders for the investigation of his work were established while he was still alive. Such Browning Societies stayed basic in Britain and the United States until the mid 20th century.
About the poem-
The Patriot – An Old Story is a poem written in Browning’s typical manner as it mirrors his murkiness, profound religiosity, and powerful confidence. This poetry is about a man who was once perceived as their legend and was valued and could fulfill anything that he favored in whichever way, but is later misjudged and is dismissed by the general population and is sentenced to death. He admits that he is sentenced to death for the wrong reasons and has faith and trust in God that he will be spared from general society’s misconstrued perspectives. He says that he is safe in paradise, and therefore this demonstrates that he inherently believes that he is correct, regardless of the public opinion. The theme of the poem is universally applicable as it touches upon the subject of the downfall of great men. Power and glory are impermanent and never last forever.
Mood, Setting of the poem:
“It was roses, roses, all the way” is indicative of a retrospective mood of the poet. The use of past tense in the beginning and then changing on to present tense is evidence of this.
The first two stanzas elaborate upon the grand welcome given to the poet. The mood focuses on the townspeople people, who are jubilant, happy, celebrating, and flaring fiery flags. Third stanza onwards, the mood is infected with tension and the patriot’s feeling of betrayal and anguish. He is feeling helpless and morose all his good deeds have been dismissed, and the people who once celebrated him are now executing him.
Hope and optimism can be seen in the last stanza where the patriot believes that after death, he will get true justice in God’s safe haven.
Stanza wise Explanation:
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day.
the patriot by Robert browning is a poem about a man who has done something great for his country and countrymen, most probably a war hero, who is returning to his town. The first stanza is an elaborate description of how the poet is welcomed back with pomp and ceremony by all the townspeople. His path is laden with roses and myrtle, which signify love, respect, and honor being showered on the patriot by the people. The residents of the town have clambered onto their roofs to get a glimpse of the patriot and welcome him home and showcase their gratuity. This creates an imagery of the house itself moving and swaying with the weight and number of people. Even the church spires were decorated with fiery colored flags. This gives the reader an idea of the enormity of the celebrations. The bright color of the flags made the church spires look like they were on fire and flames were engulfing them. In the last line, the poet discloses to the reader that these events occurred on this date, exactly a year ago.
The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said,
Good folk, mere noise repels---And afterward, what else?”
But give me your sun from yonder skies!''
They had answered,
The ringing of the church bells infected the air and it seemed to be echoing the celebratory noise. The walls of the city, which were already on the verge of erosion, due to time, reflected the impact of the din created by the crowd. It seemed to conduct the tremors and move. The patriot here is telling the people how he doesn’t want all the cheers and applause but wants the people to fetch the sun from the skies for him. He wants the power, glory, admiration, and honor. He wants to live in their memories as an immortal hero. The crowd replies to his request with a query as to after this, what else does he require. Here a side of the patriot is shown that searches, not for momentary praise, but for everlasting recognition and glory. He doesn’t want extravagant celebrations that can die down with time. He is looking for something more permanent. The sun is a symbol of immortality, power, honor, and glory. Hence, the patriot asks the people to fetch him their sun from the skies. The answer to the crowd is reflective of their frivolous nature. They immediately ask the patriot what else would he require, other than the sun. This indicates that though the crowd was eager, they weren’t sensible. As the sun is the ultimate power, and one wouldn’t require anything after conquering it.
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep!
The naught man could do, have I left undone:
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.
The third stanza acts as a conjunction for the transition from the past to the present. The patriot says that despite him asking the townspeople to get him the sun, in the end, it was he who leaped for it and got it for the people, who he refers to as his beloved friends. This act that he does is such in nature that had he left it undone, no other man could have accomplished it. This stanza has a tone of regret. This can be deciphered by the use of “Alack!” or Alas. Also, the last two lines indicate this as the patriot mourns about how his deed has been repaid by the people. His “harvest” is what he has reaped, whereas what he had sown was bringing glory, power, and honor to the people. The first two stanzas narrate the incidents of a year back when the patriot was given celebrity status. This stanza acts as synopsis to the current events.
There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.
There are no more people on the rooftops, trying to catch a glimpse of the patriot. Only a few cripples can be seen at the windows. The patriot takes up a sarcastic tone at this point and says that this is because the best sight is at the gate of the gallows. In this stanza, a contrast is drawn between the time when the rooftops were heaving with people, celebrating the patriot’s deeds, and the current scenario where the people are assembled, but near the gallows. Only the ones who cannot travel to the spot of execution, the ones who are crippled, are staring outside their windows to get a look at the patriot. The patriot’s anguish is seen when he taunts about the townspeople, saying they will be found, not on the roofs, but on the site of the execution, or better still, at the foot of the gallows. This stanza is suggestive of the patriot’s fate that he is being taken to be executed.
I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
The imagery here is that of the patriot walking in the rain, heading towards the gallows. His wrists are tied tightly behind his back with a rope that cuts through his
skin. He can feel blood trickling down his forehead, but he cannot know for sure as his hands are bound, so he can’t touch and feel. His cuts are because of the stones being flung at him by anybody and everybody. The picture being projected in this stanza is a very pitiable one as it is in direct contrast with the imagery of the first and the second stanza. The patriot provides an ambiguous explanation for this transition, saying he is being punished for the misdeeds that he has committed within this one year. Despite the fact that no rigid and stable details have been given of the patriot’s act, it can be inferred that most probably he has indulged in acts of treachery, betrayal, or any such unpatriotic act. This conclusion can be reached keeping the title of the poem in mind. The main gist of this stanza is the description of the poet’s walk of shame.
Thus I entered, and thus I go!
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
Paid by the world, what dost thou oweMe?”—God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.
The concluding stanza of the poem begins with the patriot declaring how he is leaving, the same way that he entered. He is walking towards his death through the same streets on which he had entered the town and was welcomed as a celebrity, a hero. Even the most important, most loved people have lost their glamour and glory. The most triumphant have also fallen. The patriot’s religious beliefs have been reflected and his belief in an afterlife has been showcased when he mentions how he will be received by god. If God might ask him, now that he has been paid for his deeds by the world, what more does he owe to god? The patriot’s reply to this has shades of faith and optimism. He replies saying that his real repayment will be done by god. He is placing his trust in God as he knows that he has committed no moral wrongs and the almighty is always just and fair. Hence, he is safe with god as he won’t have to face any more undeserving punishments and will be truly and justly rewarded for his acts or deeds.
Written in the form of a dramatic monologue, The patriot- An old story by Robert browning is an account of a man’s fall from power to disgrace. From the title of the poet, The patriot, one gathers that the poem is about an individual. On the other hand, the subtitle, “an old story” can be deciphered as it is a universal story that can be applicable to anybody. This is in line with the contrast that is projected in the poem.
The first stanza begins with the description of the patriot’s arrival into the town and the magnificent welcome given to him by the townspeople. His path has been laden with roses and fragrant myrtles and people are clambered on their rooftops to catch a glimpse of and congratulate the patriot. The past tense used in the first stanza creates a retrospective narrative. It has been implied that the town is a very cluttered and old one. “Old walls rocked” in the second stanza is evidence of this. The poet has religious beliefs and this can be seen in the first and second stanza where he mentions churches and bells, also the last stanza has him reaching out to God’s safe haven for justice. But, the patriot is shown as a man who values permanence more than temporary glory. This is reflected in his asking the townspeople to fetch him the sun, as it is the ultimate symbol of power, glory, and immortality. True to the title of the poem, the patriot himself fetches the sun for his beloved friends, but it is then that regret enters his tone. His feeling of betrayal is quite clear when he mentions about despite his good deeds what he is reaping. “A year has run” signifies that something eventful has taken place through that one year which has had some adverse effects. This is when he starts narrating the current scenario. The mood of the poet changes to sarcastic and ironic as he draws a contrast by juxtaposing the full roofs in the past with the present empty ones. The fickle nature of the townspeople can also seem like the same people who were celebrating the patriot, are now gathered near the gallows to cheer his execution. To emphasize on the patriot’s emotions, his walk of shame is described where the patriot comments on the transitory nature of man, who might love today and hate tomorrow. Despite this sorrowful tone of the poem, one notices that Browning ends a poem on a note of optimism as he hopes that regardless of the misunderstanding and evils contaminating the world, God always does justice and it is in death that the patriot will be granted what he truly deserves and will rest peacefully in God’s safe haven. This is also an example of the faith he places in god and religion.
The Patriot is majorly based on the theme of rising and fall of fortune. The narrator, the patriot is welcomed with feverish joy and paths of roses in the first two stanzas by the townspeople. But, by the end of the poem we see that those same people have humiliated and executed him, within a year. This shows that glory and fortune do not last forever. People are fickle-minded and change their opinions without a second thought. Someone who is loved today may easily be hated tomorrow.
The poem has undertones of religiosity. The first stanza itself mentions flags fluttering on the church spires also; the patriot is welcomed with ringing bells. The final stanza has the patriot being optimistic about death as he believes that God does justice to one and all and he will recognize that the patriot has done nothing immoral. This faith in God and the belief that he will be safe in god’s abode shows that a patriot is a religious man. Also, there is a biblical reference when the poet mentions the reaping of the harvest.
Betrayal is also a minor theme in the poem as the poet fetched the sun for the townspeople, and in return, they stamped him as a criminal and executed him. All his good deeds were forgotten and he was brought to a humiliating and painful death.