Describe the rise and fall of the patriot as narrated in Robert Browning’s poem “The Patriot”.
Or, The poem “The Patriot” is based on the theme of rise and fall of fortune. Illustrate your answer with close reference to the text.
Robert Browning’s poem “The Patriot” vividly depicts the theme of rise and fall of fortune and glory by presenting two contrasting pictures from the patriot’s life through the narration of the patriot himself.
The poem starts with the patriot describing an event – a grand public welcome – that took place a year ago on that very same day. He is reminiscing the past, and he builds a picture for us as he remembers that day. His walking path was covered with lots and lots of rose petals, with myrtle mixed with them. The path was festooned with those flowers for him.
People standing on the roofs of their houses cheered for him as he passed by. They were overjoyed to see him. The spires of the church were covered with flaming flags that the people had put up for a celebration. People were overwhelmingly delighted to greet their hero and were enthusiastic to see him as he passed by. People were rejoicing by ringing bells and the entire atmosphere was thick with its noise. They were standing on some kind of old structure and cheering for the patriot with their cries rocking the walls.
It is only logical to assume that this grand celebration must be as a result of some achievement on the speaker’s part. Perhaps it was a victory in war or the assemblage for fighting one, or winning a popular election to an office, or being nominated as a ruler, or maybe something else. It can be assumed that it concerned the common people highly, and they were happy on the occasion. The patriot is seen as a public hero who is greeted with much love and affection by the commoners.
Then the speaker returns to the present and talks about what he sees. He describes the present setting and contrasts it with the one on the same day a year before. Now he has been convicted and is being led to the gallows to be put to death.
As opposed to the setting a year ago, now the place is all empty. Now there’s nobody on the roof-tops cheering for him. Only old men who are taken down by palsy and unable to cross the threshold of their houses are watching the patriot as he marches towards his death.
The reason why no one is there to see the speaker is because people have gathered at the Shambles’ gate, the gate of the gallows, to see him die. The people want to be where the action is. The speaker further makes the heart-touching comment that the best sight is at the gate of the slaughterhouse, or at the very foot of the scaffold.
It is raining as the speaker walks towards the scaffold. His hands are tied behind by a rope – so tight that it cuts his wrists. As he is walking, he thinks he is bleeding from his forehead. He can only feel the trickling of blood. People throwing stones at him are causing the injuries.
So stones have replaced the petals of roses! The fall overshadows the rise. There is a sense of universality to it as history has witnessed the rise and fall of many such ‘patriots’ throughout its course — a grim reminder that life is uncertain!.
[Read more: Complete explanation of the poem.]