Human Imperfection and Browning’s Philosophy of Life

Article Posted in: Research Articles

Paper by Dr. Dipika Bhatt
Published in Vol. III, Issue. XXXIV, November 2017




In the technical sense, Robert Browning has no formal message, church and philosophy. But he had definite and firm views on human life and human nature and of the relation of both to God. The basis of Browning’s optimism is human imperfections. Another important aspect of his conception of love is its optimism. According to him, the effort is its own reward or triumph, so also love in itself is fulfilment. To glorify failure is his favourite theme.

Through Robert Browning’s poem The Last Ride Together, a very beautiful example of dramatic monologue. I want to discuss that optimism or positivity has a great power by which we can get anything or enhance our moral values. In the poem, he compares himself to different type of people and finds that his condition is better than them because he has an opportunity to solve his problem. He thinks that the only opportunity gives us a chance to prove our self and only we are the makers of this opportunity. We can lose the chance if we do not see this opportunity or idea given by God.


Keywords:  Optimism, Divine Power, Dramatic Monologue, Imperfection, Failure.



Browning is a cheerful optimist; optimism is at the very core of his teaching and his view of human life. We find that his optimism is not blind; he does not shut his eyes to the suffering and evil that is in life.

“Browning knows that human life is a bewildering mixture of good and evil, of the lovely and the ugly, of despair and hopefulness, but he derives hope from this very incompleteness and imperfection of life” (Shastri 22).

The basis of Browning’s optimism is human imperfections. As Chesterton says “Browning optimism is founded on imperfections of man; he derives hope from human deficiency” (Shastri 23). Browning’s attitude towards evil, pain and misery is not merely theoretical and abstract, like that of the 18th-century thinkers. He does not accept evil merely as a philosophical counterpart of good; rather he regards evil as a practical instrument of human advancement. His approach to the problem is pragmatic; it is based on his experience of life.

Another important aspect of his conception of love is its optimism. According to him, an effort is its own reward or triumph, so also love in itself is fulfilment. To glorify failure is his favourite theme.

Browning’s message is one of invincible faith and optimism. He spoke the strongest word of faith in an age of doubt and pessimism. “His energy, his cheerful courage, his faith in life, and in the development that awaits us beyond the portals of death, are like a bugle-call to good living” (Shastri 27). Of all English poets, no other is so completely, so consciously, so magnificently a teacher of man. He retained his faith and courage in a world of doubt and timidity. For thirty years, he faced cheerfully the indifference of his age and ultimately made the world recognize and follow him. His thought has been surely and steadily taking possession of the hearts of educated men and women, and this account for his increased popularity both at home and abroad.

Robert Browning’s The Last Ride Together is a love poem. The poet expresses his personal emotions and feelings through this poem. The poem starts with lover’s last request to his beloved for riding a horse with him as before his marriage proposal has been rejected by his sweetheart. So he makes his last prayer to her. At his polite request, his sweetheart thought for a moment and accepts his proposal. Hearing this lover become overjoyed:

The blood replenished 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? (Deo 110)

In these lines we find his positivity because if we rejected by someone in our first attempt then we do not try again. His positive attitude towards life can also be seen in these lines;

            Fail I alone, in words and deeds?

Why, all men strive and who succeeds?

What hand and brain went ever paired?

What heart alike conceived and dared?

There’s many a crown for who can reach.

Ten lines, a stateman’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. (Deo 111-112)

He says that he is not the single person who failed in his words or doings, all men try hard to achieve some goal but few get success. Even a man’s hands never finished a work according to the mental sketch of that work present in his mind. No man attempt to give a concrete form to his imaginary conception. He says when a minister dies ten lines in the newspaper describe his services and when a soldier is killed in defence of his nation, his dead body is brought back. Then it’s given an honorable burial with flag hoisting. Above all these lines he compares himself to different persons and accepts that his condition is better than them.

            He gives the example of a poet who can express his emotions, feelings, thoughts through his poems but he comments on the poet that he can’t achieve the thing that he describes as the best for men.

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 grey

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. (Deo 112-113)

He wants to say that as a sculpture spend a lot of time for his art, but a living girl is more beautiful than a statue. In case of musician, he grew old in composing musical notes which are very great but in music fashions change quickly. He says he also gave his youth to the love of a beautiful girl and at last she accepts his proposal and they are riding in this carriage. At last, he gives us a very clear picture of his positivity in which he tells us that if he achieved this beautiful lady in this life through marriage than on the death time he will not have a desire in his heart. But he wants to have died with a wish. According to him all human pleasures and sorrows are the part of our life. Through his poem, Browning wants to say that we should think in a positive way. Here I want to give a very positive example of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If in which he says that you should have faith in yourself while other suspects on you. Only through challenges and difficult circumstances we can make us strong.

 Through his philosophy, he also established a concept of supreme power i.e. God. According to His wish, God controls the whole universe. He says if God gives us all pleasure on the earth than there will be no value of heaven for us. Thus through Browning’s philosophy, we find the actual picture of life. As we all know that death is the truth of life but we spend a lot of time on thinking over money, love, power and lost our humanity. God is supreme over all other things.  We all are imperfect or incomplete in our life and only through positive attitude, hard work and firm determination we can reach our goal.


Introduction to the Author: 

Dr. Dipika Bhatt is a lecturer at Garg (P.G.) College, Haridwar.


Works Cited


  1. Deo, S. S. Selection In English Poetry. Dehradun: National Publishing House, 2002.Print.
  2. Sastri, P. S. Robert Browning’s Selected Poems. Agra: Lakshmi Narain Agarwal Educational Publishers, 1999.Print.
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