The Patriot. Robert Browning. Appreciation by P.S.Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Browning was a skilled poet, an expert in creating frantic situations in poetry. In the Pied Piper of Hamelin it was mysterious loss of all children from a town due to a word not being kept. In My Last Duchess it was killing of a long line of innocent duchesses by a jealous duke, the story being told without even presenting a second character. In The Patriot, it is adoration by people immediately followed by chaining, dragging through the streets, stoning by crowds and execution in the gallows.
Majestic portrayal of fall from authority and subsequent condemnation.
Robert Browning in his poem ‘The Patriot’ describes the different treatments the same man receives from the same people within a course of one year. First he was received by the people royally like a patriot. After one year he was dragged through the streets by the same people and given a scornful send-off to his death as a condemned man. The poet does not tell exactly what crime was committed by such a famous and worshipped man to be sent to the gallows within one year. Perhaps he might have turned a traitor to his country or people, or might have done much favouritism and corruption for his friends while he was in power, or else people might have made a serious mistake in judging him.
People’s applause and esteem is but a momentary bubble soon to explode.
We have examples of a Caesar returning victoriously after an Egyptian Tour, received jubilantly by people inRomeand declared by Senate as the Dictator for the entire Roman lands and after that, within days, assassinated by a senator in front of all senators fearing for the likely chance of him declaring himself as an Emperor of Rome. We also have before us the example of the Oracle of Delphi proclaiming none was wiser than Socrates and then Socrates being assassinated by the City Council of Athens for a puny charge of corrupting their youth. Execution of Sir. Thomas Moore, the modern day Socrates also is vivid in our memories. History is so full of such admonition messages from the past that now we all know that people’s applause is but momentary and that their admiration shall not be taken into account in assessing a man’s real worth.
We have fetched the Sun for you: Need anything more?
When the patriot was received for the first time by people, they went mad and spread on his path roses mixed with evergreen laurels. House roofs were filled with people just to have a glimpse of their worshipful hero. Lights burned all night and flags fluttered freely in churches. Sweet sounds of bells filled the atmosphere. People seemed to be such loyal to and eager to please their hero then that had he asked for the Sun, it would immediately have been fetched and they would have asked him, if he needed anything more.
In the rain, hands fettered, stoned all the way, dragged to the death-post.
We learn from the poem that the patriot did many impossible things for the people which made them pleased. ‘Nought man could do, have I left undone’, the poet writes. The patriot did everything for his people that a man could do. All of a sudden people turned against him and decided to hang him publicly as a punishment for his crimes committed during one year. Everything he did during one year had become crimes when viewed from another angle. Now we see him hands fettered, suffering in rain, stoned all the way, being dragged to the death post. And now there is nobody on the roof-tops to watch the spectacle. All have gone to the death-post at Shambles’ Gate to witness the best sight of hanging him. What an unpredictable twist of human attitude!
A condemned and executed man is received to the merciful hands of God.
We have seen this exact scene in history a few centuries before, in the mountains of Gagultha. A human representative of the creator and moulder of mankind, an innocent carpenter, was executed on the cross for the crime of loving mankind. On his way to death, the patriot has a few such consoling thoughts. A man honoured in this world may most likely have to suffer in heaven. But a man who is unjustly tortured and punished in this world is sure to get God’s love in the other world. Thus, though on the brink of his death, the patriot is solaced enough at the thought of being really safe in the hands of God within minutes.
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
You are invited to kindly visit the Author’s Web Site of P.S.Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum at: https://sites.google.com/site/timeuponmywindowsill/wiki-nut-articles
Translations of this article in French, German, Spanish and Italian published in Knol.com can be read by clicking here.
Appreciations, British Poets, English Literature, English Poems, English Poets, English Songs, P S Remesh Chandran, Poetry, Reviews, Robert Browning, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Songs, The Patriot
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Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.
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27th May 2011 (#)
Thanks for this really useful article.
Excellent analysis by an excellent editor.
Browning painted such an excellent and majestic scene with words that it was very easy for me to remember it and redraw. Moreover I did an experiment with this poem. When I functioned also as a journeyman lecturer, I taught this poem while reading it for the first time. My first thrill of reading, actually singing it for the first time could therefore be transferred somewhat to the students. They said it was a pleasant new experience for them, but they never knew I was reading the poem for the first time. Therefore I still remember vividly my analysis of the poem then. Another time I did the same thing with a famous short story, Anton Chekhov’ ‘The Bet’. Me and the whole band of learners were carried away and could not speak or look at others for several minutes. It is not the skill of the reteller but the excellent editorial powers hidden in the writer that make readers spellbound.