The Patriot is one of the many poems English A level will have to study. Like with many of Browning’s poems, this is a dramatic monologue being that the character is talking to himself in a ‘dramatic’ way. The poem tells the story of somebody’s execution in front of the public: for which he is being misunderstood and should not be killed. It relates very much to the fall of leaders who, like the patriot, are misunderstood and killed because of this. Here is an analysis of Robert Browning’s poem, ‘The Patriot’ which features a step-by-step guide to each stanza.
You might find reading my essay, How Does Browning Tell the Story in The Patriot? helpful too.
The analysis starts in the very title, ‘The Patriot’. A patriot is someone who fights/works for their country. They love their country and will do anything for their country too.
The first stanza is used to set the scene of the poem creating contrasting setting. It starts with, ‘It was roses, roses, all the way’ which are known for being beautiful and a theme of love. However, the stanza describes how the ‘house-roofs seemed to heave and sway’ which suggest the setting is cramped with houses. This is our first signs of the poem being based in a town where people are living in poverty. This was common in the Victorian times which introduces a time to this poem too unlike alot of Auden’s poems such as O What Is That Sound.
The second stanza hasn’t got much analysis from my part (sorry, I’m an A level student myself and using my notes on the poem to write this article!). However, the third stanza does. There is reference to a old tale of Icarus on the first line, ‘it was I who leaped at the sun’. Icarus attempted to fly by sticking feathers to his arm with wax. However, the closer he flew to the sun, the more the wax melted until he fell from the sky. Browning uses this story to introduce an ideology to not be too ambitious which unfortunately the patriot was. Throughout the whole of stanza, the patriot is reflecting and thinking . He states, ‘Nought man could do, have I left undone’. He feels he done everything he could have possibly done. We gather he also has power, ‘what I reap’ illustrating how he has collected his rewards in from the work he has done.
Stanza four looks more at the setting again at how nobody is out to watch the patriot’s execution except ‘just a palsied few’. ‘Palsied’ is the term given to the old and riddled with disease. This juxtaposes against what the patriot has achieved in his life. We know he has power which is clearly not reflected with the amount and type of people watching his hanging. The people that are outside are gathering at ‘Shambles’ Gate’ which is a place people would congregate to watch public hangings. The public execution (which another name for it is ‘scaffold’) is starting to make the patriot lose all dignity.
This stanza carries on from where stanza four left off to describe the public humiliation the patriot is undergoing. Pathetic fallacy is used (which was common in Browning’s poems such as the start of Porphyria’s Lover
), ‘I go in the rain’. As well as making the patriot wet reducing his dignity, the rain can be seen too symbolise how the patriot is innocent as he is washed clean. As well as this, rain in general represents corruption creating a negative tense mood. This describes the public who are clearly corrupt for hanging somebody who has doing nothing wrong. He undergoes pain for the first time with ‘a rope cuts both my wrists behind’ and ‘For they fling…Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds’. We can tell he is coming close to the end as tension has been built through the weather and the change in behaviour of those watching.
The last stanza can be summed up as the stanza where the patriot finally dies. The ending is more upbeat than expected considering the previous stanzas. He comes to the conclusion that some people die from doing good, ‘In triumphs, people have dropped down dead’. At the very end, like with many of Browning’s poems (especially The Bishop Orders His Tomb
), he refers back to religion to create a universal meaning to the poem, ‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so’. He feels safe (even though he is dying) because he knows morally he has done right and God will see this. From this, he feels fairly safe that he will go to heaven and not hell (like the public want him to go). This links into Browning’s message for the poem who asks whether it is better to be out of the world of corruption where it will be more peaceful than to be in the world. This leaves the reader in a tranquillity of conscience to decide upon this deep ideology.