Robert Browning’s ‘The Patriot’ is a brilliant piece of dramatic verse. It deals with the fickleness of public opinion and hero-worship. The same people who lift you up to the skies will also pull you down into the ditch.
The speaker of the poem is a patriot. He thinks of his glorious past. A year ago he was given a grand welcome on his arrival to the town. People had thrown roses and myrtle in his path. The church-spires were decorated with bright flags. The house-roofs were full of people who wanted to have a look at him. Bells rang to announce the patriot’s arrival. The frenzy and madness exceeded all limits. People were even ready to catch the sun for him.
But everything has changed now. The patriot is being taken to the scaffold for all his ‘misdeeds’. There is nobody on the house-tops now. Everyone knows that today, the best of the sights is at the foot of the scaffold. He is going in the rain with his wrists tied behind. People are throwing stones at him and his forehead is bleeding. What an ill-fate to a man who spent all his life for his countrymen!
Even in the midst of tragedy, the poem ends quite optimistically. Death is not the end of everything. The patriot hopes that since he did not receive his reward in this world, he will be rewarded in the other world. He feels safe in the hands of God. Thus the poem also becomes an expression of Browning’s optimistic philosophy of life. “God is in His heaven and all is well with the world.”