The poem, “Patriot into Traitor” by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue. It is about the political ups and downs in the life of a political person in underdeveloped countries. In the world of politics, a person who is acclaimed to be a hero today may turn to be zero the next day. In the same situation, we find in this poem that the people welcomed the hero of the poem warmly but soon he is being taken as a prisoner to the Shambles Gates to be hanged publicly.
He was a revolutionary person and brought radical changes to policies that proved fruitless in the eyes of people so they turned against him and he was brought down from the height of glory. It shows the wavering mind, unbalanced judgment, and temporary liking of the public. Behind such a situation, there seems political immaturity, institutional instability, and economic insecurity. They were punishing him for his misdeeds but he was an optimist to God. Treated harshly by people, he would be treated fairly, by God Almighty and thus he would be saved.
The patriot remembers that only one year before when his popularity was at the apex, people welcomed him with great zeal and zest. A huge crowd of people had gathered on the roads, open spaces, and roofs of the surrounding houses. The buildings were decorated and flags were hoisted even on the church spires. The crowds raised thundering slogans and showered petals of flowers all over his path. (Patriot into Traitor)
The patriot admits that he did not like mere noise and disgusting hollow slogans. He took the initiative to achieve what no one could achieve. He regrets to say that unfortunately, it was he who tried to make everything everlasting for his countrymen. So, he tried to fly to the sky to pluck the sun for his countrymen. He felt the works complete while people felt them incomplete. He launched radical policies for the betterment of his people. But within one year, his steps proved fruitless and people went against him. He was branded dishonest, blackmailer, smuggler and worst of all – traitor.
The love and adoration of the leader vanished as quickly from the hearts of people as it had risen. Soon he became the target of criticism and hatred because of his abortive policies for the masses. After his rejection by the masses, he has pushed aside from power and sentenced to death.
When he was being dragged to the scaffold, people began pelting stones at him. His forehead began bleeding. It was raining and he was very humiliatingly being dragged to the side of scaffold by police officers. People hurled curses upon him.
In the end, the patriot laments the unjust treatment given to him by the world. But as he believes in life after death and Day of Judgement, he consoles himself with the idea, that then he will be safe as final Judgement is to be made by God. That Judgement will be certainly fair and he will be rectified for the unfair treatment of the world.
Explanation with reference
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day
These lines of the poem “Patriot into Traitor” describe an enthusiastic welcome of a political leader who was a hero yesterday but today is a traitor. The arrangements were tremendous. It was the time when he was adored and admired by the people. The people devotedly and excitedly scattered flowers and gathered on the roads, open spaces, and at the roofs of the houses. The roofs seemed to be shaking with the burden of a large number of people. The flags on church towers were of dazzling color, which appeared to shine like fire. In this inevitable manner, the political hero was welcomed a year ago on this very day. it shows the climax of popularity that how the public treats a new political leader with fervor. he can’t think of himself as a target of public criticism. So the leader regretfully expresses his emotions.
I go in the rain, and more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds
The turmoil and treacheries of political world are clear in these lines. The condition of the national hero is quite pitiable and hopeless. The masses who once favored him are now against him. He is being disgraced as they are dragging him in rain. His hands are tied tightly and his wrists are bleeding. Moreover people pelt stones at him according to their satisfaction to hurt him and his forehead is also bleeding. They inflict him for his wrong doings which ironically are not because he left no stone unturned for their welfare. This is the reward that the leader gets of his sacrifice with the hands of the masses. His tragic downfall is piteous. It shows how political leaders are treated in the world of politics as well as the unreliable favors of the masses.
Thus I entered, and thus I go
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead
‘Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
Me, God might question; now instead,
‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.
These lines assert his mood of disillusionment and frustration and also his optimistic approach. The political hero sums up his tragedy how he entered the world of politics. He was favored, idealized, and warmly welcomed by the masses. But now the scene is entirely changed as he is being taken to be hanged under the charge of treason. He consoles himself that many great leaders have died after doing great works for their nation. He is hopeful to God for the reward in the world hereafter because he has suffered too much in this world. His worldly troubles and pains will become the cause of redemption in the world hereafter. Thus he derives mental relief for finding himself secure and safe. First-line captures his sorrowful feeling and last four lines reflect his optimistic approach.
In the poem, “Patriot into Traitor” Browning has portrayed a realistic picture of the uncertain political situations in Third World countries. It is connected with the lines of political heroes. It shows the rise and fall of a political leader in the eyes of the masses. In the poem, we observe how a political hero falls from grace to grass. It happens almost with all the political and social leaders. First, they are accorded, warm reception and reach the climax of seventh heaven.
The masses claim that they will stand with the leaders under the charge of different illegal deeds of corruption, bribery, smuggling, nepotism, robbery, black-marketing, etc. The same discuss and enjoy the scene of their execution and exile. it is the total change of their fate. Here the hero is disillusioned by his relentless efforts for the welfare of the masses. Governments also do so to grind their own ax. So Robert Browing through this poem makes us conscious of the realistic contemporary political situation, its turmoil, and treacheries in a lucid way. (Patriot into Traitor)