Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
There’s nobody on the house-tops now …..
Just a palsied few at the windows set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles’ Gate …… or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.
– The Patriot, Robert Browning
(i) Who is the speaker? Where is he being taken? Why?
(ii) Describe the scene when he had walked down the same street a year ago.
(iii) Where does the speaker think all the people had gathered that day? Why does he think so?
(iv) Describe the speaker's physical condition.
(v) What is the central message of the poem? Does the poem and on a note of hope or despair? Give one reason for your answer.
(i) The speaker here is the patriot. He is being taken to the scaffold to be hanged for his misdeeds. He is passing through some street in a town.
(ii) A year ago, the patriot was worshipped like a hero. He was accorded a warm welcome on his return after a glorious victory. His path was strewn with flowers. The church towers were decorated with victory-flags. Huge crowds were there to welcome him.
(iii) The speaker thinks that all the people have left the town and gone to the Shambles’ Gate or quite near the scaffold in order to have a better view of the patriot’s (his) execution. Only a few paralysed persons are sitting at the windows.
(iv) The speaker’s physical condition is pathetic. He is being led to the gallows. A long rope has been used to tie his hands on the back. The rope is so tight that it cuts both his hands. His forehead is bleeding. It is due to the stones hurled at him by some callous and cruel fellows. All this shows that he is being treated very harshly.
(v) The central message of the poem is the fickle mindedness of the ordinary people who go enthusiastic at welcoming a hero but soon get disappointed with him and begin to hurl abuses and stones on him.
The poem ends on a note of hope. Though the hero in this poem feels betrayed and abandoned, he achieves a moral victory. He feels that he has not been rewarded for his services on the earth, he hopes he would be rewarded by God in heaven. So he feels safe in the bosom of God. His faith in God being a true judge marks his unbounded sense of optimism.