'The Scholar Gypsy' by Matthew Arnold

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Go, for they call you, shepherd, from the hill;
Go, shepherd, and untie the wattled cotes!
No longer leave thy wistful flock unfed,
Nor let thy bawling fellows rack their throats,
Nor the cropped herbage shoot another head.
But when the fields are still,
And the tired men and dogs all gone to rest,
And only the white sheep are sometimes seen
Cross and recross the strips of moon-blanched green,
Come, shepherd, and again begin the quest!Here, where the reaper was at work of late-In this high field's dark corner, where he leaves
His coat, his basket, and his earthen cruse,
And in the sun all morning binds the sheaves,
Then here, at noon, comes back his stores to use-Here will I sit and wait,
While to my ear from uplands far away
The bleating of the folded flocks is borne,
With distant cries of reapers in the corn-All the live murmur of a summer's day.Screened is this nook o'er the high, half-reaped field,
And here till sundown, shepherd! will I be.
Through the thick corn the scarlet poppies peep,
And round green roots and yellowing stalks I see
Pale pink convolvulus in tendrils creep;
And air-swept lindens yield
Their scent, and rustle down their perfumed showers
Of bloom on the bent grass where I am laid,
And bower me from the August sun with shade;
And the eye travels down to Oxford's towers.And near me on the grass lies Glanvil's book-Come, let me read the oft-read tale again!
The story of the Oxford scholar poor,
Of pregnant parts and quick inventive brain,
Who, tired of knocking at preferment's door,
One summer-morn forsook
His friends, and went to learn the gypsy-lore,
And roamed the world with that wild brotherhood,
And came, as most men deemed, to little good,
But came to Oxford and his friends no more.But once, years after, in the country lanes,
Two scholars, whom at college erst he knew,
Met him, and of his way of life enquired;
Whereat he answered, that the gypsy-crew,
His mates, had arts to rule as they desired
The workings of men's brains,
And they can bind them to what thoughts they will.
"And I," he said, "the secret of their art,
When fully learned, will to the world impart;But it needs heaven-sent moments for this skill."This said, he left them, and returned no more.-But rumours hung about the countryside,
That the lost Scholar long was seen to stray,
Seen by rare glimpses, pensive and tongue-tied,
In hat of antique shape, and cloak of grey,
The same the gypsies wore.
Shepherds had met him on the Hurst in spring;
At some lone alehouse in the Berkshire moors,
On the warm ingle-bench, the smock-frocked boors
Had found him seated at their entering,But, 'mid their drink and clatter, he would fly.
And I myself seem half to know thy looks,
And put the shepherds, wanderer! on thy trace;
And boys who in lone wheatfields scare the rooks
I ask if thou hast passed their quiet place;Or in my boat I lie
Moored to the cool bank in the summer-heats,
'Mid wide grass meadows which the sunshine fills,
And watch the warm, green-muffled Cumner hills,
And wonder if thou haunt'st their shy retreats.For most, I know, thou lov'st retired ground!
Thee at the ferry Oxford riders blithe,
Returning home on summer-nights, have met
Crossing the stripling Thames at Bablock-hithe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt's rope chops round;
And leaning backward in a pensive dream,
And fostering in thy lap a heap of flowers
Plucked in the shy fields and distant Wychwood bowers,
And thine eyes resting on the moonlit stream.And then they land, and thou art seen no more!-Maidens, who from the distant hamlets come
To dance around the Fyfield elm in May,
Oft through the darkening fields have seen thee roam,
Or cross a stile into the public way.
Oft thou hast given them store
Of flowers-the frail-leafed white anemony,
Dark bluebells drenched with dews of summer eves,
And purple orchises with spotted leaves-But none hath words she can report of thee.And, above Godstow Bridge, when hay-time's here
In June, and many a scythe in sunshine flames,
Men who through those wide fields of breezy grass
Where black-winged swallows haunt the glittering Thames,
To bathe in the abandoned lasher pass,
Have often passed thee near
Sitting upon the river bank o'ergrown;
Marked thine outlandish garb, thy figure spare,
Thy dark vague eyes, and soft abstracted air-But, when they came from bathing, thou wast gone!At some lone homestead in the Cumner hills,
Where at her open door the housewife darns,
Thou hast been seen, or hanging on a gate
To watch the threshers in the mossy barns.
Children, who early range these slopes and late
For cresses from the rills,
Have known thee eyeing, all an April-day,
The springing pastures and the feeding kine;
And marked thee, when the stars come out and shine,
Through the long dewy grass move slow away.In autumn, on the skirts of Bagley Wood-Where most the gypsies by the turf-edged way
Pitch their smoked tents, and every bush you see
With scarlet patches tagged and shreds of grey,
Above the forest-ground called Thessaly-The blackbird, picking food,
Sees thee, nor stops his meal, nor fears at all;
So often has he known thee past him stray,
Rapt, twirling in thy hand a withered spray,
And waiting for the spark from heaven to fall.And once, in winter, on the causeway chill
Where home through flooded fields foot-travellers go,
Have I not passed thee on the wooden bridge,
Wrapped in thy cloak and battling with the snow,
Thy face tow'rd Hinksey and its wintry ridge?
And thou hast climbed the hill,
And gained the white brow of the Cumner range;
Turned once to watch, while thick the snowflakes fall,
The line of festal light in Christ-Church hall-Then sought thy straw in some sequestered grange.But what-I dream! Two hundred years are flown
Since first thy story ran through Oxford halls,
And the grave Glanvil did the tale inscribe
That thou wert wandered from the studious walls
To learn strange arts, and join a gypsy-tribe;
And thou from earth art gone
Long since, and in some quiet churchyard laid-Some country-nook, where o'er thy unknown grave
Tall grasses and white flowering nettles wave,
Under a dark, red-fruited yew-tree's shade.- No, no, thou hast not felt the lapse of hours!
For what wears out the life of mortal men?
'Tis that from change to change their being rolls;
'Tis that repeated shocks, again, again,
Exhaust the energy of strongest souls
And numb the elastic powers.
Till having used our nerves with bliss and teen,
And tired upon a thousand schemes our wit,
To the just-pausing Genius we remit
Our worn-out life, and are-what we have been.Thou hast not lived, why shouldst thou perish, so?
Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire;
Else wert thou long since numbered with the dead!
Else hadst thou spent, like other men, thy fire!
The generations of thy peers are fled,
And we ourselves shall go;
But thou possessest an immortal lot,
And we imagine thee exempt from age
And living as thou liv'st on Glanvil's page,
Because thou hadst-what we, alas! have not.For early didst thou leave the world, with powers
Fresh, undiverted to the world without,
Firm to their mark, not spent on other things;
Free from the sick fatigue, the languid doubt,
Which much to have tried, in much been baffled, brings.
O life unlike to ours!
Who fluctuate idly without term or scope,
Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives,
And each half lives a hundred different lives;
Who wait like thee, but not, like thee, in hope.Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! and we,
Light half-believers of our casual creeds,
Who never deeply felt, nor clearly willed,
Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds,
Whose vague resolves never have been fulfilled;
For whom each year we see
Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new;
Who hesitate and falter life away,
And lose tomorrow the ground won today-Ah! do not we, wanderer! await it too?Yes, we await it!-but it still delays,
And then we suffer! and amongst us one,
Who most has suffered, takes dejectedly
His seat upon the intellectual throne;
And all his store of sad experience he
Lays bare of wretched days;
Tells us his misery's birth and growth and signs,
And how the dying spark of hope was fed,
And how the breast was soothed, and how the head,
And all his hourly varied anodynes.This for our wisest! and we others pine,
And wish the long unhappy dream would end,
And waive all claim to bliss, and try to bear;
With close-lipped patience for our only friend,
Sad patience, too near neighbour to despair-But none has hope like thine!
Thou through the fields and through the woods dost stray,
Roaming the countryside, a truant boy,
Nursing thy project in unclouded joy,
And every doubt long blown by time away.O born in days when wits were fresh and clear,
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life,
With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
Its heads o'ertaxed, its palsied hearts, was rife-Fly hence, our contact fear!
Still fly, plunge deeper in the bowering wood!
Averse, as Dido did with gesture stern
From her false friend's approach in Hades turn,
Wave us away, and keep thy solitude!Still nursing the unconquerable hope,
Still clutching the inviolable shade,
With a free, onward impulse brushing through,
By night, the silvered branches of the glade-Far on the forest-skirts, where none pursue,
On some mild pastoral slope
Emerge, and resting on the moonlit pales
Freshen thy flowers as in former years
With dew, or listen with enchanted ears,
From the dark dingles, to the nightingales!But fly our paths, our feverish contact fly!
For strong the infection of out mental strife,
Which, though it gives no bliss, yet spoils for rest;
And we should win thee from thy own fair life,
Like us distracted, and like us unblest.
Soon, soon thy cheer would die,
Thy hopes grow timorous, and unfixed thy powers,
Adn thy clear aims be cross and shifting made;
And then thy glad perennial youth would fade,
Fade, and grow old at last, and die like ours.Then fly our greetings, fly our speech and smiles!
- As some grave Tyrian trader, from the sea,
Descried at sunrise and emerging prow
Lifting the cool-haired creepers stealthily,
The fringes of a southward-facing brow
Among the Aegaean isles;
And saw the merry Grecian coaster come,
Freighted with amber grapes, and Chian wine,
Green, bursting figs, and tunnies steeped in brine-And knew the intruders on his ancient home,The young light-hearted masters of the waves-And snatched his rudder, and shook out more sail;
And day and night held on indignantly
O'er the blue Midland waters with the gale,
Betwixt the Syrtes and soft Sicily,
To where the Atlantic raves
Outside the western straits; and unbent sails
There, where down cloudy cliffs, through sheets of foam,
Shy traffickers, the dark Iberians come;
And on the beach undid his corded bales.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Scholar Gypsy - A Masterpiece by Matthew Arnold

Have you ever read a poem that transported you to a different time and place? A poem that made you feel like you were living the life of the protagonist? A poem that made you question the values of modern society and long for a simpler time? If your answer is no, then you need to read "The Scholar Gypsy" by Matthew Arnold.

This poem is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry, written in 1853, that captures the essence of the Romantic movement. It tells the story of a scholar who leaves his studies to join a group of gypsies in the countryside. The poem explores themes of nature, freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge, while also questioning the rigid structures of academia and society.

The Structure of the Poem

Before we dive into the interpretation of the poem, let's first examine its structure. "The Scholar Gypsy" is written in nine stanzas, each consisting of ten lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABBCBCCD, which gives the poem a musical quality. The poem is also written in iambic pentameter, which means each line has ten syllables and a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. This creates a rhythm that adds to the poem's overall melodic quality.

The structure of the poem is important because it helps to convey the themes of the poem. The regularity of the rhyme and meter gives the poem a sense of order and balance, which contrasts with the chaotic and unpredictable life of the gypsies. This contrast highlights the tension between the structured world of academia and the free-spirited world of the gypsies.

Nature and Freedom

One of the main themes of the poem is the relationship between nature and freedom. The scholar leaves his studies to live in the countryside with the gypsies, where he is free to roam and explore. The natural world is portrayed as a place of wonder and beauty, where the scholar can find peace and inspiration.

The poem describes the natural world in vivid detail, using sensory language to create a vivid image in the reader's mind. For example, in stanza two, Arnold writes:

The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul Of that waste place with joy Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear The warble was low, and full and clear; And floating about the under-sky, Prevailing in weakness, the coronach stole Sometimes afar, and sometimes anear; But anon her awful jubilant voice, With a music strange and manifold, Flow'd forth on a carol free and bold; As when a mighty people rejoice With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold,

This passage is a prime example of how Arnold uses sensory language to create a vivid image. The reader can almost hear the swan's death-hymn and feel the joy and sorrow of the waste place. The natural world is portrayed as a place of both beauty and pain, but it is also a place of freedom.

The gypsies are also portrayed as free-spirited individuals who reject the constraints of modern society. They are wanderers who are not tied down by the rules and regulations of academia or the expectations of society. They live in harmony with nature and are free to explore and discover the world around them.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

Another theme of the poem is the pursuit of knowledge. The scholar leaves his studies to join the gypsies, who are portrayed as a group of individuals who value knowledge and learning. The scholar learns from the gypsies and discovers a new way of understanding the world.

The pursuit of knowledge is portrayed as a noble and worthwhile endeavor, but the poem also questions the rigid structures of academia. The scholar is disillusioned with the academic world, which he sees as stale and lifeless. He longs for a more free-spirited approach to learning, where knowledge is not restricted by rules and regulations.

The poem also explores the idea that knowledge can be found in unexpected places. The scholar discovers a new way of understanding the world by leaving his studies and joining the gypsies. He learns from their experiences and discovers a new perspective on life.


"The Scholar Gypsy" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that explores themes of nature, freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge. The poem uses vivid imagery and sensory language to create a world that is both beautiful and harsh. The contrast between the structured world of academia and the free-spirited world of the gypsies highlights the tension between order and chaos.

The poem also questions the values of modern society and encourages the pursuit of knowledge in unexpected places. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire readers to this day. If you haven't read "The Scholar Gypsy" yet, then I highly recommend that you do. It is a work of art that will transport you to a different time and place and leave you questioning the values of modern society.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Scholar Gypsy: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

Matthew Arnold's "The Scholar Gypsy" is a classic Victorian poem that has stood the test of time. It is a masterpiece of poetry that has been celebrated for its beauty, its depth, and its insight into the human condition. The poem is a tribute to the scholar gypsy, a legendary figure who is said to have abandoned his studies at Oxford University to live a life of wandering and contemplation. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this remarkable poem.

The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of the scholar gypsy's life. The first part introduces the scholar gypsy and describes his decision to leave Oxford and wander the countryside. The second part describes the scholar gypsy's life in the countryside, where he lives a simple life of contemplation and study. The third part describes the scholar gypsy's return to Oxford, where he is celebrated as a hero by the students and faculty.

One of the central themes of the poem is the tension between the life of the mind and the life of the body. The scholar gypsy is torn between his desire for knowledge and his desire for freedom. He is a man who has devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge, but he is also a man who longs for the freedom to wander and explore the world. This tension is reflected in the language of the poem, which is full of contrasts and contradictions. For example, the scholar gypsy is described as "a wanderer and a shade," a man who is both present and absent, both physical and spiritual.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of the outsider. The scholar gypsy is a man who has chosen to live outside of society, to reject its conventions and expectations. He is a man who has chosen to live a life of solitude and contemplation, away from the distractions and pressures of the world. This theme is reflected in the imagery of the poem, which is full of images of nature and the countryside. The scholar gypsy is described as "a dweller in the fields," a man who is at home in the natural world.

The language of the poem is also notable for its beauty and its musicality. Arnold was a master of language, and his use of imagery, metaphor, and allusion is both subtle and powerful. For example, the scholar gypsy is described as "a star that dwelt apart," a man who is both distant and brilliant. The language of the poem is also full of allusions to classical literature and mythology, which give the poem a sense of depth and richness.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery. Arnold was a master of visual imagery, and his descriptions of the countryside and the scholar gypsy's life are both vivid and evocative. For example, the scholar gypsy is described as "a phantom of delight," a man who is both mysterious and alluring. The imagery of the poem is also full of contrasts and contradictions, which reflect the tension between the life of the mind and the life of the body.

In conclusion, "The Scholar Gypsy" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that explores the themes of the tension between the life of the mind and the life of the body, the outsider, and the beauty of nature. The language of the poem is both beautiful and musical, full of allusions to classical literature and mythology. The imagery of the poem is vivid and evocative, full of contrasts and contradictions. It is a poem that celebrates the life of the scholar gypsy, a man who has chosen to live a life of wandering and contemplation, away from the distractions and pressures of the world.

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