The Scholar Gypsy Matthew Arnold Poems Summary & Analysis

The Scholar Gypsy
The Scholar Gypsy

The Scholar Gypsy Summary


The speaker of “The Scholar-Gypsy” described a remarkable rural setting in the pastures, with the city of Oxford very far away. He sees the shepherd and works in the field, reaping the harvest, then tells the shepherd that he will stay there until Sunday, enjoy the view and study the towers of Oxford. All the while, he would keep his book by his side.


His book tells the famous story of Joseph Glanville, a poor Oxford student who dropped out of school in a group of gypsies. Once he was immersed in their community, he learned the secrets of their business.


Shortly afterward, two associates of the Scholar-Gypsy at Oxford found him and he told them about the general Gypsy type of education, which emphasizes strong imagination. He planned to stay with the gypsies until he learned everything he could, then revealed their secrets to the planet.


Continue the story of Speaker Pandit-Gypsy by regularly interrupting in saying his own surprise. Every once in a while people would claim to have seen him in Berkshire style. The speaker imagined him as a shady figure expecting a “spark from heaven” that is somewhat like everyone else on earth. The speaker even claims to have seen the Alem-Gypsy once, though two hundred years have passed since his story first resonated in the halls of Oxford.


Despite this longest period of your time, the Speaker does not believe that the Pundit-Gypsy could have died, since he gave up the life of a mortal man, the things that led men to death: “Repetitive shock, again / again the power of a tired strong soul.” In order to do so, the pundit-gypsy does not suffer from such “shocks”, but rather from “sick fatigue, free from doubt”. He has escaped the dangers of recent life, which is slowly growing and destroying a kind of “strange disease” in men.


The speaker concludes by requesting that the pundit-gypsy avoid anyone infected with this “disease”, lest he also becomes infected.


The Scholar Gypsy Analysis


Although this poem discovers one of Arnold’s signature themes – depressing monotony and recent life’s hard work – it works uniquely with this narrative. There are two levels of storytelling to add to the poem: the pundit-gypsy, the speaker who clings to the ideas emanating from that single personality.


Both levels of the story relay an equal message: the scholar-gypsy escapes modern life and transcends life. As he usually does, here Arnold criticizes modern life as even the most modern man wearing the most clothes. His choice of the word “disease” speaks for itself as it implies that this lifestyle is contagious. Even those who try to avoid modern life will eventually become infected.


This poem, like other poems during this compilation, discusses the dangers of consistency with poetry. What makes Alem-Gypsy so powerful is that he is not the only one who wants to avoid modern life – many want to try that. More importantly, he is willing to completely refute a common society in the interest of its transcendence, willing to enjoy real uniqueness and still be a neighbor of society as that idea has an underlying rather pessimistic worldview.

The pundit-gypsy has to go back completely above Oxford to become this great personality, which represents learning and modernity here. And yet the poem as a whole is far more optimistic than many of Arnold’s works, obviously because it suggests that if we are willing to pay that cost, we will surpass it. It sets it apart from poetry like “A Summer Night” which explores an equivalent theme but laments the value of isolation for the need for individuality.


For all his praise, the speaker clearly failed to provide the power to reject the planet. The setting helps to establish his conflicting feelings. The poem begins with a picture of peaceful, lifeless rural life, a region where men always behave like them. They need to stay away from the dangers of modernity to priestly imagery always associated with poetry with a kind of innocence and purity, free humanity in harmony with nature. The speaker was called to the sector to think of this kind of life, the possibility of acting because the scholar-gypsy did.


And yet he is also studying the Oxford Towers, which (as mentioned above) represent a rapidly changing, rigidly structured world that the scholar-gypsy has abandoned. Arnold has clearly articulated the speaker’s divided priorities through this clear position. At the same time that he admires the pundit-gypsy, he can’t go back to the perfectly fashionable world. It’s an equivalent conflict that plagues the speakers of “A Summer Night”.


Thus, the poem as a whole presents Arnold’s internal contradictions, his desire to measure a distinct life but unable to fully resist society. Now in his life.

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