Thyrsis By Matthew Arnold Poems Summary & Analysis



Thyrsis Summary


The speaker of “Thyrsis” is called at the Oxford countryside, an equivalent setting as “The Scholar-Gipsy.” He and his friend Thyrsis once visited this area often, and he laments how it seems to possess changed such a lot. Where they once saw only pastoral beauty here – a vale, a path, and more – now the landscape is dotted with the town of Oxford.


He looks for an old elm-tree that they wont to admire, and which they connected to the Scholar-Gipsy. that they had always believed that the scholar-gypsy would survive as long as the tree was around (see summary and analysis of “The Scholar-Gipsy” for the backstory).


As he laments not visiting this area often anymore, the speaker also criticizes Thyrsis for having left, “of his own will.” Though he loved the world, he was drawn elsewhere, and now’s dead. (The death relates to the allusion Arnold is making to Virgil – see the Analysis for more detail.) While the speaker knows his current despair might wax and wane with the seasons, Thyrsis will nevermore return.


Though Thyrsis was defeated in battle by Corydon, the speaker blames Thyrsis for his own death. Stanzas 9 and 10 recall the Sicilian tradition of playing a tragic song on a pipe when a shepherd died, so that in Hades, Proserpine (Persephone) would return the dead to life. However, Arnold knows that since Proserpine has never been to England, it’s futile to undertake and turn her.


During the subsequent several stanzas, the speaker walks through the countryside, lamenting all he has lost since Thyrsis has gone. He recalls a woman who once helped them with their boat, and is gloomy to understand she has disappeared also. During the lament, he becomes overwhelmed with the world’s problems within a larger sense.


In stanzas 16 and 17, the speaker’s mood brightens as he sees a gaggle of jovial hunters ride into town. Finally, he sees the elm-tree he was checking out, which confirms that the scholar-gypsy must still be alive, on his go after the truth.


In this brighter mood, the speaker tries to fix his hateful opinions on Thyrsis. He decides that when Thyrsis left, it had been to not abandon the look for the truth. Instead, he was continuing to hunt truth but had to become a wanderer because the planet wouldn’t allow him to look otherwise.


Thyrsis Analysis