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” are often quite difficult to know without guidance, since it’s rooted both in an extended allusion to Virgil’s poetry and in Arnold’s own life. In Virgil’s Seventh Eclogue, Thyrsis lost a singing match to Corydon and died. Whereas Virgil implies that the gods are responsible for the man’s death, Arnold alters the parable responsible Thyrsis himself.
This shift is central and connects to the poem’s autobiographical quality. Arnold wrote “Thyrsis” to commemorate the lifetime of his friend Arthur Hugh Clough, who died in 1861, after having left Oxford a few years before. The walking tour described in “Thyrsis” is predicated on Arnold’s 1861 return visit to the Oxford countryside, to think through his friend’s life and their relationship.
What he sees there reflects a number of his commonest themes, especially when the poem is read within the light of “The Scholar-Gipsy.” First, Arnold laments what proportion the world has changed. Two of his complaints mirror those made in other poems. the foremost immediate is just the facility of your time, which Arnold frequently mentions as a force greater than humans can control. But more poignantly, Arnold sees within the countryside the way the fashionable world robs nature of its pastoral wonder. the planet has not only changed – this might only induce nostalgia. Instead, it’s changed for the more severe – this induces an excellent sadness and anger.
Despite the poem’s length, it’s bookended by a particular quest: to seek out the elm. By relating the elm to the scholar-gypsy, Arnold makes the countryside a transparent symbol for truth and transcendence. The scholar-gypsy in praised in his eponymous poem for having eschewed the planet in favor of an inquiry for truth. That he’s deemed a madman means little to him; only the search matters. Arnold’s tone grows more frantic and desperate as this poem progresses and he cannot find the elm, reflecting his fear that he won’t locate the majestic wonder that nature can bring. Perhaps it’s too late for transcendence, and therefore therefore they go after the truth is futile if the elm is gone and the scholar-gypsy is therefore dead.
This desperation is additionally expressed through the speaker’s feelings about Thyrsis, who is clearly meant to represent Clough. Most of the poem criticizes Clough, instead of honors his memory. rather than lamenting his death, Arnold suggests that Clough gave up, that he chose to offer into the planet instead of persevering within the quest he and Arnold were leading towards a greater existence. Now that Clough has died, there’s no possibility that Clough will ever resume the search together with his friend.
To better understand this relationship, it’s useful to know the important world context surrounding it. In Victorian England, the brotherhood between a person and his friend was extremely important; since women weren’t educated, they might not typically offer men a particular sort of intellectual companionship. This deep fraternal love between Arnold and Clough was why Arnold was so devastated when Clough died, and also why he was so resentful when he abandoned their “quest.”
So Arnold feels betrayed. Since few others were even attempting to know the scholar-gypsy’s go after truth during a world that was becoming increasingly artificial, the connection was particularly valuable to the poet. the very fact that Clough has recently died only heightens the emotions of betrayal, a minimum of until he involves terms with it at the top.
This shift is essentially affected by the re-discovery of the elm. a logo of both their friendship and they’re ongoing go after the truth, the very fact that it remains suggests that some things are constant. it’s steadfast; it perseveres. Faced thereupon fact, Arnold is in a position to believe that perhaps his friend didn’t betray him, but rather only changed the shape of his quest. He continued to look, only in a different way. Or put differently, it’s wrong for Arnold to criticize Clough when he should be criticizing the planet. The latter will change because the landscape has, but the connection between the lads will remain steadfast because the elm does. And during a larger symbolic sense, it means the search for truth – that of both the scholar-gypsy and Arnold himself – is worth continuing.
This poem is long, at 240 lines, and written almost like an epic. Its length adds greatly to its content, since it focuses on a life and a journey, instead of one set instance in time. The rhyme scheme in each stanza is about and consistent, as is that the constant use of iambic pentameter. However, the sixth line of each stanza is written in iambic trimeter instead. This interruption of something unusual represents the suddenness of Clough’s death and the way it immediately and unexpectedly impacted Arnold’s life. And yet the regularity of this unique form only reminds us that regardless of how unexpected things might become, we’d always find constancy in those most vital relationships.