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Home » , » Discuss the elegiac quality of Arnold's "Scholar Gipsy".
Matthew Arnold is the greatest elegiac poet in the world of poetry. His most famous elegiac poems are "The Scholar Gipsy", " Thyrsis", "Dover Beach", " A Summer Night ", " Rugby Chapel ". His elegiac poetry is more than a mere expression of sorrow. His poetry invariably becomes reflective and philosophical. Poetry according to Matthew Arnold is a criticism of life. This is quite true about his own poetry. Garrod rightly says: " His poetry, profoundly melancholic, runs from the world, runs from it, as I think, hurt, hurt in some vital part. It believes itself able to sustain life only in the shade." His poetry is a spontaneous expression of " his native melancholy, of the Virgilian cry over the mournfulness of mortal destiny".
the elegiac quality of Arnold's

In "The Scholar Gipsy" Arnold's attitude to the gipsy is closely analogue to that of an adult towards child. He appreciates even envies its innocence, but realizes that there is no return to such state is possible for himself. The child loses its 'innocence' not by some act of sin or by a defect of intellect, but merely by gaining experience and developing into an adult. The realities of adult life turn out to be less agreeable. The gipsy, like a child, is the embodiment of a good lost, not of a good temporarily or culpably mislaid. When Arnold contrasts the gipsy's serenity with the disquiets and perplexities of his own age, he is not satirizing the nineteenth century, or renouncing it, or criticizing it, or suggesting a remedy, he is rather, exploring its spiritual and emotional losses, and the stoic readjustment which this will entail for it:  

 -No, no thou hast not felt the lapse of hours!  For what wears out of the life of mortal men? 'Tis that form change to change their bearing rolls;"

The Scholar Gipsy" is not an elegy of a personal sorrow because of the death of any dear one. What the poet laments in the poem is the decay of an age or vanished age. In the poem he laments the life of the modern men who have no fixed purpose in life. They are fully materialistic and have very little faith in religion. They always run after money and spend all their energies on a thousand schemes. Their life consists of a series of changes. They cannot stick to anything for long. They are like rolling stones that gather no moss. As a result they receive a series of shocks and lose vitality of mind, They grow old and feeble going through many ups and downs in course of their lives. They go through joys and sorrows of life, which has a tiring effect on them. They undertake too many works and do not attain fruition in any of them. Frustrations and disappointments are always in store for them. So their minds are completely worn out and thus they meet their spiritual death. They remain where they had been at the beginning without achieving any significant goal. Thus, Arnold portrays modern life as a diseased one.

But the Scholar Gipsy chooses to live away from the strange disease of modern man. He does not hanker after material gain and passion of life. He seeks divine inspiration to learn the gipsy lore which, he thinks, will be beneficial for mankind. He was born in an age when people were not racked by doubts and despair. Science and rationalism which proved the bane of the modern age were not there. Life was care-free and flowed smoothly like the sparking Thames. Like the modern man he did not suffer from the sick hurry and divided aims of the modern man. He had one aim, one business, one desire. He spent all his energies on his singleness of purpose. His fixity of purpose made him immortal. Hence, Arnold asks the Scholar Gipsy to avoid the contact of the modern man. Once he comes in contact with the modern man, he will lose his faith, purpose and habitual cheerfulness of mind.

Thus, Arnold's melancholy has a lofty ideal and throw a heavenly light on the minds of the troubled mankind. It does not, however, have an unnerving effect. His melancholy has indeed a meaning and a message. It guides mankind in their spiritual endeavours and struggle for perfection with a singleness of purpose and spirit of dedication.

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