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Pastoral elegies had its origin in the classical poet of ancient Greece, viz, Theocritus, Bion and Moschus. It was lyric in character and dealt with the simple life of shepherds and their day to day occupations, such as singing with their oaten pipes in the flowery meadows, piping as though they would never be old, tending their flock of sheep. The essence of pastoral poetry is simplicity of thought and action in a rustic setting.
The Scholar Gipsy" as a pastoral elegy

Perhaps Arnold's two best-known poems are "The Scholar Gipsy" and "Thyrsis", which are generally labelled as pastoral elegies deeply steeping in classical lore. " The Scholar Gipsy", ostensibly about a seventeenth-century Oxford student who joined the Gypsies to learn their lore is really about the poet himself and his generation. In the poem, the scholar gypsy becomes a symbol in the light of which Arnold can develop his own position and state his own problems. Drawing on his knowledge of rustic scenes around Oxford, he produced a meditative pastoral poem whose language owes something to Theocritus but whose tone and emotional colouring are very much Arnoldian.

Arnold creates a pastoral or rural setting in "The Scholar Gipsy". The local colour of the poem is a charm of the pastoral elegy. The poem is set in the Oxford countryside which is vividly brought home to us, and it is made more beautiful and enchanting by the modifying colours of imagination. Green muffled Cumner hills and sloping pastures bright with sunshine and flowers, stripling Thames at Bab-lock -hithe, with pleasure boats, Wychwood bowers bright with flowers, the Fyfield elm where maidens dance in May, flooded fields, the causeway and the wooden bridge, Bagley Wood where gipsies pitch their tents, sparkling Thames and Godstow Bridge, abandoned lasher where rustics bathe, constitute a real landscape around Oxford, made lovely with the magic touch, of poet's imagination. It forms an ideal setting for the spiritual presence of the Scholar Gipsy.

Around addresses the friend of the Scholar Gipsy after the pastoral convention. The poet asks his companion, s Shepherd, to attend to the sheep and let loose them from the folds. Having discharged his duties, the Shepherd is advised to come to him again in the evening. But Arnold has not identified himself with a Shepherd like other pastoral poets.In the poem, his friend in quest, however, is a Shepherd.

Again, "The Scholar Gipsy" is not a pastoral elegy in its conventional sense. S pastoral elegy contains a lament for the dead. The poet mourns the death of a person in the garb of Shepherd and creates the setting of the pastoral life. But here the poet does not appear in the guise of s Shepherd nor does not mouth the death of anyone. Only his friend appears in the guise of a Shepherd in the first stanza and then we do not hear anything about him in the rest of the poem. What the poet laments in the poem is the decay of an age or vanished age.

In structure the poem is no doubt pastoral; the fairly elaborate ten-line stanza helps to keep the movement of the poem slow and develop the note of introspection. The slow movement of the verse and the stately utterances of thought are in perfect keeping with the sad, philosophical mood of the poet. But, the tone of the poem has a modern touch; the spirit permeating the poem is typically Victorian- the spirit of unrest seeking spiritual illumination.The elegy writer after lamenting the physical death of his friend would bring out the immortal qualities he possessed.

The elegy always ends with a note of hope that the subject of lamentation is not really dead, but is alive. Arnold very aptly makes use of this conversion and establishes that the Scholar Gipsy will live forever. The Scholar Gipsy has one aim, one business, one desire-the spiritual quest for truth. He has singleness of purpose. His singleness of purpose makes him immortal. "The Scholar Gipsy" is Arnold's modification of the pastoral elegy, not in a strict sense. The pastoral elements are found in the first half of the poem (stanzas 1-13) in the description of the Oxford countryside that is travelled by the Scholar Gipsy; the criticism of Victorian life in the second half (stanzas 14-25) where by a simple process of confrontation the scholar gipsy's happiness and singleness of mind are used to undermine what Arnold felt to be wrong in his own life and the lives of his contemporaries.

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