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Un-Gypsying the Gypsies: Arnold's wandering metaphor of time.

The Gypsies captured Matthew Arnold's imagination. Between 1849 and 1866, Arnold published four poems in which Gypsies play a central or significant role. Both "To a Gipsy Child by the Sea-Shore" and "Resignation" appeared in the volume of 1849. Four years later, Arnold's "The Scholar-Gipsy" considers Joseph Glanvill's seventeenth-century tale of an Oxford student who runs away to live with the Gypsies. Then, in 1866, Arnold returns to the Scholar-Gypsy in "Thyrsis."

That Arnold was aware of the Gypsies is certainly no surprise. Nineteenth-century British minds turned to them often. Although the Roma/Gypsies have been in the British Isles at least since 1505, interest in them exploded in the nineteenth century when the so-called "Gypsy Problem" fascinated British legislators, clergy, reformers, scholars, and writers of all kinds. This "problem" found its way into parliament, the arts, economics, religion, and other areas of culture, stoking discussion and anxiety about wide-ranging issues such as Christian evangelism, public health, race, national identity, morality, capitalism, poverty laws, industrialism, and enclosure. (1)

Why, though, did Arnold himself return to the topic so often? For Arnold's poems, as Antony Harrison has put it, "why gipsies?" In the only significant examination of all four of Arnold's Gypsy poems together, Harrison argues the Gypsies provide Arnold with an evolving, "intertextually sanctioned poetic metaphor" by which he explores his "self-positioning" in society. As the metaphor evolves through the poems, it reflects, in "Gipsy Child," Arnold's own "stoicism and early skepticism" and even nihilism. In "Resignation," it goes on to act "as a contrast to his image of the ideal poet detached from worldly activity." Finally, in the Gypsy trope of the Cumnor poems, Arnold understands that "attaining power over men's minds" needs not only simple detachment but also paradoxically a "simultaneous estrangement from society and involvement with it." (2)

More recently, Deborah Nord has taken up the question but focuses especially on "Resignation" and "Scholar-Gipsy" and does not mention "Gipsy Child" at all. Of those two poems, though, she argues convincingly that they participate in the mid-century figuring of the Gypsy as "a remnant of prelapserian England, a marker of the transition from rural to industrial society," taking on for Arnold an "association with a world that no longer existed." (3)

With what Harrison acknowledges as "a partial set of answers" to the question, he and Nord have thus set us on the way to understanding "why gipsies?" They have not addressed, however, a single, cohesive function of Arnold's Gypsy figure that makes the four poems of a piece. I suggest that, for nearly twenty years, the Gypsies serve Arnold as a consistently evolving trope for time itself. He is fascinated by their intermittent abilities to escape the temporal influences that so obsessed him. They become, for him, like the Gypsy in Eugene Lee-Hamilton's late-century play The Fountain of Youth, in which only the Gypsy knows the location of the fountain, for only the Gypsy holds the key to time. (4)

Indeed, critics have long noted Arnold's anxieties about time and loss, and other readers have even related some of these poems--particularly the two Cumnor poems--to these ideas. Particularly, Philip Drew has not overreached when he insists that, taken together, "The Scholar-Gypsy" and "Thyrsis" are "the most serious scrutiny of the meaning of Time since the Mutability cantos." (5) This assertion, however, must be extended to include Arnold's two earlier Gypsy poems, and what other readers have failed to notice is that this temporal theme is accomplished specifically because of the Gypsy trope. The Gypsy figures themselves are the means by which the poems consider Arnoldian anxieties about time. Tradition portrays Gypsies as placeless, homeless. They wander. They roam. In Arnold's poems, however, their wandering is not so much a geographical as a temporal placelessness. These Gypsies are outside not only society but also time itself. The trope, though, will not readily cooperate with this positioning. Arnold must continually manipulate the image to keep Gypsies there, eventually, in a dissociative process Katie Trumpener calls "literarization," stripping them of any historical or material "gypsiness." (6)


Arnold's concerns about "the times" mark much of his writing, but more personally, he felt keenly the dilemma of time itself. (7) While this distinction between time and "the times," or history, is important, the two are easily conflated, and dealing with one without the other is nearly impossible. On a fundamental level, they share a perceived linearity and causal relationship: time is the abstract agent that effects material history. Time drives history. History derives from time.

In a distinction between "Natural Time" and "Historical Time," however, the two are neither synonymous nor even causally related. Reinhart Koselleck argues, "A measurable time based on Nature--even if it possesses its own history--cannot be transformed without mediation into a historical concept of time." Natural time is largely ontological, the progression marked only by tenses--was, is, will be. Historical time, on the other hand, is the progression "bound up with social and political actions, with concretely acting and suffering human beings and their institutions and organizations." (8) It involves moments, events, and people. The "fact" of history lies not only in the verb tense but also in all the modifiers that contextualize that verb within human institutions and movements.

Natural time is, however, what mainly gives pause to Arnold: the changing of the seasons, the growth of the child, the passing of youth, the aging of the man. Park Honan points out that one of Arnold's greatest fears was "a dead barren negative callosity" that he associated with the aging process? In "Memorial Verses," Arnold grieves Wordsworth's ability to make us feel and seems pointedly to lack the ability himself. In 1853, he admitted to Clough, "I am past thirty, and three parts iced over," (10) and one would be hard pressed to find a picture more dismal of what it is to age than in "Growing Old," in which growing old is "not once [to] feel that we were ever young," to "feel but half, and feebly, what we feel." (11) Worse still, growing old is to be "frozen up within, and quite / The phantom of ourselves" (32-33). Arnold's Gypsies are an attempt to answer these problems of natural time.

Again, though, discussing one type of time without the other is difficult. Though outside of time, the Gypsies of Arnold's imagination begin with a sortofhistory, but it is one increasingly divorced from the political and material realities of English history. Seemingly insensible to the vicissitudes of time, they initially have lore of their own, a secret and tradition. In fact, the century's primary concern about the Gypsies was specifically historical--their mysterious and ancient origins, language, and lore. Earlier studies by Heinrich Grellmann and John Hoyland had essentially solved this mystery and located their origin in the Indian subcontinent, (12) but as Nord notes, many refused "to relinquish the belief that their origin was ultimately still mysterious" (8). Divorcing Gypsy history from Gypsy time, then, is a particularly Arnoldian movement, unprecedented by other Gypsy writers. Faced with the inevitability of physical aging, Arnold considers in his Gypsy poems a philosophical triumph over time. Unlike the subjective abstractions and plaintive melancholia in many of Arnold's musings on time, these Gypsy poems represent an active, imaginative effort to create an answer to the problem. Gypsies give Arnold a material body, an imaginative vehicle through which to move beyond natural time. In each of these poems, Gypsies appear at first immune to time's ravages; ultimately, however, in the undeniable face of mutability and historical, cultural, and material reality, the poems' speakers have to re-imagine them out of time by stripping them from history. These efforts come, however, not only at the ethical cost of effacing Gypsy reality but also at a more personal cost for Arnold's speakers. As Arnold re-imagines them in each succeeding poem, dramatic strokes of pentimenti that unwrite history to rewrite Gypsies, he creates a fictive people capable only of a fictive immortality.


The situation of "To a Gipsy Child by the Sea-Shore" is rooted in a real event. According to an undated letter by Tom Arnold and his unsigned obituary for his brother in The Manchester Guardian (18 May 1888), it occurred on a family vacation to Douglas, Isle of Man. On a crowded pier, Arnold and his brother saw a woman who "might have been a gipsy" with her child at her shoulder. In the obituary, Tom says, "Its pitiful wan face and sad dark eyes rested on Matthew for some time without change of expression," and in his letter, he adds that, gazing on the child, Arnold became "completely abstracted." (13)

The poem's literary roots lie, however, in Wordsworth. As Kenneth Allott and others have observed, "Gipsy Child," in many ways, responds directly to the sense of loss in Wordsworth's "Intimations" Ode, and in both, time is the agent of that loss. (14) In tone and mood, however, the "Intimations" Ode and Arnold's "Gipsy Child" stand as nearly perfect examples of the opposing adjectives Wordsworthian and Arnoldian. Wordsworth's child grieves at his exile from joyful preexistence, but the Gypsy child's melancholia is worse than "some exile's mindful how the past was glad" (25). The "Intimations" child trails "clouds of glory," (15) but the Gypsy child's "brow" is surrounded by "clouds of doom" (4). The only glory in this poem comes not from "clouds of glory" but from the child's "glooms that enhance and glorify this earth" and the child's unforgettable "soil'd glory" (20, 56).

Allott briefly argues that Arnold's poem shares an awareness of loss as the child's memory of his preexistent happiness begins to fade. The truth of the poem, though, is nearly just the opposite of Allott's point. The Wordsworthian child looks back, while the Gypsy child looks forward, for in a characteristic Arnoldian twist, the child's sorrow has less to do with memory of prenatal joy than it does with foreknowledge of postnatal sorrow. In fact, this is the very reason the child needs to be specifically a Gypsy. Harrison points out that, to Arnold's speaker, the child's "knowledge of the world ... is complete." (16) This child is not just any child; he is a Gypsy seer who shares already that melancholia that speeds Empedocles into Etna. His is not the sorrow of one who has lost past joy but the sorrow of one who has still to endure future suffering: "thou hast foreknown the vanity of hope, / Foreseen thy harvest," and he is a "meek anticipant of that sure pain / Whose sureness grey-haired scholars hardly learn!" (39-40, 41-42; emphasis added). Unlike the Wordsworthian child, for the Gypsy, "superfluity of joy / Wafts not from thine own thoughts, nor longings vain" (9-10), nor does this child look back longingly at a maternal figure. Instead, this child turns "half averse / From thine own mother's breast, that knows not thee," and his "soul-searching vision" falls on the speaker (13-14, 16). Significantly, though, in spite of this momentary kinship with the Gypsy child, the speaker exhibits that detachment of "Resignation," for he distances himself from the child's experience: "Glooms that go deep as thine I have not known" (17). The child has the pained knowledge and the afflicted wisdom of one who predicts the pain of "Growing Old."

While "Gipsy Child" involves primarily foreknowing rather than remembering, a type of memory does play a role in the poem. The child will not escape the suffering caused by the passage of time, though he will be blessed, not with Wordsworthian joy, but with forgetfulness. He will forget his foreknowledge. The speaker predicts, before death, "Thou wilt have fathom'd life too far, / Have known too much--or else forgotten all" (47-48). Mercifully, "a triple veil / Betwixt our senses and our sorrow" will dull the anguish the child now feels, and in Arnold's poem, that is the nature of memory: to remember is to suffer, while to forget is to gain only a brief numbness (49-50). Forgetfulness cannot erase the pain altogether, for neither drug nor the world's numbing wear "oblivion in lost angels can infuse" (55). As years wear on the forgetful child, he may find moments of comfort, victory, and even beauty, yet still, "Ere the long evening close, thou shalt return, / And wear this majesty of grief again" (67-68). The Gypsy child may find brief respite from the majestic grief of one who has fallen to time, but in the end, he will remember not childhood innocence, but the later suffering he foresaw, as only a Gypsy child can. Here, then, is the Arnoldian subversion of the Wordsworthian faith in joy. In the face of time's cruelty, briefly forgetting his suffering is the only "abundant recompense" one can expect.


In "Resignation," the final poem of the same 1849 volume, Arnold responds to two more Wordsworth poems, "Tintern Abbey" and "Gipsies." As several readers have noted, "Resignation" resembles "Tintern Abbey" as the speaker tells a beloved sister his reflections on a second visit to a cherished place; Arnold's view of nature, however, contradicts Wordsworth's, whose "Nature never did betray / The heart that loved her" as she leads us "from joy to joy" (123-24, 126). The natural scenes that bring Wordsworth joy seem to Arnold's speaker only "to bear rather than rejoice" (270).

Absent Wordsworthianjoy, Nature's stoicism is the goal of the ideal poet, who "bears to admire uncravingly," when "from some high station he looks down" on the world (161,164). He is not unfeeling but quiet, as he watches "that general life, which does not cease, / Whose secret is not joy, but peace" (191-92). (17) In the passage about the band of Gypsies, as in "Gipsy Child," Arnold pointedly considers their stoic attitude toward the vicissitudes of time. This passage, others have noted, echoes Wordsworth's 1807 poem "Gipsies."

In the early years of the nineteenth century, many felt that a people so unfettered as Gypsies posed a threat to both the financial and moral stability of English society. Ever anxious about idleness and purposelessness, even Wordsworth, that most enthusiastic celebrant of the downtrodden, offers a scathing consideration of Gypsies. (18) In "Gipsies," the Wordsworthian speaker is surprised that a Gypsy band has not broken camp since he last saw them "twelve bounteous hours" ago (9). In uncharacteristically damning fashion, the speaker ends with lines that reflect the concerns of "Resolution and Independence," a poem David Simpson suggests is "a true companion poem to 'Gipsies.'" (19)
   oh better wrong and strife
   Better vain deeds or evil than such life!
   The silent Heavens have goings on;
   The stars have tasks--but these have none.


All creatures, above and below, use their time to fulfill a purpose--all except the Gypsies. (20)

Arnold's Gypsy passage in "Resignation" is, however, more than simply an echo of Wordsworth's poem. It is a critical response. As in the earlier poem, Arnold's Gypsies are in the same camp in which the speaker has seen them before; unlike Wordsworth's band, however, these Gypsies have endured "long wanderings" since the speaker last saw them here (114). Where Wordsworth sees "the same unbroken knot / Of human Beings, in the self-same spot" (1-2), Arnold notes, "In dark knots crouch round the wild flame / Their children, as when first they came" (118-19). While Wordsworth's Gypsies are not affected by time (after a mere twelve hours), Arnold's Gypsies are. Like the speakers of "Tintern Abbey" and "Resignation," the Gypsies revisit a familiar place, for in their characteristic journeys, they sometimes chance upon a place they have been before, one they recognize despite their "long wanderings" since (114). Like the speakers who recognize the spot above Tintern Abbey or the path over Wythburn Fells, when the Gypsies "recognise a former scene," "signs are not wanting, which might raise / The ghost in them of former days" and "suggestions of disquietude" (122-23, 125). In addition to feeling a similar "disquietude," the Arnoldian speaker--unlike those of "Gipsy Child" and "Gipsies"--recognizes kinship with these wanderers: "for them, for all, time's busy touch, / While it mends little, troubles much" (126-27). The speaker avows this connection with the Gypsies elsewhere as well: "The gipsies, whom we met below, / They, too, have long roam'd to and fro" (108-9; emphasis added).

In a move away from the broad stereotyping of Gypsy alterity in "Gipsy Child," here Arnold recognizes the material and historical realities of Gypsy life. Those realities, however, still mark his Gypsies as distinctly other, problematizing his identification with them before it even begins. He observes the changes the Gypsies must endure brought on by exurbanization and anti-Gypsy legislation: "Crowded and keen the country grows; / It seems as if, in their decay, / The law grew stronger every day" (133-35). The passage of time provides them "suggestions to disquietude" similar to those Arnold himself was so wont to feel, yet events of the day and the Gypsies' particular experience of Historical Time separate their experiences from his.

In other ways as well, the Gypsies are not entirely like the Arnoldian speaker. Arnold, like Wordsworth, attributes a certain lack of sensitivity to the Gypsies. Harrison argues that Arnold's speaker "exposes his limited political understanding and inadequate social vision, urging the gipsies to recover the 'fragments' of their past in order to reconstitute their present and future lives as a 'placid and continuous whole'" (372). As Harrison suggests, Arnold's Gypsies appear racially unsuited for certain kinds of reflection; contra Harrison, however, the speaker does not urge their philosophical reformation. Indeed, unlike the Wordsworthian speaker, the speaker of "Resignation" envies the Gypsies their unconsciousness. "Signs are not wanting," but the Gypsies do not attend to the signs. Wordsworth's Gypsies are incapable of reflection as a race, while Arnold's Gypsies can but simply do not reflect on time's passing:
   So might they reason, so compare,
   Fausta, times past with times that are.
   But no!--they rubb'd through yesterday
   In their hereditary way,
   And they will rub through, if they can,
   To-morrow on the self-same plan.

   (136-41; emphasis added)

This voluntary lack of reflection allows the wanderers to escape, not the effects of time, but the painful consciousness of its passing: death will, indeed, arrive to the Gypsies, "to supersede, / For them, vicissitude and need" (142-43), but until then, "in their hereditary way," they will simply "rub through." While Wordsworth's speaker finds comfort and Arnold's unease in returning to the familiar place, the Gypsies, by a hereditary ability to choose, find neither.

Like Arnold, the Gypsies cannot find joy, for time brings only "suggestions to disquietude," but the ideal poet attains their "resignation" and adds to it a vision. The speaker of the poem imagines Fausta's words, "Not deep the poet sees, but wide," words Arnold himself used in a letter to Clough (214; Letters, 1:131). U. C. Knoepflmacher notes an understanding of "one's own position within the 'dizzying eddy' of life ... can come only through detachment." The Gypsies achieve it by "plodding in their 'hereditary way'; it is achieved consciously by those higher beings who can discern through a special insight 'what through experience others learn.'" (21) The ideal poet, then, adds the consciousness the Gypsies lack to the detachment they have attained, and together, they bring not disquietude but resignation, "not joy, but peace."


By 1853, Arnold had largely moved beyond his conversation with Wordsworth and begun an effort, not to intimate immortality, but to re-imagine it and the Gypsies altogether. Several significant events preceded Arnold's third and most well known Gypsy poem. George Borrow's Zincali appeared in 1841, between Arnold's "Resignation" walks of 1833 and 1843, the year a new edition of Borrow's book was published. In 1844, with these experiences and possibly Borrow's book behind him, (22) Arnold discovered Joseph Glanvill's The Vanity of Dogmatizing, part of his source material for "The Scholar-Gipsy." Borrow's Lavengro, tales of a modern-day Gypsy-Scholar, appeared in 1851. The following year, Arnold probably began composition of his first Oxford poem, both a seventeenth-century tale of a truant Oxford lad and a nineteenth-century account of a modern-day Romany Rai, attempting to penetrate Gypsy culture in order to reveal its secrets to the world.

Glanvill's and Arnold's Gypsy scholar is, of course, not an ethnic Gypsy. Not until the late nineteenth-century work of the Gypsiologists, however, did such a distinction become common. At the time of Arnold's poem, and even today, grouping together ethnic Gypsies and Gypsies by habit is not at all unusual. Arnold's choice of a hero is, nonetheless, significant in the evolution of this migrating metaphor. (23) The prescient Gypsy child is clearly racialized and stereotyped as a Gypsy, and the "Resignation" Gypsies are both racialized and historicized others. The Oxford truant, however, has become a Gypsy simply by choice. Those earlier Gypsies are also communal, the child with his mother and the "knot" of Gypsies in a tribal camp, yet C. B. Tinker and H. F. Lowry observe the Scholar-Gypsy's "un-gipsylike disinclination to associate with his own kind." (24) As Arnold struggles to manipulate the trope into a symbol of timelessness, immutability, and immortality, he must continually make the Gypsies less "gypsyish."

Tinker and Lowry note that the omissions in Arnold's Glanvill summary reduce the sense of the supernatural in the tale, "which is out of harmony with the pensive figure of the wandering scholar." (25) Harrison agrees about the effect of Arnold's omissions but sees a rhetorical purpose in them. He argues that, in a significant turn from "Resignation," Arnold now presents the Gypsy figure as "an ideal Other, the speaker's imaginary hero" because the poem's "subject is the attainment of power in the social world" (373, 379). Arnold abridged most severely, however, just that part of Glanvill's tale that Harrison argues most interested him. For example, Arnold leaves out the whole of the lad's demonstration of this power to his Oxford acquaintances. (26) Alternatively, I suggest that this Gypsy is not a radical turn from the "Resignation" Gypsies but becomes this "ideal Other" because, in him, Arnold has at last fused the characteristics of the Resignation-Gypsies with those of the Resignation-poet. (27) Arnold idealizes the Gypsy-Scholar not because of his ability to master the Gypsies' art "to rule as they desired / The workings of men's brains" but because of his ability to achieve detachment both from others and from time, achieving both the poetical and temporal ideals of the earlier poem (45-46). Other commentators who have noted the poem's meditation on time have done so while overlooking the role of the Gypsy himself in that meditation--a role available to the wanderer specifically because he has "become" a Gypsy. (28)

"The Scholar-Gipsy" is most easily examined in the order of its five sections: the three-stanza natural descriptions of the introduction; the ten-stanza vision of the Scholar-Gypsy; the one-stanza dismissal of that vision; the nine-stanza re-framing of the vision; and the two-stanza coda of the Tyrian trader. The poem begins with the speaker's pastoral description. In these lines, though, as he describes the surrounding hills, he reveals much, too, about himself. He begins the poem as a poetic idler: the world goes on about him, while he lies in the grass with "Glanvil's book" (31). He lies in his Bower of Bliss (29), watching and listening to the shepherd and reapers in the Cumnor countryside, and he approves of their labor. Their labor, however, is not for him. He tells the shepherd, "Go, for they call you, shepherd from the hill; / Go, shepherd, and untie the wattled cotes!" (1-2). Two stanzas later, though, in Keatsian echoes, he tells the shepherd, "Screen'd is this nook o'er the high, half-reap'd field, / And here till sun-down, shepherd! will I be" (21-22). (29) While the shepherd and reapers work, the speaker will idle the day away. His idleness is possible only because, unlike the Wordsworthian speaker of "Gipsies," he feels no need to use the day. Unlike these laborers, he can lie here seemingly free from time as he dreams of an Oxford student who lived two centuries earlier.

This idleness allows the speaker to achieve an important characteristic: detachment. While the work of the world goes on, he is able to observe and meditate upon it. His pose strikingly echoes that of the "Resignation" poet, who leans upon the gate, "scan[ning] / Not his own course, but that of man" (146-47). The "Resignation" poet, like the speaker in "The Scholar-Gipsy," can see the world's tides flow "from some high station," and he
   Exults--yet for no moment's space
   Envies the all-regarded place.
   Beautiful eyes meet his--and he
   Bears to admire uncravingly.


The Oxford poem's speaker, like this ideal poet, achieves near-mystical detachment, admires the work of the world, but feels uncompelled to join it.

At this point, in the fourth stanza, the speaker slips into his present-tense vision of the scholar. The Gypsy-Scholar of the next ten stanzas is not unlike the speaker in the first three. He is so firmly fixed in the present that he is even more of a poetic idler than the speaker. Words and phrases that reflect the Scholar-Gypsy's idleness are many, but the most telling phrase in this section comes in the twelfth stanza: the lad is "waiting for the spark from heaven to fall" (120). In Glanvill's version of the tale, the scholar has a purpose, is actively pursuing a goal. He wishes to discover the secrets of Gypsy lore and to return to civilization with what he has learned. Here, though, the Gypsy is simply "waiting." Indeed, he has been waiting for two hundred years and still idles about the countryside in the present, detached not only from civilization but also from other Gypsies. Together, then, the immortal lad and the speaker are idly detached kin.

Having detached himself and the Gypsy from their peers, established them both as poetic idlers, identified himself with the lad, and dreamt of a present immortality, the speaker creates an ideal, albeit fictive, existence for himself and his wandering friend. Nord argues that, unlike in "Resignation," Arnold, here, "has no difficulty in representing his Gypsy figure as an explicit ideal" (60), but in fact, he has a great deal of difficulty as, in the fourteenth stanza, he is startled to consciousness by the awareness that his vision of the Scholar-Gypsy is just that--a vision. He is forced to repudiate the possibility of the immortality he has imagined for the Oxford lad: "But what--I dream! Two hundred years are flown / Since first thy story ran through Oxford halls" (131-32). Indeed, he realizes, "Thou from earth art gone / Long since, and in some quiet churchyard laid" (136-37). The speaker realizes dramatically and jarringly the scholar is long since dead, long since succumbed to time. The shepherds and reapers of the world are the ones who are still alive, and from this point on, the speaker no longer identifies himself with the Gypsy. Instead, to find some answer to the problem of time, he must either distance himself from this too-mortal lad or find some way to salvage Gypsy immortality.

Rather than discard his emblem of timelessness, then, Arnold transforms it. In the very next stanza, Arnold makes his most important philosophical statement of the poem, one he makes often in his poems. Having admitted the Gypsy's physical death, the speaker realizes,
   No, no, thou hast not felt the lapse of hours!
      For what wears out the life of mortal men?
        'Tis that from change to change their being rolls;
      'Tis that repeated shocks, again, again,
      Exhaust the energy of strongest souls
        And numb the elastic powers.
      Till having used our nerves with bliss and teen,
        And tired upon a thousand schemes our wit,
        To the just-pausing Genius we remit
      Our worn-out life, and are--what we have been.


These are the enervating effects of time in "Growing Old," where to grow old is to "feel but half, and feebly, what we feel" (27). Similarly, in "Memorial Verses" and "Tristram and Iseult," sorrow and trials do not benumb us; "the gradual furnace of the world" does ("Tristram," 119). Free of the world and, therefore, free of change, the Scholar-Gipsy has escaped the Arnoldian fate the earlier Gypsy child dreads.

The Scholar-Gypsy has avoided this doom because his philosophical escape from time allows him also a philosophical immortality. Time becomes not the individual ticks of the clock but the manner in which people face and use their moments. Thus, time becomes not a physical reality but a psychological perception. How one faces time determines the degree to which one is victimized by it. The Gypsy escapes society and its perceptions, thereby escaping a life laid waste or even a death brought on by time: "Thou hast not lived, why should'st thou perish, so?" (151). Dr. Arnold said, while Matt was at Rugby, "'He does not like being alone.... He flitters about from flower to flower, but is not apt to fix." (30) The speaker tells the Scholar-Gypsy, however, "Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire; / Else wert thou long since number'd with the dead! / Else hadst thou spent, like other men, thy fire!" (152-54). Unlike young Matt, the Gypsy is "apt to fix." Despite his physical death, his fixity of purpose prevents his being "number'd with the dead." His contemporaries are dead, eventually to be followed by the speaker, the shepherd, and the reaper. As for the Gypsy, however, "Thou possessest an immortal lot, / And we imagine thee exempt from age / And living as thou liv'st on Glanvil's page" (157-59).

Furthermore, for the rest of the poem, neither the Scholar-Gypsy nor the speaker idles. The speaker goes from lying in the grass, dreaming of the Gypsy, to joining the workers as a part of the world. He tells the scholar of "this strange disease of modern life, / With its sick hurry, its divided aims, / Its heads o'ertax'd, its palsied hearts," and encourages the Gypsy, "Fly hence, our contact fear!" (203-5, 206). Of course, the work of the world is ineffectual: we, the speaker says, "lose to-morrow the ground won to-day" (179). Even so, that ground is still won today; the speaker and the world are not idle. We are, however, unavailing, unfocused, and purposeless in our efforts, we "who fluctuate idly without term or scope, / Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives" (167-68).

In contrast, the Scholar-Gypsy no longer idles away 200-year stretches of time, waiting for the spark from heaven, for his idle waiting has become an active passivity, as the speaker sees him "nursing thy project in unclouded joy, / And every doubt long blown by time away" (199-200). Reimagining the Gypsy's use of time, the speaker sees now the Gypsy's waiting has become goal-oriented. He is now certain, focused, purposeful, effective. Dwight Culler describes this transformation aptly: the idler now acts "as if he knew exactly where that spark from heaven was and was going straight for it!" (31) The Scholar-Gypsy no longer simply waits; he now quests, albeit passively. (32) In a pointedly effective reversal of Wordsworth's 1807 poem, therefore, it is Arnold's Gypsy who has a clear goal and the world that has no aim, no purpose, no "goings on." Indeed, while Wordsworth chastises his 1807 Gypsies for idle purposelessness, Arnold's Scholar-Gypsy out-Wordsworths the elder poet in his active, "wise passiveness" ("Expostulation and Reply," 24).

While the speaker's turn from idleness leads to a loss of detachment as he returns to the active world only to suffer its ineffectiveness, the Gypsy's shift from idleness leads to even greater detachment. He is no longer identified at all with either nature or the speaker. Early in the poem, the speaker and the lad are detached together, isolated together; now, however, the Scholar-Gipsy must alone maintain that focused detachment necessary for timelessness. In fact, much of the remainder of the poem is composed of the speaker's warning the Gypsy, already unusually solitary, to steer clear of society altogether. Now, the speaker pleads for him no longer even to hang on gates, observing humanity from a distance, but, instead, to "fly our paths, our feverish contact fly!" (221). If he were exposed to the "infection" of the rest of humanity, "then thy glad perennial youth would fade, / Fade, and grow old at last, and die like ours" (222, 228-29). The Gypsy's detachment, then, becomes doubly important. His detachment is an effort to find the spark from heaven but is crucial also for his own survival. He is aloof both to achieve a timeless goal and to avoid a modern fate. If the earlier Gypsy child already knows Empedocles' despair, the Scholar-Gypsy is, as Allott observes, "a Callicles miraculously preserved from turning into an Empedocles." (33)

Roger Wilkenfeld argues that the wandering scholar is a poor model for Arnold's central argument about single-mindedness and transcendence. According to Wilkenfeld, Arnold must perform an imaginative sleight of hand in order to make a long-dead lad immortal: "the scholar has to be argued into immortality." (34) Risking, however, what might be considered semantic hair-splitting, I argue that, through the imagination, Arnold does not transform the Gypsy lad so much as he transforms the nature of immortality itself. In this poem, Arnold redefines what it is to transcend time, securing, in the process, that transcendence for the wanderer and, at the same time, making it theoretically available even to himself. As I have said, Arnold abridges the Glanvill material that emphasizes the power to "bind anothers" imagination. What he retains instead is the power of the imagination, for in Glanvill the lad's tale lies within a discussion of Cartesian philosophy and the nature of Impossibilities and Probabilities. Glanvill asserts that the Gypsy-lore the lad acquires "will be reckon'd in the first rank of Impossibles: Yet by the power of advanc'd Imagination it may very probably be effected." (35) Similarly, while the Scholar-Gipsy's immortality is not possible, Arnold has made it, through the power of the imagination, perfectly probable.

Arnold, then, redefines the concept of immortality, making it no longer physical but psychological and philosophical. Compelled to admit that, physically at least, the Iad is "in some quiet churchyard laid," Arnold must seek an alternative for his 1853 Gypsy, so Arnold reclaims him as an ideal other, a living touchstone for detachment, wholeness, focus, and temporal transcendence (137). The lad becomes more than just a dream for the speaker: he is now a living representative of the permanence Arnold seeks.


Eight years after Arnold published "The Scholar-Gipsy," a jarring event led him to revisit his ageless Cumnor wanderer. In the autumn of 1861, Arthur Hugh Clough died suddenly in Florence. At first, Arnold found it difficult to find what he ought to say on Clough (Letters, 2:101-2). He looked forward to the following Easter, when he would visit Oxford, "and there, among the Cumner hills where we have so often rambled, I shall be able to think him over as I could wish. Here, all impressions are half impressions, and every thought is interrupted" (Letters, 2:121). Seemingly, this visit finally suggested to Arnold what to say about Clough, for in his list of works to be composed in 1863, he wrote "Clough & the Cumner hill-side," and, in 1866, published "Thyrsis." (36) The poem, though, was not exactly what one might have expected in an elegy, and Arnold confessed, "One has the feeling, if one reads the poem as a memorial poem, that not enough is said about Clough in it" (Letters, 3:35). If one reads the poem, however, as an elegy not merely to Clough but also to their shared past in the Oxford countryside, to lost youth, then one could ask for little more in it, and once again, the Scholar-Gypsy appears as an answer to this anxiety. (37)

As Philip Drew argues, the temporal connection between "Scholar-Gipsy" and "Thyrsis" is so strong that the two read best as one long poem, a diptych, two movements of a single symphony, "'The-Scholar-Gipsy-and-Thyrsis.'" Although he further contends that this double poem focuses on melancholy aroused by temporal awareness, I argue that, as in "Scholar-Gipsy," Arnold does not simply describe his melancholy but employs the Gypsy also in an effort to answer the human dilemma of time. (38) While, in the first Cumnor poem, he imaginatively redefines immortality for the Gypsy scholar alone, in the second, he seeks a way to ensure that he, Clough, and the Gypsy can together transcend temporality. Nord claims that "the two poet friends replicate every aspect of the scholar that is heralded in the poem, except his immortality" (67), but in fact, replicating that immortality is precisely the imaginative goal of "Thyrsis."

From the first lines, the effects of time are the primary focus of "Thrysis": "How changed is here each spot man makes or fills! / In the two Hinkseys nothing keeps the same" (1-2). He emphasizes this change through the conventional Ubi Sunt stanza (121-40) and by recognizing that, although he remembers the country, the country no longer remembers him. The speaker grieves that mutability and mortality have removed Thyrsis and his song from the world. Arnold asserts that Clough lost both youth and life because he left Oxford for social duty (hardly, of course, the full story), when "his piping took a troubled sound / Of storms that rage outside our happy ground" (48-49). Once outside that "happy ground," he will never return, "for Time, not Corydon, hath conquer'd thee!" (77, 79). Thyrsis has failed, but his failure is not as a poet but as a time-bound mortal. Arnold must find a way for Clough to conquer not his poetic rivals but time itself; he creates, therefore, a sort of family romance in which, in order to keep Father Time as the sole adversary, he must absolve his brother Clough of any other failings.

While Time has conquered Thyrsis, it conquers Corydon as well. It has deprived the speaker, too, of his song and his detachment, driving him from Oxford against his will: he mourns, "My pipe is lost, my shepherd's holiday," as he must "with heavy heart / Into the world and wave of men depart" (36, 38-39). Although Clough left Oxford by choice, the same fate, the same effect of time that took Clough awaits Arnold, whether he wills it or not. Again echoing "Growing Old," Arnold feels night's "slowly chilling breath invade / The cheek grown thin, the brown hair sprent with grey" and grieves "the foot less prompt to meet the morning dew, / The heart less bounding at emotion new, / And hope, once crush'd, less quick to spring again" (134-35, 138-40). These are the complaints of one who dreads the passing of time, not, like the Gypsy Child, for what it brings but for what it takes away. Time takes away the ability to feel, to hope, to rebound in the face of life's adversities, for now, "long the way appears, which seem'd so short / To the less practised eye of sanguine youth" (141-42). Now, "the mountain-tops where is the throne of Truth" are higher than they seemed in youth, and his strivings seem vain (144). As in so many of Arnold's poems, action is ineffective, as "strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows" (148).

The changes in the poem's first two lines, however, have been effected by time-bound humans, not nature. A crucial question to which the entire poem seeks an answer comes just a few lines later: "Are ye too changed, ye hills?" (6). In his grief, the speaker has returned to "the old haunt," hoping for the consolation of immutability, the assurance in the Cumnor hills that at least some form of invulnerability to time exists (103). Here, untouched by humans, nature seems untouched also by time. Even in aged winter, the speaker notes "the youthful Thames" (15). Like the banks of the Wye to the speaker of "Tintern Abbey," Oxfordshire has not changed; the speaker has. He cannot find his way because "some loss of habit's power / Befalls me wandering through this upland dim" (22-23).

This disorientation allows for the speaker's primary quest--to find "the signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs" (14). Just as the Scholar-Gypsy was the central emblem of permanence in the earlier Oxford poem, the signal elm is the center of this one, again a symbol of invulnerability to time. This important tree "crowns / The hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames" (12-13). As timeless Gypsies are from the ancient East, the signal elm is "against the west" (27), the lost youth the speaker is attempting to revisit. When he realizes that, unlike the Sicilian shepherds, he cannot convince Proserpine with his song to release Thyrsis, he begs, "Well! wind-dispersed and vain the words will be, / Yet, Thyrsis, let me give my grief its hour / In the old haunt, and find our tree-topp'd hill!" (101-3). As Allott notices, this urgent quest is "a repetition of the scholar-gipsy's quest" in the earlier poem (26-30n). This search is for Truth, a truth capitalized by its immutability.

The tree, though, does not signal permanence by itself. It needs the Gypsy, whose survival is inextricably tied up in the signal elm's: "We prized it dearly; while it stood, we said, / Our friend, the GipsyScholar, was not dead; / While the tree lived, he in these fields lived on" (28-30). When the speaker realizes that the signal elm yet stands, he knows that the Scholar-Gypsy still roams. Finding the tree is a "happy omen" that the Scholar-Gypsy lives and that victory over time is possible (166). He has secured immortality for the wandering lad, albeit a vulnerable one given its reliance on the persistence of the tree. Now, then, he must attend to Clough and himself.

As in the earlier Oxford poem, this ecstasy is sobered by reality, a reality, in turn, transformed again to allow a modified immortality. The elm tree stands, but Clough is dead. As when the 1853 dreamer realizes that the Scholar-Gypsy has long since died, the speaker now understands:
   Hear it, O Thyrsis, still our tree is there!--
    Ah, vain! These English fields, this upland dim,
     These brambles pale with mist engarlanded,
    That lone, sky-pointing tree, are not for him.


With Clough dead, perhaps the tree does not signify the possibility of Arnold's hopes. This realization, though, as with that about the Gypsy lad, is followed immediately by a creative concession that allows Clough to go on: "To a boon southern country he is fled, / And now in happier air, / Wandering with the great Mother's train divine" (175-77). Like the Scholar-Gypsy, Thyrsis has attained a philosophical and psychological immortality since a physical one is impossible. "Wandering" (like the Gypsy) with Demeter, he now hears the victory song of Daphnis who, with Hercules, defeated Lityerses, the champion corn-reaper (184-85). With its conventional autumnal and harvest associations, this is a victory over the age and death of the year, the assurance of an autumn without Keats's "gathering swallows." Clough now resides in a place where winter never comes.

Having situated Clough in this modified immutability and acknowledged that "round me too the night / In ever-nearing circle weaves her shade," Arnold now has to find a way to achieve immunity to time himself (131-32). He cannot enjoy Clough's "boon southern country," so he looks again to the Scholar-Gypsy. In the very next stanza after describing the effects of time in his own life, while still seeking the tree, the speaker takes a significantly different tone, one nearly identical, in fact, to the tone with which the speaker warns the Oxford truant in the earlier poem. Here, though, he warns himself, not the Gypsy:
      Quick! let me fly, and cross
   Into yon farther field!--'Tis done; and see,
     Back'd by the sunset, which doth glorify
     The orange and pale violet evening-sky,
   Bare on its lonely ridge, the Tree! the Tree!


As he urged the Gypsy to do in 1853, only after fleeing contact with the world does the speaker achieve the detachment necessary to escape time, and the "omen" for his success is that he finally sees the signal elm. He declares to Thyrsis that he will "not despair," for as long as he sees "that lonely tree against the western sky. / Still, still these slopes, 'tis clear, / Our Gipsy-Scholar haunts, outliving thee!" (192, 195-97). The Scholar-Gypsy's immortality restores the speaker's hope that had become, with age, "less quick to spring again" (140).

The hope, however, is not simply that the Gypsy has achieved timelessness but that the speaker can, too, a hope to which he returns: after securing Thyrsis's immortality, all parts of the countryside "know him a wanderer still; then why not me?" (200). The question's grammatical ambiguity allows the speaker to be subject or object of "know." He may, like the fields and woods, "know [the Gypsy] a wanderer," yet his discovery of the signal-elm has already fulfilled that desire. On the other hand, he can hope to be known, like the Gypsy, as a wanderer himself. The speaker can hope this temporal invulnerability is available to him because he, too, has left the world to join in the quest. No waiting or idling for this speaker--the active seeking that evolves in "Scholar-Gipsy" marks the whole of "Thyrsis." He first seeks the tree, and finding it reminds him that he seeks also the spark from heaven: "A fugitive and gracious light he seeks, / Shy to illumine; and I seek it too" (201-2). Arnold has shorn his wanderer, however, of his last trace of the Gypsy: in "Thyrsis," no mention of learning "the gipsy-lore" ("Scholar-Gipsy," 37), only the continuing quest. The search itself, not one's "gypsiness," provides the desired immunity to time (206-10). As in "Scholar-Gipsy," detachment and single-mindedness are the keys to immortality.

In the final stanzas of the poem, having finally and imaginatively achieved his own immunity to the effects of time, Arnold re-visits Clough's. He has established Clough's immortality achieved through death. Now, though, he returns to buttress that permanence, for Clough's is not only the immortality of the dead imagined in other elegies but also that of the Scholar-Gypsy, singularly achieved through the same purposeful quest. Thyrsis "on like quest wast bound," and "men gave thee nothing; but this happy quest, / If men esteem'd thee feeble, gave thee power, / If men procured thee trouble, gave thee rest" (211, 213-15). Like Arnold and the Scholar-Gypsy, Clough was also on the quest for Truth; he left Oxford, though, too soon, and his song "learnt a stormy note / Of men contention-tost, of men who groan" (223-24). Finally, Clough "was mute" (226). Nevertheless, that Clough was on the same quest for the "spark from heaven" redeems any of his failings--in Oxford and abroad, in poetry or in social action. This quest secures his place with the Scholar-Gypsy. Because Clough had once been on the true quest, the Arnoldian speaker argues for him a similar detachment:
   Yet hadst thou alway visions of our light,
      And long with men of care thou couldst not stay,
      And soon thy foot resumed its wandering way,
   Left human haunt, and on alone till night.


According to the speaker, Clough left the Cumnor hills for social duty, but he later left the world, in turn, to wander again like the Gypsy, achieving detachment at last. In the end, though, Clough becomes for Arnold not simply a fellow achiever of immutability but also a second Scholar-Gypsy, for Clough becomes a voice of inspiration and hope, reminding Arnold of the signal-elm and Gypsy lad and urging him on his quest so that Arnold may keep his hard-earned immortality. Exiled now to "city-noise," the speaker begs,
   --Then through tile great town's harsh, heart-wearying roar,
   Let in thy voice a whisper often come,
      To chase fatigue and fear:
   Why faintest thou? I wander'd till I died.
      Roam on! The light we sought is shining still.
      Dost thou ask proof? Our tree yet crowns the hill,
   Our Scholar travels yet the loved hill-side.

   (232, 234-40)

By thus transforming the definition of immortality and changing temporal law from physical to philosophical and psychological, as in "The Scholar-Gipsy," Arnold secures permanence for the Scholar-Gypsy and Clough, creating through them an immutability of his own.


Throughout his life, as many have noted, Arnold was anxious about the effects of time, concerned about clocks and calendars that marked his own youth's passing and old age and death's approaching rapidly. For this reason, Arnold clings to a central emblem for the possibility of escaping time, finding it in the Gypsies, one of the most discussed topics of the nineteenth century. In Arnold's four Gypsy poems, the Gypsy, a sort of wandering signifier, represents a continually evolving image of timelessness, one that early belies Arnold's anxiety and one he later learns to manipulate in order to assuage his fears. In "To a Gipsy Child by the Sea-Shore," the child shares the melancholy of Wordsworth's "Intimations" babe, but the little Gypsy seer's pain comes not from memory but from foreknowledge of the suffering caused by time. He knows the future, and it brings only sorrow. He may find brief respite in forgetfulness, but he cannot utterly escape it. In "Resignation," unlike the child, the Gypsies possess no special knowledge; quite the contrary, they are unreflective altogether, not considering time's passing at all. Arnold strips them of the popular stereotype of Gypsy mysticism and prescience and imbues them, instead, with their opposite: a certain insensibility and unawareness as a race. Thus, they escape the suffering and "disquietude" the Gypsy child feels. They do not consider the "signs," though they "might," thereby achieving "not joy, but peace." In "The Scholar-Gipsy," on the other hand, the Gypsy finally achieves, like the ideal poet, both the special knowledge of the Gypsy child and the detachment of the Gypsy band in "Resignation." The Scholar-Gypsy has detached himself physically and philosophically first from society and then from other Gypsies themselves. In this way, he achieves a sort of untainted immortality unavailable to the "Resignation" Gypsies. Finally, in "Thyrsis," Arnold uses the Scholar-Gypsy once again, finding him still alive through the existence of the signal tree and securing through him a means to immortality for both himself and Clough, an immortality that absolves Clough of both his poetic and mortal failings.

Discussing "Resignation," Deborah Nord suggests that Arnold uses his repeated walk "to contemplate the painfulness of time's passage and the human habit of circling back to former places of being" (57). One must look, however, not only at that poem, but also at his whole four-poem Gypsy cycle to appreciate the philosophical scope of this journey. For seventeen years, nearly the length of his poetic career, like the Gypsies' own recursive migrations, Matthew Arnold returned to the Gypsies again and again in order to consider the problem of time. Elsewhere, he considers time-wrought loss and melancholy, but here he seeks actively for an answer, for a solution. This race of Gypsies with cultural history that was little understood recommended itself to Arnold as a much needed emblem of the possibility of escape from "vicissitude and need." Initially, the Gypsy in stereotype reminds him only of the painfulness of time; the "Resignation" Gypsies, sheared of the stereotype yet still bound to material historical realities, begin just to suggest the possibility of not escaping time but escaping at least its attendant disease. In the Cumnor poems, however, Arnold finally begins to imagine the Gypsies as a way out of time, as the only ones who know where to find the fountain of youth. He ultimately seeks to join his Gypsies outside of time. The sort of timelessness he can achieve, though, comes only when he shears away from the trope ali hints of "gypsiness"--prescience, racialized alterity, political realities, tribalism, and "gipsy-lore." Finally, Arnold is left, not with "real" Gypsies but with an idealized, Anglicized, ephemeral dream, leaving him with only an imaginative and philosophical immortality, the cost of reimagining Gypsies as a people who never existed.

University of Georgia


(1) For examinations of the "Gypsy Problem" in the century, see David Mayall, Gypsy-Travellers in Nineteenth-Century Society (Cambridge U. Press, 1988) and Gypsy Identities, 1500-2000: From Egipcyans and Moon-men to the Ethnic Romany (London: Routledge, 2004); George K. Behlmer, "The Gypsy Problem in Victorian England," Victorian Studies 28 (1985): 231-53; Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, Gypsies of Britain: An Introduction to Their History (London: Chapman & Hall, 1944); Thomas Acton, Gypsy Politics and Social Change: The Development of Ethnic Ideology and Pressure Politics among British Gypsies from Victorian Reformism to Romany Nationalism (Boston: Routledge & Paul, 1974).

(2) Antony Harrison, "Matthew Arnold's Gipsies: Intertextuality and the New Historicism," Victorian Poetry 29 (1991): 366, 379, 369; hereafter cited parenmeticany in the text.

(3) Deborah Epstein Nord, Gypsies and the British Imagination, 1807-1930 (Columbia U. Press, 2006), 45. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(4) Harrison, "Matthew Arnold's Gipsies," 366; Eugene Lee-Hamilton, The Fountain of Youth: A Fantastic Tragedy in Five Acts (London, 1891).

(5) Philip Drew, "Matthew Arnold and the Passage of Time: A Study of The Scholar-Gipsy and Thyrsis," The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations, ed. Isobel Armstrong (Lincoln: U. of Nebraska Press, 1969), 222-23 n8.

(6) Katie Trumpener, "The Time of the Gypsies: A 'People without History' in the Narratives of the West," Identities, ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (U. of Chicago Press, 1995), 344.

(7) For Arnold's awareness of the times, see especially R. H. Super The Time-Spirit of Matthew Arnold (U. of Michigan Press, 1970). Nord's reading' is also focused primarily on the historical moment.

(8) Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge: MIT, 1985), xxii.

(9) Park Honan, Matthew Arnold: A Life (Harvard U. Press, 1981), 130.

(10) Matthew Arnold, The Letters of Matthew Arnold, ed. Cecil Y. Lang, 6 vols. (U. of Virginia Press, 1996-2001), 1:252. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(11) Matthew Arnold, The Poems of Matthew Arnold, ed. Kenneth Allott, 2nd ed. Miriam Allott (London: Longman, 1979). References to Arnold's poems come from this edition, hereafter cited parenthetically by line number.

(12) Heinrich Moritz Gottlieb Grellmann, Dissertation on the Gipsies: Being an Historical Enquiry, Concerning the Manner of Life, Family CEconomy, Customs and Conditions of These People in Europe, and Their Orion, trans. Matthew Raper (London, 1787). John Hoyland, A Historical Survey of the Customs Habits, & Present State of the Gypsies (York, 1816).

(13) Arnold, Poems, 22.

(14) Arnold, Poems, 23.

(15) William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth, ed. Stephen Gill and Duncan Wu (Oxford U. Press, 1994), 63. All references to Wordsworth's poems come from this edition, hereafter cited parenthetically by line number.

(16) Arnold, Poems, 23. Harrison, "Matthew Arnold's Gipsies," 369.

(17) About this time, Arnold recommended the Bhagavad-Gita to Clough because "the Indians distinguish between meditation or absorption--and knowledge: and between abandoning practice, and abandoning the fruits of action and all respect thereto" (Letters, 1:89). Clough apparently preferred "the fruits of action," though, for Arnold was "disappointed the Oriental wisdom, God grant it were mine, pleased you not" (Letters, 1:87).

(18) James M. Garrett, "The Unaccountable 'Knot' of Wordsworth's 'Gipsies,'" SEL 40 (2000): 605, points out that "the poet's encounter with the gypsies was anything but fortuitous for the reputation of either gypsies or Wordsworth." David Simpson, Wordsworth's Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement (New York: Methuen, 1987), 25, notes that critics have generally considered it "a terrible poem by a great poet" and "an embarrassment [that critics] might wish had not been written by Wordsworth." Simpson has argued convincingly that the poem reflects Wordsworthian anxieties about class, property, and the legitimacy of his own poetic occupation as productive labor.

(19) Simpson, Wordsworth's Historical Imagination, 39.

(20) Wordsworth's attitude toward the Gypsies is not unique in the century. Robert Knox, The Races of Men: A Fragment (London, 1850), 158-59, expresses similar resentment, exclaiming, "the gipsy has made up his mind, like the Jews, to do no work, but to live by the industry of others.... The gipsies as a race, and seemingly from instinctive feelings, have sworn as a race that they never will do any work whatever.... This is the gipsy--a race without a redeeming quality."

(21) U.C. Knoepflmacher, "Dover Revisited: The Wordsworthian Matrix in the Poetry of Matthew Arnold," Victorian Poetry 1 (1963): 19.

(22) As Allott notes, Arnold was familiar with Borrow. In "The Forsaken Merman," which appeared in the same volume as "To a Gipsy-Child," Arnold used the version of the legend found in Borrow's 1825 translation of.]. M. Tide's Danske Folkesagn (Poems, 101).

(23) Nord observes that Arnold is not the only one who has made a telling choice where the Scholar-Gypsy is concerned: "Traditional critics tend to think and write of the scholar-gypsy as 'the scholar,' while critics interested in Gypsies tend not to register the fact that the scholar-gypsy is not a Gypsy or, rather, not simply a Gypsy" (186 n48).

(24) C.B. Tinker and H. F. Lowry, The Poetry of Matthew Arnold: A Commentary (Oxford U. Press, 1940), 208.

(25) Tinker and Lowry, Poetry of Arnold, 207.

(26) Joseph Glanvill, The Vanity of Dogmatizing: The Three Versions, ed. Stephen Medcalf (Brighton: Harvester, 1970), 197-98.

(27) Nord, Gypsies and the British Imagination, 60, has recently made a similar observation.

(28) William Ulmer, "The Human Seasons: Arnold, Keats, and "The Scholar-Gipsy,'" Victorian Poetry 22 (1984): 247-62, does not consider the specifically Gypsy role in the poem, but his argument about time in the poem comes closest to my own. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (Oxford U. Press, 1973), 154, has argued "The Scholar-Gipsy" consists primarily of Keats's odes "crowding out poor Arnold." According to Ulmer, however, Arnold's wanderer begins as Bloom asserts, but "in the visionary hinge of the poem, Arnold kills off the scholar-gipsy as John Keats so as to resurrect him as Matthew Arnold" (255).

(29) Allott catalogues many such connections between the poem and Keats's odes, which are, of course, also concerned greatly with time (Poems, 357-59).

(30) Quoted in Honan, Arnold: A Life, 41.

(31) A. Dwight Culler, Imaginative Reason: The Poetry of Matthew Arnold (Westport: Greenwood, 1966), 188.

(32) David Eggenschwiler examines this "passive quester" and argues that the quest's focus matters less than "the quester's emotional state," which involves Arnoldian disinterestedness. "Arnold's Passive Questers," Victorian Poetry 5 (1967): 2.

(33) Arnold, Poems, 356.

(34) Roger B. Wilkenfeld, "The Argument of 'The Scholar-Gypsy,'" Victorian Poetry 7 (1969): 124.

(35) Glanvill, Vanity of Dogmatizing, 198, 195-96.

(36) Arnold did not cancel the 1863 title to indicate completion (Tinker and Lowry, Poetry of Arnold, 215). According to Allott, he probably wrote "Thyrsis" between 1864 and 1865, completing it by January 1866 and publishing it that April (Poems, 537).

(37) Arnold made this function explicit when, in 1867 and 1868, he added the Lucretian epigraph:
   Thus yesterday, to-day, to-morrow come,
   They hustle one another and they pass;
   But all our hustling morrows only make
   The smooth to-day of God.

   Although he dropped the epigraph from 1869 on, the lines draw
      attention not
   to Clough but to the centrality of Arnold's anxiety about time.

(38) Philip Drew, "Matthew Arnold and the Passage of Time: A Study of The Scholar-Gipsy and Thyrsis," The Major Victorian Poets: Reconsiderations, ed. Isobel Armstrong (Lincoln: U. of Nebraska Press, 1969), 205, 206, 211, 220, 218.
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Date:Jun 22, 2008
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