This week in class we studied one great work of Matthew Arnold. His poem, “The Scholar Gypsy”, is quite a lengthy piece of reading. And like all poems, face value is not the true essence of the deeper meaning, but it takes a deeper analysis and personal interpretation to grasp what the poet may have intended to communicate. Today, I would like to discuss what this poem communicated to me from a face value perspective and what I believe is the deeper connection associated.
Within the first stanza, I read about a farm, I read about the shepherd attending his flock. Further along, I see images of this as his profession, “in this high field’s dark corner, where he leaves his coat, his basket, and his earthen cruse, and in the sun all morning binds the sheaves, there here, at noon, comes back his stores to use”. I initially thought this would be the centre of the poem, but it goes on to describe that this setting is from the perspective of a man sitting far from the farm, “here will I sit and wait”.
We are taught that every interpretation of a text is correct providing support your answer with research. My view of this poem is two perspectives on life: one being scattered, working non-stop and having a high amount of responsibility. This is the worker. The other perspective I see is the persona. The poet depicts the persona to be someone of observation, this is shown through the line “I’ll sit and wait”. Although there is this chaotic environment, he is able to emotionally and spiritually separate himself from this chaos of the working life through his physical separation; this is seen in stanza three,
Screen’d is this nook o’er the high, half-reap’d field,
And here till sun-down, shepherd! will I be.
Through the thick corn the scarlet poppies peep,
And round green roots and yellowing stalks I see
Pale pink convolvulus in tendrils creep;
And air-swept lindens yield
Their scent, and rustle down their perfumed showers
Of bloom on the bent grass where I am laid,
And bower me from the August sun with shade;
And the eye travels down to Oxford’s towers.
His physical separation from the chaos is symbolic of his internal separation.
This poem has shown me that there is something positive in every day life but it is our choice whether we see it or not. These two characters were not too far from each other yet were perceived to have perspectives of opposite ends.