Take one stanza from the Scholar Gypsy and carefully explicate its meaning saying how you think the language and form (stanza shape) contribute to the stanza’s power and effect.
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The seventeenth stanza, lines 161-170, in Matthew Arnold’s Scholar Gypsy highlights the qualities of the Scholar Gypsy’s life, that those in Arnold’s times, and even our contemporary time, are without. These qualities of the Scholar Gypsy are accentuated through the use of the alliterative ‘f’ sound: ‘Fresh’ (162)… ‘Firm’ (163)… ‘Free’ (164). This draws the reader’s attention to the liberation of life that the Scholar Gypsy lives. He is ‘fresh’, untainted from society’s established values and demands. He is ‘Firm’, dedicated, decisive, in his ability to know, understand, and take action for what he wants and believes. He is also ‘free’ from the constraints and mechanical, monotonous duties of the everyday civilian. It is through the stanza’s structure that the responder is forced to stop and contemplate these things. The contrast between the long lines between lines of 161- 165, we are met with a shorter, exclamatory utterance in line 166: “O life unlike to ours!” This induced pause acts as a summative message, almost didactic, to urge the meaning of the poem. Here, Arnold reinforces that his life is markedly different to the one we lead. It is this contrasting short sentence that marks as a separator between the first and second halves on the stanza. In the first, we are presented with the Scholar Gypsy’s life. In the second Arnold illustrates how we live our life, and thus, in this transition, the audience is able to explicitly see the distinctions between our life and the Scholar Gypsies. Arnold illustrates the constancy of the life we lead: our continuous movement towards something. This ‘something’ is unknown, it is some sort of purpose in our life that may justify why we worked hard. He states: ‘Of whom each strives, nor knows for what he strives.’ Whilst we are offered two views in this stanza, there is an amalgamation between the two, achieved through the rhyming scheme. Arnold uses a strategic rhyming scheme of ABCBC ADEED that unites both the first and second halves of the stanza.
Matthew Arnold’s deliberate use of poetic devices allows for a powerful delivery of meaning. It is in the stanza form that his ideas of the Scholar Gypsy and the beauty of his life juxtaposed to our own that are firmly expressed.