The Scholar-Gypsy

by Matthew Arnold
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Describe the scholar in the poem "The Scholar-Gypsy" as a spiritual person showing his thirst for the spiritual art of the gypsies.

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Matthew Arnold describes the scholar as a man of great ability, with "pregnant parts and quick inventive brain," but says that he grew "tired of knocking at preferment's door." In other words, the scholar had more aptitude and probably more taste for pure scholarship than for the political machinations which...

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Matthew Arnold describes the scholar as a man of great ability, with "pregnant parts and quick inventive brain," but says that he grew "tired of knocking at preferment's door." In other words, the scholar had more aptitude and probably more taste for pure scholarship than for the political machinations which might have been rewarded with a high position in the hierarchy of the university.

It is clear that the scholar does not lose his taste for learning and that he remains a scholar when he becomes a gypsy. He tells the two scholars he meets after his departure from Oxford that the gypsies,

His mates, had arts to rule as they desired
The workings of men's brains,
And they can bind them to what thoughts they will.
He says that he aims to master these arts himself and reveal them to the world, a difficult task requiring "heaven-sent moments for this skill." It is arguable whether or not this ambition is the disinterested scholarly pursuit of a spiritual goal. If he can learn and reveal the art of thought-control, this will presumably bring the scholar far more fame and fortune than a career at Oxford would have done. However, there are two important points which would suggest a less worldly, more spiritual approach. The first is that the scholar's intention is to reveal the secret rather than to use it for his own ends, which suggests that he wants to make a contribution to knowledge. The second point is that he never in fact does this, but appears later in the poem as a solitary, contemplative figure, seeking to lose himself in a rural idyll.
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