Context: The poem is centered around just what its title suggests–a scholar who became a gypsy after being disillusioned with Oxford. This scholar began to learn how gypsies "had arts to rule as they desired/ the workings of men's brains." As time passed, the scholar's great mission in life became to learn this gypsy art completely and then "impart the art" to the world. The scholar-gypsy goes on to say that he must have "heaven-sent moments" to master this skill. Using this legend of the scholar-gypsy and his central mission, the poet Arnold contrasts the gypsy's life with the lives of most men. He says that modern men go first one direction then another, never really knowing what their goal is. And finally after wearing themselves out with their daily insignificant struggles, they wait with "close-lipp'd patience" for death. This in contrast with the scholar-gypsy who waits "for the spark from heaven" so he can carry out his great purpose in life.
. . . and we others pine,And wish the long unhappy dream would end,And waive all claim to bliss, and try to bear;With close-lipp'd patience for our only friend,Sad patience, too near neighbor to despair–But none has hope like thine!