Between Two Worlds: Aspects of Literary Form by A.E. Dyson

By A.E. Dyson

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Extra resources for Between Two Worlds: Aspects of Literary Form

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Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse, ll. 85-go I The Scholar Gipsy is a far finer poem than Dr Leavis's assessment in The Common Pursuit (p. 30) suggests. The phrases used there, 'weak confusion' and 'intellectual debility', seem an insult to the poem we know. Confusion there may be, and even debility, but these Arnold shared by and large with his age. I shall not claim here that his work is as great as the other five to be dealt with, or that Victorian agnosticism could, by its nature, produce the highest art.

But the verse spoken by Comus is undoubtedly more immediately attractive than that of his intended victim; and the emotional nature of his appeals conditions this. We should remember also that it is easier for Milton to create an advocate of falsehood than an advocate of truth, easier to create Comus's frivolity than the Lady's 'high seriousness'. Comus and his crew are liars, like Satan after them, and can say practically anything that comes into their heads. As long as they have a practical aim in view, they can rationalise and defend it as freely as they wish.

Such 'qualities' he finds in the scholar gipsy himself, and on the strength of them is soon identifying the gipsy with Dionysian powers (as against the Apollonian Oxford of the poem), and with intuitive wisdom (as against the cold touch of analytical intellect). The gipsy has an essentially undergraduate wisdom, an 'eternal immaturity' - and this distinguishes him from the dons, whose greater knowledge has made it hard for them to retain 'wisdom'. The gipsy exemplifies 'the essence of true learning; the opening of the mind, the wonder, the intuition of fields unexplored.

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