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"The Scholar-Gipsy" and the Continuous Life of Victorian Poetry

"The Scholar-Gipsy" and the Continuous Life of Victorian Poetry JOHN P. FARRELL y title alludes to one of the most compelling volumes of poetry published in the last quarter century, Mark Strand's The Continuous Life (1990). Strand has in common with Matthew Arnold a fundamental preoccupation with the sheer presence and persistence of poetic discourse as a sign of the continuity of human culture even in periods where vertiginous change seems dominant. But trust in this continuity does not go unshaken in either poet. In Arnold's case--and also in Strand's--it is the very experience of shaken trust that seems to generate rehabilitated confidence in the poetic enterprise. The question I want to address in this essay is elementary: does Arnold's "The Scholar-Gipsy" constitute such a reaffirmation? Certainly, the critical commentary that has developed around the "The Scholar-Gipsy" sees the poem, at worst, as a defeat of the poetic spirit, or, at best, a deferral of its claims.1 These views seems to me to occlude much that is important in the poem and much that underscores its celebration of the continuous life of poetry. Though I do not mean to pursue any extended comparison of Arnold and Strand in the development of this essay there are some moments http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

"The Scholar-Gipsy" and the Continuous Life of Victorian Poetry

Victorian Poetry , Volume 43 (3) – Sep 11, 2005

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 West Virginia University.
ISSN
1530-7190
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Abstract

JOHN P. FARRELL y title alludes to one of the most compelling volumes of poetry published in the last quarter century, Mark Strand's The Continuous Life (1990). Strand has in common with Matthew Arnold a fundamental preoccupation with the sheer presence and persistence of poetic discourse as a sign of the continuity of human culture even in periods where vertiginous change seems dominant. But trust in this continuity does not go unshaken in either poet. In Arnold's case--and also in Strand's--it is the very experience of shaken trust that seems to generate rehabilitated confidence in the poetic enterprise. The question I want to address in this essay is elementary: does Arnold's "The Scholar-Gipsy" constitute such a reaffirmation? Certainly, the critical commentary that has developed around the "The Scholar-Gipsy" sees the poem, at worst, as a defeat of the poetic spirit, or, at best, a deferral of its claims.1 These views seems to me to occlude much that is important in the poem and much that underscores its celebration of the continuous life of poetry. Though I do not mean to pursue any extended comparison of Arnold and Strand in the development of this essay there are some moments

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Sep 11, 2005

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