For whom each year we see
Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new ;
Who hesitates and falter life away,
And lose tomorrow the ground won today-
Ah, do not we, wanderor, await it too ?
This passage is taken from the poem The Scholar Gipsy, a pastoral elegy by Matthew Arnold. Here Arnold implies a graphic contrast between the unfailing ideal of the scholar gipsy and the unsteady mode of living of modern men and women.
Arnold looks upon the scholar gipsy’s ideal as inspired with a firm and fervent conviction. He goes to compare this ideal to the faithless, irresolute way or living of modern men and women. Those men and women have no firmness in faith, no conviction of purpose. Their faith is rather acquired casually from their birth and surroundings. As a result, they have no truly devoted feeling and strong willingness to do anything. Their thoughts and ideas are scarcely materialised and their weakness, material as well as spiritual, is revealed constantly. As a result, their endeavours hardly prove successful. They start new things only to get new disappointment. Their story of life is one of depression and despondency and they throw away their prospect of life. What they gain today would be totally lost on the very next day.
What Arnold wants to indicate here is that the scholar gipsy had a different mode of living and different ideal to pursue. So he could not certainly face the misery and despair of the modern age. The passage contains an implied comparison between what modern life is and what it ought to have been. This is a part of Arnold’s theory that poetry is at the bottom a criticism of life. Of course, Arnold’s pessimistic outlook is definitely clear here.
Also read; How far is Arnold’s dictum that poetry is a criticism of life found applicable to the poem ‘Dover Beach’