By A.E. Dyson
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Extra info for Between Two Worlds: Aspects of Literary Form
Perhaps it is what middleage always most wants to say to youth, in love. The scholar gipsy is not chiefly therefore a symbol for action; but his uselessness to the nineteenth century on the practical level is always underlined. His associations are all with magic and with the world before science; and as I have suggested, the choice of such a figure was made by the poet for specific ends. The gipsy is never seen in the poem by cultured men, or by the dons; he is seen only by shepherds, children, maids dancing at night, simple men bathing on a summer day, the housewife at work, and other unsophisticated observers.
Coverdale translation) The Lady now breaks into song, to the excellence and harmony of which Comus himself bears ecstatic witness. Can any mortal mixture of earth's mold Breath such divine enchanting ravishment? Sure something holy lodges in that breast, And with these raptures moves the vocal air To testify his hidden residence ... (11. 244-8) This is the tradition of evil's irreducible tribute to good evidenced (for instance) in Iago's words about Cassia, 'He hath a daily beauty in his life j That makes me ugly', and - of course in Satan's first tormented celebration of Adam and Eve (Paradise Lost IV 358-92).
When this is said, however, it must be added that the Wilson Knight interpretation is too subjective to pass without a challenge, especially since it turns on the view that the poet's wisdom, and the poem's, may be two different things. In theory, there is much truth in this; but it allows Mr Wilson Knight to attach his own wisdom to the poem rather too readily, and at the expense of 1 Review of English Studies (1955). BETWEEN TWO WORLDS Arnold's intentions as they actually colour his art. It seems clear to me, in fact, that Mr Wilson Knight misreads the poem; so this account can be placed, as an alternative, alongside his.