Thyrsis

Thyrsis

Thyrsis is the title of a poem written by Matthew Arnold in December 1865 to commemorate his friend, the poet Arthur Hugh Clough, who had died in November 1861 aged only 42.

The character, Thyrsis, was a shepherd in Virgil's Seventh Eclogue, who lost a singing match against Corydon. The implication that Clough was a loser is hardly fair, given that he is thought by many to have been one of the greatest Nineteenth Century poets.

Arnold's decision to imitate a Latin pastoral is ironic in that Clough was best known for The Bothie, subtitled 'a long-vacation pastoral': a thoroughly modern poem which broke all the rules of classical pastoral poetry.

Arnold's poem is remembered above all for its lines describing the view of Oxford from Boars Hill: "And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,/ She needs not June for beauty's heightening". Portions of it also appear in An Oxford Elegy by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

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