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The Gipsy Girl -- Ralph Hodgson

       
(Poem #517) The Gipsy Girl
 "Come, try your skill, kind gentlemen,
 A penny for three tries!"
 Some threw and lost, some threw and won
 A ten-a-penny prize.

 She was a tawny gipsy girl,
 A girl of twenty years,
 I liked her for the lumps of gold
 That jingled from her ears;

 I liked the flaring yellow scarf
 Bound loose around her throat,
 I liked her showy purple gown
 And flashy velvet coat.

 A man came up, too loose of tongue,
 And said no good to her;
 She did not blush as Saxons do,
 Or turn upon the cur;

 She fawned and whined "Sweet gentleman,
 A penny for three tries!"
 - But oh, the den of wild things in
 The darkness of her eyes!
-- Ralph Hodgson
A vivid poem, dancing with life and colour, and enhanced by a simple
narrative style - Georgian poetry may have fallen into disfavour, but at its
best it produced some very good poems indeed, and today's is a fine example.
'Gipsy Girl' is a perceptive look at the Gypsy as coloured by popular
stereotypes - all the little details that stand out and mark her as the
exotic Outsider, one who 'did not blush as Saxons do', or indeed dress or
act as they did, or pursue a respectable occupation.

The shift in tone at the end is handled beautifully too - it made me shiver,
both for the unexpectedness and for the sheer power of the image. (And note
how, on a deeper level, it merely reinforces the perception of gypsies as
wild, and not quite human.)

Biography:

Hodgson, Ralph

b. Sept. 9, 1871, Yorkshire, Eng.
d. Nov. 3, 1962, Minerva, Ohio, U.S.

  poet noted for simple and mystical lyrics that express a love of nature
  and a concern for modern man's progressive alienation from it.

  While working as a journalist in London and later as the editor of Fry's
  Magazine, Hodgson belonged to the loosely connected group of poets known
  as the Georgians. After teaching English literature at Sendai University
  in Japan (1924-38), he emigrated to the United States, retiring to a small
  farm outside Minerva, Ohio. Most of Hodgson's works were written between
  1907 and 1917, a period that ushered in the modernist revolution in
  poetry, in which he took little part. He achieved fame as a poet with the
  publication of the frequently anthologized "The Bull" in 1913. His
  collections include The Last Blackbird and Other Lines (1907), Eve (1913),
  Poems (1917), The Skylark and Other Poems (1958), and Collected Poems
  (1961).

        -- EB

Links:

Here's a collection of Georgian poetry:
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/gp3_title.htm

and a note on the movement:
http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/printable/1/0,5722,37231,00.html

For a nice commentary on the poem, see
http://www.geocities.com/~bblair/990909.htm

-martin

6 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sadiri Ordinario said...

Comments on Ralph Hodgson's The Gypsy Girl

The poem is an account of the encounter of the
unconventional with commonplace. The gypsy girl symbolizes
the unconventional which is trying to get your attention if
not your resources based on luck or uncommon skill.

A gentleman (represented by the poet himself) is attracted to
her but not for what she does as for how she appears. To be
attractive, the unconventional has to be embellished perhaps
more so than the accepted fad of the day. She has to be
young (or new) and her choice of colors of yellow
and purple and flashy coats and scarf may border on the
unorthodox.

An imposing, ill-mannered man makes advances on her. If art
stood for this unconventionality and critics for the ill-mannered man,
perhaps the poet exalts the "coolness" of the artists trying to "sell"
their art, rather gain acceptance despite the rudeness of entrenched
critics. Yet behind this "coolness" he surmises are wild perhaps
vindictive thoughts "in the darkness of her eyes."

After all art is an expression of the artist's soul which is influenced
by the human condition which in turn is motivated by the gamut of
of human emotions.
---Sandi Ordinario

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