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Thomson, James B.V. - The City of Dreadful Night

Identifier

010836

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

An extract

A description of the experience

James Thomson – The City of Dreadful Night

The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning’s fragrant breath
After the dewy dawning’s cold grey air;
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity;
The sun has never visited that city
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair

A river girds the city west and south,
The main north channel of a broad lagoon,
Regurging with the salt tides from the mouth;
Waste marshes shine and glister to the moon
For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges;
Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges
Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn

Upon an easy slope it lies at large,
And scarcely overlaps the long curved crest
Which swells out two leagues from the river marge.
A trackless wilderness rolls north and west,
Savannahs, savage woods, enormous mountains,
Bleak uplands, black ravines with torrent fountains;
And eastward rolls the shipless sea’s unrest.

The city is not ruinous, although
Great ruins of an unremembered past
With others of a few short years ago
More sad, are found within its precinct vast,
The street lamps always burn; but scarce a casement
In house or palace front from roof to basement
Doth glow or gleam athwart the mirk air cast

The street lamps burn amidst the baleful glooms
Amidst the soundless solitude immense
Of ranged mansions dark and still as tombs.
The silence which benumbs or strains the sense
Fulfils with awe the soul’s despair unweeping
Myriads of habitants are ever sleeping,
Or dead, or fled from nameless pestilence

Although lamps burn along the silent streets
Even when moonlight silvers empty squares
The dark holds countless lanes and closed retreats;
But when the night its sphereless mantle wears
The open spaces yawn with gloom abysmal
The sombre mansions loom immense and dismal
The lanes are black as subterranean lairs.

The source of the experience

Thomson, James B.V.

Concepts, symbols and science items

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Cities

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References