The City Of Dreadful Night by James Thomson

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"The City Is Of Night"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: James Thomson, who died of alcoholism in a London hospital, had probably the most wretched life of any of the Victorian poets. After a miserable childhood, he became an army teacher–from which post he was dismissed in 1862–and came under the influence of Charles Brad-laugh, a professed atheist. Although he tried various employments in various places, London was the center of his unhappy life. Driven by insomnia and alcohol, he wandered the endless streets of the vast city at night, his disordered imagination peopling them with a phantasmagoria of horrors. He gives us a picture in a City of Despair, in what has been called the most utterly despairing poem in the English language. There is no happiness, no life, no hope; the terrible refrain clangs monotonously, "No hope could have no fear." The poem begins:

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.