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The City of Dreadful Night   By: (1834-1882)

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THE CITY OF DREADFUL NIGHT

By James Thomson

Per me si va nella citta dolente.

Dante

Poi di tanto adoprar, di tanti moti D'ogni celeste, ogni terrena cosa, Girando senza posa, Per tornar sempre la donde son mosse; Uso alcuno, alcun frutto Indovinar non so.

Sola nel mondo eterna, a cui si volve Ogni creata cosa, In te, morte, si posa Nostra ignuda natura; Lieta no, ma sicura Dell' antico dolor . . . Pero ch' esser beato Nega ai mortali e nega a' morti il fato.

Leopardi

PROEM

Lo, thus, as prostrate, "In the dust I write My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears." Yet why evoke the spectres of black night To blot the sunshine of exultant years? Why disinter dead faith from mouldering hidden? 5 Why break the seals of mute despair unbidden, And wail life's discords into careless ears?

Because a cold rage seizes one at whiles To show the bitter old and wrinkled truth Stripped naked of all vesture that beguiles, 10 False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth; Because it gives some sense of power and passion In helpless innocence to try to fashion Our woe in living words howe'er uncouth.

Surely I write not for the hopeful young, 15 Or those who deem their happiness of worth, Or such as pasture and grow fat among The shows of life and feel nor doubt nor dearth, Or pious spirits with a God above them To sanctify and glorify and love them, 20 Or sages who foresee a heaven on earth.

For none of these I write, and none of these Could read the writing if they deigned to try; So may they flourish in their due degrees, On our sweet earth and in their unplaced sky. 25 If any cares for the weak words here written, It must be some one desolate, Fate smitten, Whose faith and hopes are dead, and who would die.

Yes, here and there some weary wanderer In that same city of tremendous night, 30 Will understand the speech and feel a stir Of fellowship in all disastrous fight; "I suffer mute and lonely, yet another Uplifts his voice to let me know a brother Travels the same wild paths though out of sight." 35

O sad Fraternity, do I unfold Your dolorous mysteries shrouded from of yore? Nay, be assured; no secret can be told To any who divined it not before: 40 None uninitiate by many a presage Will comprehend the language of the message, Although proclaimed aloud for evermore.

I

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 5 The sun has never visited that city, For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.

Dissolveth like a dream of night away; Though present in distempered gloom of thought And deadly weariness of heart all day. 10 But when a dream night after night is brought Throughout a week, and such weeks few or many Recur each year for several years, can any Discern that dream from real life in aught?

For life is but a dream whose shapes return, 15 Some frequently, some seldom, some by night And some by day, some night and day: we learn, The while all change and many vanish quite, In their recurrence with recurrent changes A certain seeming order; where this ranges 20 We count things real; such is memory's might.

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 25 For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges; Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges, Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn... Continue reading book >>




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