Large format paper back for easy reading. A gothic epic. Decadence and horror in late 19th Century urban life from the ‘poet of doom’.
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I’m browsing Thomson’s work on internet sites, not this edition. He was a nineteenth century Scottish writer, a depressive alcoholic who has been compared with Poe. I read ‘The City of Dreadful Night’ from a Project Gutenberg portal. It’s an account of a Wasteland and a City (based, apparently, upon his time in London) imaged in a spectrum of darkness where shadows are forms in what may be termed ‘darkness visible’. Direct references to Dante and Durer’s Melancholia (which is the huge statue tha
The hours are heavy on him and the days;
The burden of the months he scarce can bear;
And often in his secret soul he prays 10
To sleep through barren periods unaware,
Arousing at some longed-for date of pleasure;
Which having passed and yielded him small treasure,
He would outsleep another term of care.
Yet in his marvellous fancy he must make 15
Quick wings for Time, and see it fly from us;
This Time which crawleth like a monstrous snake,
Wounded and slow and very venomous;
Which creeps blindwormlike round the earth and ocean,
Distilling poison at each painful motion, 20
And seems condemned to circle ever thus.
It’s my intention to buy the edition indicated here.
A year on, I bought a copy, and have read the poem several times. One thing I can say for certain is that it’s not forgettable. I have looked at a few reviews from over the years, and it seems to be generally regarded as just about making it into the ranks of minor poetry proper. Yes! There are judges out there who know what proper poetry is.
I have recently read Tom Leonard’s biography of Thomson, Places of the Mind which I am about to review. For better or for worse, I have now developed a keen interest in Thomson and the context of his own life’s journey through particular cultural histories, particularly relating to the rise of secularism, and changes in poetry and artistic visions.