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City of Dreadful Night

City of Dreadful Night

A vision of London as seen by an atheist poet and an anarchist artist.

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My Brother, my poor Brothers, it is thus;

This life itself holds nothing good for us,

But ends soon and nevermore can be;

And we knew nothing of it ere our birth,

And shall know nothing when consigned to earth:

I ponder these thoughts and they comfort me.

 

The City of Dreadful Night is a long poem by the Scottish poet James "B.V." Thomson, written between 1870 and 1873, and published in the National Reformer in 1874, then in 1880 in a book entitled The City of Dreadful Night and Other Poems.

Thomson, who sometimes used the pseudonym "Bysshe Vanolis" — in honour of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Novalis — was a thorough pessimist, suffering from lifelong melancholia and clinical depression, as well as a wanderlust that took him to Colorado and to Spain, among other places.

The City of Dreadful Night that gave its title to this poem, however, was made in the image of London. It is, however, a London transformed by the eye of a despairing atheist; the poet has lost his faith and found nothing but emptiness to replace it. The poem, despite its insistently bleak tone, won the praise ofGeorge Meredith, and also of George Saintsbury, who in his History of Nineteenth Century Literature wrote that "what saves Thomson is the perfection with which he expresses the negative and hopeless side of the sense of mystery ..."

The title was re-used as the title of short stories by Rudyard Kipling and O. Henry

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