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The City of Dreadful Night

The City of Dreadful Night

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PROEM Lo, thus, as prostrate, "In the dust I writeMy heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears."Yet why evoke the spectres of black nightTo blot the sunshine of exultant years?Why disinter dead faith from mouldering hidden? 5Why break the seals of mute despair unbidden,And wail life's discords into careless ears?Because a cold rage seizes one at whilesTo show the bitter old and wrinkled truthStripped naked of all vesture that beguiles, 10False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth;Because it gives some sense of power and passionIn helpless innocence to try to fashionOur woe in living words howe'er uncouth.Surely I write not for the hopeful young, 15Or those who deem their happiness of worth,Or such as pasture and grow fat amongThe shows of life and feel nor doubt nor dearth,Or pious spirits with a God above themTo sanctify and glorify and love them, 20Or sages who foresee a heaven on earth.For none of these I write, and none of theseCould 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. 25If 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 wandererIn that same city of tremendous night, 30Will understand the speech and feel a stirOf fellowship in all-disastrous fight;"I suffer mute and lonely, yet anotherUplifts his voice to let me know a brotherTravels the same wild paths though out of sight." 35O sad Fraternity, do I unfoldYour dolorous mysteries shrouded from of yore?Nay, be assured; no secret can be toldTo any who divined it not before: 40None uninitiate by many a presageWill comprehend the language of the message,Although proclaimed aloud for evermore. IThe City is of Night; perchance of DeathBut certainly of Night; for never thereCan come the lucid morning's fragrant breathAfter the dewy dawning's cold grey air:The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity 5The 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 thoughtAnd deadly weariness of heart all day. 10But when a dream night after night is broughtThroughout a week, and such weeks few or manyRecur each year for several years, can anyDiscern that dream from real life in aught?For life is but a dream whose shapes return, 15Some frequently, some seldom, some by nightAnd some by day, some night and day: we learn,The while all change and many vanish quite,In their recurrence with recurrent changesA certain seeming order; where this ranges 20We 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 25For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges;Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges,Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn....