The SFFaudio Podcast #486 –The City Of The End Of Things by Archibald Lampman; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the poem (5 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Prof. Eric S. Rabkin.
Talked about on today’s show:
Jesse goes crazy, this guy’s amazing!, unheard of, earlier and later weird poetry, Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot, the poems of Clark Ashton Smith, child prodigy out of California writes amazing poetry!, Hamilton, poetry without music isn’t mainstream anymore, rhyme and verbal invention, evolutionarily pro-adaptive, mate-getting and gene replication, fashion, Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy, Sir Walter Scott, immoral novels, flat-chested sexy women, enormously mammary sexy women, almost perfect rhyme and rhythm, doggerel, Alexander Pope, the Canadian Keats, romantic poetry, William Wordsworth, Archibald Lampman on twitter: @alampman, H.P. Lovecraft, almost Lovecraftian, cosmicism, a dream poem, A Thunderstorm, multi-valent meaning, depths, circles, 1894, multiple ways to understand,
BESIDE the pounding cataracts
Of midnight streams unknown to us,
’T is builded in the dismal tracts
And valleys huge of Tartarus.
Lurid and lofty and vast it seems;
It hath no rounded name that rings,
But I have heard it called in dreams
The City of the End of Things.
Its roofs and iron towers have grown
None knoweth how high within the night,
But in its murky streets far down
A flaming terrible and bright
Shakes all the stalking shadows there,
Across the walls, across the floors,
And shifts upon the upper air
From out a thousand furnace doors;
And all the while an awful sound
Keeps roaring on continually,
And crashes in the ceaseless round
Of a gigantic harmony.
Through its grim depths reëchoing,
And all its weary height of walls,
With measured roar and iron ring,
The inhuman music lifts and falls.
Where no thing rests and no man is,
And only fire and night hold sway,
The beat, the thunder, and the hiss
Cease not, and change not, night nor day.
lurid night, end of days, a Dying Earth story, an automated factory, a city at the end of time, post humanity, the end of things we have made, at the end of the concept of things (manufacture and industry), bursting with different ways of looking, a Canadian Shelley, “hail to thee blithe spirit”, Ozymandias, the works of man, creation, what does the first “of” mean, the telos of things, removing humanity, leafless vs. dismal, sonorous description, murky, flaming, what does this presage?, “wandering lonely as a cloud”, the creations of man persisting, leafless tracts, lands with no leaves, books without pages, making decisions, this is a fantasy or this is a science fiction, dreams as vision, genre distinctions, Edgar Allan Poe, Dreamland, “bottomless vales”, pastoral Gothic bound in human emotion, looking forward, shadows echoes, rings and rounded, the end of a cycle, a nadir, the end of a phase, the poem is the city, the poem becomes the city, “unknown to us”, fore and aft in time, adjective vs. adverb, multiple meanings, once we “see”, a derivative meaning of cataracts, waterfall, extraordinary! extraordinary!, referring to himself, putting in vs. allowing in, this city has no name, it hath no rounded name, “Megacity 422”, a sense of gears turning, verticality and depth, this could be a clock (except for all the fire), foundry factory, uninhabitable, seeing this as astronomy, the music of the spheres, an awful sound (full of awe for us), what is a rounded name? Bubbles, Radar, the fixed stars, wandering planets, the Earth, a sublunary place, in addition, none know it now, set in Hell, Tartarus, the “Titan Woods” in Dreamland, a place and a being, Chaos and Gaia, Hesiod, an area in Hades, defeated titans, imprisoned cyclopes, the Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron ages, the heat death of the universe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an absent sun, the end of the industrial world, philosophical depths, how is a height weary?, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the hell of the mechanized underworld, and the garden above (until the night comes),
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
sunlights and blossoms, a dream interrupted, a river ringing the city of the end of things is Omega,
And moving at unheard commands,
The abysses and vast fires between,
Flit figures that, with clanking hands,
Obey a hideous routine.
They are not flesh, they are not bone,
They see not with the human eye,
And from their iron lips is blown
A dreadful and monotonous cry.
And whoso of our mortal race
Should find that city unaware,
Lean Death would smite him face to face,
And blanch him with its venomed air;
Or, caught by the terrific spell,
Each thread of memory snapped and cut,
His soul would shrivel, and its shell
Go rattling like an empty nut.
It was not always so, but once,
In days that no man thinks upon,
Fair voices echoed from its stones,
The light above it leaped and shone.
Once there were multitudes of men
That built that city in their pride,
Until its might was made, and then
They withered, age by age, and died;
And now of that prodigious race
Three only in an iron tower,
Set like carved idols face to face,
Remain the masters of its power;
And at the city gate a fourth,
Gigantic and with dreadful eyes,
Sits looking toward the lightless north,
Beyond the reach of memories:
Fast-rooted to the lurid floor,
A bulk that never moves a jot,
In his pale body dwells no more
Or mind or soul,—an idiot!
ITS ROBOTS!, Hephaestus, automaton owls, iron lips, warehouses, dump truck, the garbage truck, automated sounds, metaphorizing the pieces of the machine, exquisite control of language, imabic tetrameter, that empty nut, a prelapsarian time, the mechanized is ultimately the problem, mysterious, people built this city, now they’re dead except for three, Jesse’s illustration, a nightmare vision, the controllers of the city?, a fourth, Dreams Of Yith by Duane W. Rimel and H.P. Lovecraft, The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson, the huge sentinel, an insane person (a nut case), vapid empty mindlessness, trapped in the iron tower, prisoners, The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul, the citizen who does not participate, the three and the one, we’ve done this to ourselves, human perfection as an oxymoron, mortal races, who did the setting?, an exclusion, the idiot remains,
But some time in the end those three
Shall perish and their hands be still,
And with the masters’ touch shall flee
Their incommunicable skill.
A stillness, absolute as death,
Along the slacking wheels shall lie,
And, flagging at a single breath,
The fires shall smoulder out and die.
The roar shall vanish at its height,
And over that tremendous town
The silence of eternal night
Shall gather close and settle down.
All its grim grandeur, tower and hall,
Shall be abandoned utterly,
And into rust and dust shall fall
From century to century.
Nor ever living thing shall grow,
Or trunk of tree or blade of grass;
No drop shall fall, no wind shall blow,
Nor sound of any foot shall pass.
Alone of its accurséd state
One thing the hand of Time shall spare,
For the grim Idiot at the gate
Is deathless and eternal there!
who is this grim idiot?, idiom, Time, Lean Death, playing VR games, are they the masters?, master’s, Voices Of Earth, the mechanism underneath everything, the physics underneath reality, if this is all metaphor…, emojis that look like you, emoticons, technology, part of the reason to have poetry: to communicate the incommunicable, “grim”, a haunting spirit, “the graveyard grims” giant spectral hounds that guarded cemeteries, the wheel, the Hell turns off, a science fiction poem, The Valley Of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe,
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless —
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye —
Over three lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: — from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: — from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
Reading, Short And Deep, But who Can Replace A Man? by Brian Aldiss, a missing piece of the puzzle from the dialogue of science fiction and fantasy, City Of The Titans, City At The Edge Of Forever by Harlan Ellison, an anthology of Victorian verse, The Atlantic Monthly, March 1894, the praise of Lampman as a nature poet, The City by Ray Bradbury, inimical to man, There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, Sara Teasdale’s There Will Come Soft Rains, WWI,
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
we are very dangerous for ourselves, a poet who should not be forgotten, the scholarship, so many layers, its marvelous, repeating words strategically, the theme being revealed, such a deep feeling for what it is that he’s about.