The Night City

By W. S. Graham 1918–1986
Unmet at Euston in a dream
Of London under Turner’s steam
Misting the iron gantries, I
Found myself running away
From Scotland into the golden city.
 
I ran down Gray’s Inn Road and ran
Till I was under a black bridge.
This was me at nineteen
Late at night arriving between
The buildings of the City of London.
 
And the I (O I have fallen down)
Fell in my dream beside the Bank
Of England’s wall to be, me
With my money belt of Northern ice.
I found Eliot and he said yes
 
And sprang into a Holmes cab.
Boswell passed me in the fog
Going to visit Whistler who
Was with John Donne who had just seen
Paul Potts shouting on Soho Green.
 
Midnight. I hear the moon
Light chiming on St Paul’s.
 
The City is empty. Night
Watchmen are drinking their tea,
 
The Fire had burnt out.
The Plague’s pits had closed
And gone into literature.
 
Between the big buildings
I sat like a flea crouched
In the stopped works of a watch.

W. S. Graham, “The Night City” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1980 by W. S. Graham. Reprinted by permission of The Estate of W.S. Graham.

Source: Selected Works (Ecco Press, 1980)

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Poet W. S. Graham 1918–1986

POET’S REGION Scotland

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

W. S. Graham was born to a working-class family in Scotland and grew up in Clydeside, where he worked as an engineer. He traveled to London and New York City, then returned to spend the rest of his adult life in Cornwall where his associates included many of the post-war British artists. Graham's first collection of poetry, Cage without Grievance, was published in 1942. It was followed by The Seven Journeys (1944), 2nd Poems . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION Scotland

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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