The City of Dreadful Night


Some say that phantoms haunt those shadowy streets, And mingle freely there with sparse mankind;And tell of ancient woes and black defeats, And murmur mysteries in the grave enshrined:

But others think them visions of illusion, 5Or even men gone far in self-confusion;

No man there being wholly sane in mind.

And yet a man who raves, however mad, Who bares his heart and tells of his own fall, Reserves some inmost secret good or bad:10The phantoms have no reticence at all:

The nudity of flesh will blush though tameless The extreme nudity of bone grins shameless, The unsexed skeleton mocks shroud and pall.

I have seen phantoms there that were as men 15And men that were as phantoms flit and roam;Marked shapes that were not living to my ken, Caught breathings acrid as with Dead Sea foam:

The City rests for man so weird and awful, That his intrusion there might seem unlawful, 20And phantoms there may have their proper home.

Rudyard Kipling