Analysis of Archibald Lampman's The City of the End of Things Essay

Analysis of Archibald Lampman's The City of the End of Things Essay

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Analysis of Archibald Lampman's The City of the End of Things

 
  Iron Towers. Terrible flames.  Inhuman music, rising and falling.  Grim depths and abysses, where only night holds sway and gruesome creatures crawl before their awesome Master.  Through these disturbing images, and a masterful adaptation of the sonnet structure, Archibald Lampman summons forth The City of the End of Things. 

      The nameless City he creates is a place of mechanical slavery and despair, where Nature cannot exist, and human life is forfeit.  The place is a veritable Hell; no, worse than a hell - it is Tartarus.  By evoking the name of this, the most feared of realms in classical Mythology, Lampman roots his poem, and thus his City and message, in Greek and Roman legend.  This is very important since, by wrapping the poem within a mythological narrative, it automatically begins to undermine any attempt to enforce Christian (and other) readings upon it.  It becomes important to understand exactly what is intended by the usage of 'Tartarus', and precisely how deeply it permeates the structure of the poem.

      Tartarus was not just another realm within the classical world - it was a land beyond Hades, beyond the Underworld, lying as far below hell as the Earth lay below Heaven; is was said that an anvil would fall for nine days before reaching it.  It was a land of exile, a prison for those who displeased the current ruling hierarchy of Gods and divine beings.  Uranus imprisoned his first children there; the Titans, having overthrown their father, threw the Cyclops into Tartarus - only to take their place once Zeus' rebellion disposed of the despotic giants.  It soon became a place of such fear that the mere threa...


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...in fact, seem insanely chaotic.  Our mindless support of self-centred political systems, of abuse of fellow human beings of different nationalities - it may well have appeared quite insane to him.  The poem, therefore, delivers a strong message of warning: we must develop a stronger awareness, a care of what is happening, lest we, the collective we - humanity, the 'Idiot', are left in the ruins of our effort, alone, forever.    

Works Cited

Grimal, Pierre.  "Tartarus"  The Dictionary of Classical Mythology.     New York: Blackwell, 1986.  p.443.

Lampman, A.  "The City of the End of Things."  Canadian Poetry:   From the Beginnings Through the First World War.  Ed. Gerson, C and Davies, G.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994.  259-262.

Tripp, Edward.  "Tartarus"  Crowll's Handbook of Classical Mythology.  New York: Crowell, 1970.  p.545.

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Analysis of Archibald Lampman's The City of the End of Things Essay

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