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The Night City by W S Graham

December 31, 2019
by the gentle author

Inspired by W S Graham’s poem, I took a walk through the nocturnal city at the year’s end, following in the poet’s footsteps with my camera to create this photoessay


The Night City


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 then I (O I have fallen down)
Fell in my dream beside the Bank
Of England’s wall to bed, 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.


Unmet at Euston in a dream…

St Pancras Church

I ran down Gray’s Inn Road…

Calthorpe St

High Holborn

and ran till I was under a black bridge…

Boswell passed me in the fog…

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

I hear the moonlight chiming on St. Paul’s…

St Paul’s

Fell in my dream beside the Bank of England’s wall to bed…

Whalebone Court

…just seen Paul Potts shouting on Soho Green…

Poem copyright © The Estate of W S Graham

You may also like to take a look at

Wilfred Owen At Shadwell Stair

Richard Jefferies in the City

Isaac Rosenberg in Whitechapel

34 Responses leave one →
  1. December 31, 2019

    Beautiful eerie silvery shots – a London at peace with itself

  2. December 31, 2019

    For some the pleasure is still hidden
    Grays Inn, The Bank is seen only from a bus once ridden .
    The Gentle Author has a greater view in sight .
    London’s magic is shown by foot at night.
    Sant Paul’s and then heard on passing The Cheshire Cheese
    ” Gentleman Your last orders, please !”
    A ghostly voice reminds us , one and all
    The best’s to come when London’s night does fall
    And once again on this night we shall hear
    ” Wishing all of you, a very Happy New Year ! ”

  3. Wendy permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Thank you. This was a walk through
    My childhood.

  4. Milo Bell permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Happy new year to you, Sir.

  5. Leanne Teves permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Gorgeous!How I long for London. I sit in the U.S. and cry to want to be there. Even though the London of today is much different than the London of the 80’s when I first started coming there-it still has more historic buildings than major cities here have in their little finger. Your blog keeps me connected-but I can’t look all the time because I will cry. And sometimes that’s just not convenient.
    Happy New Year Gentle Author. Last time I was there was New Years ’16/’17. Fondness for the memory, and for you.

  6. December 31, 2019

    Excellent, thanks.

  7. December 31, 2019

    Love this one GA. Simmering with intrigue and shadows

  8. John Woodman permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Exceptional images – thank you so much. Blein vie noa – happy new year, in Manx.

  9. December 31, 2019

    A superb poem and great photographs.

    Wish you, GA and fellow readers the happiest of New Years.


  10. Claire permalink
    December 31, 2019

    A great new poem for me, and wonderfully evocative pictures to complement, thank you GA. Best wishes for the year to come.

  11. murray batley permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Nifty pics

  12. Robert permalink
    December 31, 2019

    The city at night is certainly a mysterious place. Full of shadows and silent people shuffling around for work and home.

  13. December 31, 2019

    I really love this poem and quite understand how one could be moved to capture it in photography – a medium that can be mysterious and can equally merge the past and the present, night and day and all the inbetweeny bits.

  14. December 31, 2019

    thank you ! I’ve always loved this poem (WSG also). Especially the final three lines

  15. December 31, 2019

    I loved that. Exactly how London feels to me too. Happy New Year.

  16. Jennifer Blain permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Gentle author, you have excelled yourself. Thank you, and a Happy New Year

  17. December 31, 2019

    Thank you for ALL the journeys you have taken us over the past year — and since we are your insatiable Readers, we look forward to more and more. And more.
    Naturally, I loved visiting the destinations above (saturated in their cyan tones) but for some reason I thought of YOU as you returned home, climbing the stairs, removing your coat and gloves, putting aside your camera case, and enjoying the warmth and comfort of your home place.
    Wishing you health, peace, and boundless creativity in 2020.

  18. Linda Granfield permalink
    December 31, 2019

    It’s as if I just stepped into and out of a film noir.
    Thrilling atmosphere and only one ‘character’ (other than the GA).

    Thank you for another year of daily art and education.

    Happy New Year and…carry on!

  19. December 31, 2019

    *** A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020 ! ***
    *** EIN FROHES NEUES JAHR 2020 ! ***

    Love & Peace


  20. Su C. permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Most excellent in imagery and visions. Thanks for this lovely stroll through London.

  21. saba permalink
    December 31, 2019

    GA, you have exceeded even yourself during these holidays! Thank you for your gift to all of us!

    Mystery — I see the shadow of a whale on the wall of Whalebone Court.

    I cannot imagine how you find enough time to create these wonderful postings every day, but please never stop.

    Happy New Year to you, GA, and to all of your Gentle Readers!

  22. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Stunning. The London no one ever sees, apart from the nighthawk with the camera. Thank you for capturing these images and pairing them with haunting words. I believe that only a person who has dwelt in a city and knows it intimately can reveal it in such a way.

  23. Grace permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Thank you dear GA for bringing old London alive and for all the lovely, heartwarming stories you have given us over the years. A very happy new year to you!

  24. Rupert Neil Bumfrey permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Congratulations my friend on the passing of a complete decade, throughout which your posts and campaigns have struck a chord with so many folks.

    All the very best for the 2020’s

  25. Peter permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Exceptional images and poem. Thank you Gentle Author for this and all your work. Happy New Year.

  26. Jill Wilson permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Great images!

    I particularly love these unexpected and inspired posts where imagery and words are combined so beautifully (my favourite blog of this year was the brilliant one from Dr Johnson’s house).

    Happy new year, and keep up the good work…xx

  27. December 31, 2019

    So evocative. Happy New Year to one and all.

  28. December 31, 2019

    Superb photographs, GA: brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed. Brimming with intrigue and foreboding, redolent of the great Bill Brandt. This is a rare triumph of poetry and images working together with potency preserved on both sides.

  29. Amanda permalink
    December 31, 2019

    Such nostalgia for me.
    Thank you Gentle Author for your magical clandestine stroll. l am blessed to have been to all these haunts in my twenties and again recently.

    Tonight l drove home across spooky uninhabited forest roads guided only by the golden crescent of the moon, still feeling blessed l have lived this long to continue my hair brained escapades.

    Blessings for the New Year to one and all.

  30. January 1, 2020

    I am a Night Owl and these Dark Night Pictures are My Dreams.???

  31. Pimlico Pete permalink
    January 1, 2020

    The photos evoke something older than last year don’t they? Each viewer will have an own favourite era to attach them to, either from their personal history or from a work such as the W S Graham poem.

    If I may I will recall something from the late sixties. London was quiet after midnight. Walking home to Pimlico after a late shift in the West End. Down Bond Street, through Queen’s Walk by the side of Green Park. Buckingham Palace. Victoria Station. Oh the hush of it all.

    A little disappointment when the walk was over as, when the nights were warm, I would have gladly done another hour’s worth. But making sure to reach the end before dawn broke and the spell of night was broken with it.

    A retained image of such walks has lasted for all these years, decades. Not the very occasional passer by or a bread delivery van. It was the belisha beacons. Blinking for no one. Didn’t they deserve a rest? Some free time to compose themselves for the morning rush.

    I was surprised to have this memory recently rekindled by a piece of music. It’s not of that time and I had never heard of Al Bowlly then. His song “Why Dream” certainly suggests the quiet of night, thoughtfulness, longings tempered by a sense of wellbeing. The song has a continuous and gentle trumpet motif of “doo wah… doo wah…”. Well I think it’s a trumpet. But it is certainly a belisha beacon flashing on and off for no one there. Just like London at night.

    Al Bowlly’s “Why Dream” is on Youtube.

    All the best from Pimlico Pete

  32. Rob Edwards permalink
    January 4, 2020

    Ethereal city, blue-black buildings, blue-black people, yesterday’s light gone down darkening into the West, tomorrow’s bright dawn yet to rise shimmering in the East.

    A moment turns and with it goes an old decade and in comes a new decade, Sweet Thames continuing to flow sublimely by in the depths of its opacity.

    Nice nocturnal work Gentle Author, a photo essay to remember, built on a poem I’m glad – as I’m sure others are – to have been acquainted with.

    Stroll on into the 2020s.

  33. Edward Rekkers permalink
    January 6, 2020

    Brilliant. Love this one. A happy new year to you.

  34. Mike Levy permalink
    January 6, 2020

    Absolutely wonderful work! Thanks for posting!

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