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The poetry of Archibald Lampman and Bliss Carman, while having some similar themes, have remarkably different styles. Both poets have written numerous poems dealing with nature, landscape, and the comparison between these ideas and the city. In “The City on the End of Things”, Lampman deals with his vision of industrialization within the city, a city of nightmarish realism. In “Twilight in Eden”, Carman also deals with a vision of civilization, how industrialization has changed society. However, the language and approach used by these two poets are strikingly disparate.
Lampman’s “The City on the End of Things” is a vision of an apocalyptic city that is very otherworldly. The reader is never given a clear view of the city, emphasizing its dreamlike quality. The author speaks of “murky streets” and “stalking shadow”, as well as “towers have grown / None knoweth how high.” He does not appear to be anxious to let the reader develop an explicit visual perception of this city.
The soundscape of Lampman’s imaginary city is, however, quite vivid. He uses numerous words to suggest a constant cacophony of sounds that, if experienced, would assault the reader’s ears. Words and phrases such as “roaring”, “crashes”, “inhuman music”, “beat”, and “thunder” create for the reader an overpowering sense of noise and activity. However, all of these noises are not of human making; they are distinctly mechanical in nature, suggesting to the reader that the city has become something other than a human dwelling place. The author speaks of the “clanking hands” of figures that “are not flesh” and “see not with the human eye.” The reader develops the impression that industrialization has driven out every human quality that once resided in this city.
Eventually, the city is deserted, except for the idiot at the gate. The message is clear: industrialization is the bane of civilization and will eventually lead to its destruction. This was a timely message for the audience in Lampman’s generation, as people were beginning to feel disillusionment with city life, and many were turning to the country as a way to escape its excesses. However, Lampman does not put a religious connotation on his message; he merely suggests to the reader that city life can cause people to lose touch with the real (natural) world, and, in so doing, cause them to lose touch with their very humanity.
Carman’s “Twilight in Eden” deals with a very similar notion. He speaks of humanity’s move away from the country into the city, and how that has caused them to lose touch with God. His poem, unlike Lampman’s, is not speaking of a specific dream city. He is speaking more of cities in general. He uses the collective “we” quite often throughout the poem, suggesting all those people who dwell in the city. He speaks of the people being “pampered like princes” and “clothed in the raiment of kings.” These are obvious references to those who partake in the excesses of city living.
Carman’s message is, however, very strongly religious in its presentation. The very name of the poem immediately sets up the mystical, religious tone of the poem itself. Carman asks, “But where is the rapture of instinct / The morning in Eden knew?” It is his belief that the striving of people in the city has deafened them to the sound of the voice of God. They have lost the innocence of Eden in their pursuit of progress. He writes, “Have we not found His footprint / In the meadows when spring drew near?” This points out to the reader where innocence can be recovered and the voice of God heard: out in the countryside, away from the city.
The reader gets the sense from Carman’s poem that cities, and the industrialization that has brought about theses cities, are truly evil. He refers to “Anarch destroyers of Eden,” suggesting that the destruction of nature to make way for cities is, in itself, inherently evil because it destroys what God originally created for man. Carman’s strong religious beliefs come through clearly throughout this poem.
Thus we see that, even though both Lampman and Carman deal with a very similar topic, they each treat is in a clearly different way. Lampman chooses to make his point using a specific city created within his imagination, while Carman chooses to make generalizations about cities as a whole. Lampman created a vivid, nightmarish city that the reader can almost hear and experience through his poem, while Carman appealed to the reader’s thoughts and intellect, asking questions of the reader to bring across his ideas. Lampman based his poem on his intellectual belief that life in the city is destructive, while Carman based his poem on the firm religious conviction that city life has drowned out the voice of God. Both poets appealed to the audience of the day, in that it had become popular at that time to seek a life in the country in order to get away from the mad pace of the city. Both poets, though disparate in style, are effective in conveying their ideas to the reader.
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