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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gaslight


.


File:Drawing the retorts at the Great Gas Establishment Brick Lane.png





Great flower that opens at night
huge gaseous bilious
City of business of ships Cook
not fated to come home to

London by gaslight
more lamps in the Oxford
road alone than in all of Paris
the great world metropolis mapped
out in fire

The iron lilies at the Strand
shone down on the press gangs

A sudden beaming eye in
whose sight dreams of capital
grow visible
and bright




File:Cook-death.jpg




File:A Peep at the Gas Lights in Pall Mall Rowlandson 1809.jpg




Drawing the Retorts at the Great Gas Establishment at Brick Lane: artist unknown, from The Monthly Magazine, 1821 (via The Rise of The Gas Industry in Britain: Chandler and Lacey, 1949)

The Death of Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii: from A Collection of Voyages round the World: Captain Cook's First, Second, Third and Last Voyages, London, 1790: archival photo by Sean Linehan (NOAA)

A Peep at the Gas-lights in Pall Mall (a humorous caricature of reactions to the installation of the new invention of gas-burning street lighting on Pall-Mall, London): engraved by Thomas Rowlandson (after a drawing by George Moutard Woodward), 1809. Dialogue in caricature (l. to r.): Well-informed gentleman: "The Coals being steam'd produces tar or paint for the outside of Houses -- the Smoke passing thro' water is deprived of substance and burns as you see." Irishman: "Arragh honey, if this man bring fire thro water we shall soon have the Thames and the Liffey burnt down -- and all the pretty little herrings and whales burnt to cinders." Rustic bumpkin: "Wauns, what a main pretty light it be: we have nothing like it in our Country." Quaker: "Aye, Friend, but it is all Vanity: what is this to the Inward Light?" Shady Female: "If this light is not put a stop to -- we must give up our business. We may as well shut up shop." Shady Male: "True, my dear: not a dark corner to be got for love or money."

13 comments:

TC said...

For those over twenty-one: click on the Rowlandson at the bottom of the post, to see, at far right, the Shady Female conversing with the Shady Male.

TC said...

And... just in case anyone is interested in that great mariner, explorer and bearer of Empire into the Pacific, Captain James Cook...

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Thanks Tom, I was reading all the comments on Ouray when this came in, looking for the next new thing, and here it is. Great to link up Cook in Hawaii to gas lights in London -- and New York, where "dreams of capital/ [still] grow visible/ and bright" . . . .

Something for you here (alas, no "dreams of capital") ---


1.6

first pale pink of cloud above blackness
of trees, white half moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

looking out window up there,
perhaps I could do it

presence of flatness rather,
reversed, of pictures

grey-white of sky reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge above it

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Thanks Tom, I was reading all the comments on Ouray when this came in, looking for the next new thing, and here it is. Great to link up Cook in Hawaii to gas lights in London -- and New York, where "dreams of capital/ [still] grow visible/ and bright" . . . .

Something for you here (alas, no "dreams of capital") ---


1.6

first pale pink of cloud above blackness
of trees, white half moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

looking out window up there,
perhaps I could do it

presence of flatness rather,
reversed, of pictures

grey-white of sky reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge above it

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Sorry to post that twice -- must have grown too excited about such dreams. . . .

TC said...

Stephen,

No bother... a bit like having the same dream twice?

Pale pink clouds, way out ahead of dreams of capital anyhow...

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Maybe so -- having the same dream twice, I mean (wish I could have the one I had this morning again!).
Meanwhile, how nice to check in here at 'midday' and find your Daniel Boone pictures & those new poems

SarahA said...

Do you tire of me saying the same things about your writings?
I am thinking, maybe I should just 'copy/paste'
I am liking the images here, very much so.

TC said...

Forgive my terrible vanity, SarahA, but no, I do not tire of it. And in fact, so poor is my memory, each time feels as good as the first time. (Only slightly teasing.)

Happy that you like the images. We forget what a curious development it must have been to have street lights at night. At this date only London had them, mind you. And what a lot was thus brought out into plain sight -- perhaps, as the pair hiding beyond the right edge of the Rowlandson seem to be suggesting (when you click on them), even some things that were properly meant to be kept in the gentle protection of the shadows.

Zephirine said...

It must have been extraordinary to have street light provided for you, as opposed to carrying a lantern and not quite knowing what shady things were going on just beyond your little personal circle of light...

I knew there were still a few gas lamps in London, but discovering this London blog entry, I was suprised at how many there are.

TC said...

Zeph,

Lovely that, the lamp lighting man who loves his job and would never wish to give it up...

What was once the newfangled invention that helped turn London into the first great world city is now kept up as a palpable link with its past.

Perhaps electricity is overrated.

My maternal grandfather's first job as a very young man, a lad on his own trying to find a way for himself in a new world -- he was the son of a Kerryman who had migrated to South Dakota -- was lighting gas lamps in the streets of the city of Chicago, in the years before the turning of that century. He was, I believe, only fourteen at the time. He grew quickly into a strapping young fellow able enough to drive one of the city's first streetcars. In later years he would look back upon these jobs as a source of pride, recalling them for me as an object lesson in the hard work required in making something of oneself. (I wish I could say I had made better use of that lesson.)

Zephirine said...

Well, Tom, there are different ways of lighting the way. Also different ways to take people to somewhere else.

Perhaps you're your grandfather's boy after all?

TC said...

Well yes, Z, I was born on his birthday and given his name. After those early employments I mentioned and several others of the same stripe, he became a rather kindly policeman who rose each morning at four, went to the station, returned at noon for lunch and a five minute nap preluded by the whistling of a few bars of some Irish tune, and then returned once again to the station. He was known as "The Chief," though his diminutive wife Kathleen, of Country Westmeath, called him "Daddy".

He was once called out to attend to scene of the infamous Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. But it did not seem to have fazed him unduly.