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"The light of the moon is the trance of the world" — James Thomson (B.V.)

The James Thomson Poetry Works

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At Belvoir

He Heard Her Sing

Robert Burns


George Jelliss of Leicester, England, U.K., contributed the above poems

The Approach to St. Paul's


A Chant

The City of Dreadful Night


The Doom of a City, Part I

The Doom of a City, Part II


The Fire That Filled My Heart of Old

For I Must Sing of All I Feel and Know

Four Points in a Life

From the Midst of the Fire

In a Christian Churchyard

In the Room


L' Ancien Regime

Life's Hebe

Lilah, Alice, Hypatia

Lines on His Twenty-Third Birthday

The Lord of the Castle of Indolence

Mater Tenebrarum

Mr. MacCall at Cleveland Hall

The Naked Goddess


Once in a Saintly Passion

On George Herbert's Poems


A Polish Insurgent


A Recusant

A Song of Sighing

Suggested by Matthew Arnold's Stanzas

Sunday at Hampstead

Sunday up the River

The Three That Shall Be One

Through Foulest Fogs

To a Pianiste

To H.A.B. on My Forty-Seventh Birthday

To Our Ladies of Death

Two Lovers

Two Sonnets

Virtue and Vice

William Blake



Many emails to this site have had questions about the value of books. They often pertain to the 18th Century James Thomson, not the James Thomson featured on this site.

This is a poetry site. It is not a rare book site. The web master owns no rare books and has no knowledge of the value of rare books.

If you have arrived at this page from another web site, you are now deep inside The Vasthead.

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This page is devoted to James Thomson, a Scottish poet of the Victorian era. The James Thomson Poetry Works is really a web site in the middle of a web site and is a service of The Vasthead.

This page began in February, 2000, when only a few Thomson poems could be seen on line. Most of the poems now available appeared here first.

James Thomson lived from 1834 to 1882 . The "B.V." after his name in the above quote is an abbreviation for Thomson's pseudonym. The letters are often used to distinguish him from another James Thomson (the author of "Rule Britannia") who lived from 1700 to 1748.

Thomson is best known for his Gothic epic, "The City of Dreadful Night." Inspired by his own struggles in the city of London, the poem portends the horrors and decadence of modern urban life. It is not without reason that Thomson is sometimes called the "poet of doom."

Thomson's short life can be loosely compared to Edgar Allan Poe. Like Poe, he suffered from a melancholy which resulted from the early death of a lover. Like Poe, he is most remembered for his scenes with a dark, nocturnal favor. And, like Poe, he died in middle age as a result of substance abuse.

Besides his alcoholism, Thomson suffered from insomnia, an affliction which became a source of both vexation and inspiration. At times, he wandered aimlessly till dawn through the streets of London. The nocturnal image above is contemporary with Thomson's later life.

Like the poet himself, this web site stays up all night.

© Copyright 2OO1-2O18 by Grady McAllister. All rights reserved.

All material on this site is presented on an "as is" basis. It does not include any warranty as to its accuracy or availability or its suitability for any given purpose. Do not use this web site in making any decision for which incorrect data might lead to loss of life, personal injury, loss of property, financial loss, inconvenience, or emotional unpleasantness.

Not all material on this site has been carefully proof read. If you are engaged in academic research, you should compare a published text to any which you see here.

Volunteer proof readers are encouraged. If you do see typographical errors, please send an e-mail.

All material submitted to this web site becomes the property of the web master.

This web site was designed by Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas, USA.

These pages were developed using Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop.

This page last changed —

Monday, February 20, 2017 6:54 PM .


I could use some help in further developing this site. I have a good many James Thomson poems which I scanned seven years ago and have never put on line. They need careful editing and proofreading.

I won't consider this page complete until two things are accomplished:

1. The remaining scans are converted into actual poems on line.

2. All of the poems are carefully proof read.

If you are a student, perhaps your English instructor will give you credit for bringing Thomson poems to the Internet for the first time. You can get started immediately over the Internet.

Your name will be credited online for any poem you contribute. If you are interested, please send me a note.

— Grady McAllister, M.S.(Occupational Technology Education)


"The wild moon and clouds were as restless as an evil conscience in a tumbled bed, and the very shadow of the immensity of London seemed to lie oppressively upon the river."

— Charles Dickens, "Night Walks"

"The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight."

— William Shakespeare, Richard III

"Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on"

— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.2

"The clock struck the solemn hour of one, that hour when fancy stalks outside reason, and malignant possibilities stand rock-firm as facts"

— Thomas Hardy in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Chapter 14


"My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is"

"In Clym Yeobright's face could be dimly seen the typical countenance of the future. Should there be a classic period to art hereafter, its Pheidias may produce such faces. The view of life as a thing to be put up with, replacing that zest for existence which was so intense in early civilisations, must ultimately enter so thoroughly into the constitution of the advanced races that its facial expression will become accepted as a new artistic departure. People already feel that a man who lives without disturbing a curve of feature, or setting a mark of mental concern anywhere upon himself, is too far removed from modern perceptiveness to be a modern type. Physically beautiful men--the glory of the race when it was young--are almost an anachronism now; and we may wonder whether, at some time or other, physically beautiful women may not be an anachronism likewise.

"The truth seems to be that a long line of disillusive centuries has permanently displaced the Hellenic idea of life, or whatever it may be called. What the Greeks only suspected we know well; what their Aeschylus imagined our nursery children feel. That old-fashioned revelling in the general situation grows less and less possible as we uncover the defects of natural laws, and see the quandary that man is in by their operation."

—Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native, Book 3, Chapter 1


The moving moon and stars from east to west

Circle before her in the sea of air;

Shadows and gleams glide round her solemn rest.

Her subjects often gaze up to her there:

The strong to drink new strength of iron endurance,

The weak new terrors; all, renewed assurance

And confirmation of the old despair.

— Final stanza of "City of Dreadful Night"

Above: Moonrise at Galveston, Texas, June 6, 2009. Time exposure photo by Grady McAllister. The statue is the memorial to the victims of the Galveston 1900 Storm, the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States.

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Contact the James Thomson Poetry Works.

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Hello there Grady!

Excellent work re your James Thomson web site. I came across it through trying to answer a crossword clue and very pleased that I did. As a lifelong insomniac and lover of Gothic poetry and transgressive literature of all types, I'm sure I could supply you with a few choice quotes about the terrible hours before dawn. However, in response to your request about any errant typos, I noticed you have misspelt 'accomplished' and I may be wrong, but isn't it 'Wandering Minstrels' rather than 'Wondering'?

Anyway, keep up the good work. I live in London and go for many a late night stroll around the old part of The City and down to the Embankment of the Thames. I will think of you as accompanying me in spirit on my next excursion!

With best wishes,


London, England

May 22, 2009

My response --

Hello, Fiona,

You were right about there being a misspelling for the word "accomplished." I had forgotten to run the spell check.

I used the word "wondering" because that is the word a web site uses to refer to itself. It appears to be a play on words.

The Wondering Minstrels s a place where you can look up poems. It was originally sponsored by the computer science department of Rice University, the most widely respected academic institution in the Houston area. The Wondering Minstrels site is now a Blogspot site hosted by Google.

I found the site by chance when I was searching for Poem in October by Welshman Dylan Thomas. I have recordings of Thomas reading his poems, but once in a while I want to be able to read the text.

The Dylan Thomas American Caedmon recordings in the early 50's helped pioneer the idea of spoken word recordings. It is a type of audio I have been involved with all my life.

Like James Thomson, Dylan Thomas had a significant drinking problem which greatly shortened his life.

Nonetheless, Thomas could read poems, other people's as well as his own, in a style that was truly majestic. The only reason I don't imitate him is that I would sound odd declaiming with a Welsh accent in Texas.

That Caedmon box set was one of the best audio buys I ever made. It came with eleven CD's. It has numerous BBC recordings along with the Caedmon materials that Thomas recorded shortly before he died.

Grady McAllister