The Opium Smoker | A poem by Arthur Symons, 1887


Anonyme, A man smoking an opium pipe, n.d.
This painting used to hang in the opium den run by Ah Sing (d. 1890), in New Court, Victoria Street, London.

“I am engulfed, and drown deliciously
Soft music like a perfume, and sweet light
Golden with audible colours exquisite,
Swathe me with cerements for eternity.
Times is no more. I pause and yet I flee.
A million ages wrap me round with night.
I drain a million ages of delight.
I hold the future in my memory.

Also, I have this garret which I rent,
This bed of straw, and this that was a chair,
This worn-out body like a tattered tent,
This crust, of which the rats have eaten part,
This pipe of opium; rage, remorse, despair;
This soul at pawn and this delirious heart.”

The Opium Smoker, Arthur Symons (1865-1945)

First published in Hour-Glass, 2. 19 November 1887

Opium, a highly addictive drug made from the poppy plant,
was used medicinally as a pain killer and to cause sleep
but was also smoked socially for its hallucinating and
euphoric effects.

An opium den was an establishment where opium
was sold and smoked.


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