The Birthplace of Civilization

“And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, “followed the sea” with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea…”
“And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.
“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

Conrad, Joseph, and Cedric Watts. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. 104-05. Print.

This passage that is found early on in this book is one of my favourite passages in the book. It feels very epic in its scale in that it is a testament to the numerous civilizations that have lied along the bank of the Thames as well as being the birthplace of the human civilization. It is precisely that passage which allows the contrast of the setting that follows to become executed as well as it does. We see the settlement upriver to be one of a gloomy aura; the passage ends with Marlow giving his thoughts on the Thames actually being “one of the dark places on earth.” While it has been the birthplace of human civilization, a place of triumph, it also harbours life’s greatest tragedies.