Descriptive essay: Urban Journey for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

“Write a descriptive essay in which you take your readers on an urban journey.” 

(Composition, 2016)

This is one of the best submissions I've ever read for #625Lab. It seems like a genuine original work (please tell me if it's not) and it's way beyond the H1 standard.  Well done S.!

You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€)

Black clouds loom low in the sky. Ash consumes the air. Death rains on Dublin today. (The alliteration makes this opening very strong. It would have been even stronger if the author had varied the length of sentences a bit more.)

The factories plume smoke and dirt into the air. The sky is their everlasting waste disposal. Soot fills the air to darken the bright sky this city once knew. I watch as scrawny children choke, their lungs gasping for fresh, clean air. Air they never knew. Air they never will know. It fills my mouth; a bitter, vile taste. Their mothers pat them on the back, fearing the worst. This is their time. Death has played his final game; he has come for my child. But he never comes. The child’s lungs are coal, black and hard, struggling to see him through the day. 

Descriptive essay: Urban Journey for Leaving Cert English

No, Death does not come, and he is left to live another miserable day.

Bodies litter the black alleys. Pungent and overbearing, their smell follows you, like ghosts. They, like everyone else in this hell, have succumbed to tuberculosis. Yet here they lie. Disposed of like rubbish. These people meant nothing to the man who walks by me, trying to wave me on, “impertinent fool”. They do not like it when someone sees their true colours. You’re meant to be a passer-by, ignorant to the larger world. They lack a god here, they tear nature from their city and God with it. They don’t see the wonderful creation in their city, only the greed of men and the plight of those not even considered men.

I hope for good weather as I flit to and fro. I don’t want it to rain. Nobody wants it to rain, for when it rains, the city is black. The city is decay. Rainwater oozes from the sky, dark and foul, to stick to your rags, the buildings, your scrapings of food. The rain falls to kill hope and prosperity. The black water breathes an eternal night onto the city, where no facet of light or beauty can be found.

I make it to the river. There I see my old acquaintances begging for food and scouring any morsel of life they can find. I am no better. My bones protrude from my body, my coat clinging to them out of sheer desperation. They are blackened and decayed by their time here. Any aura of vitality they once had has fled with the wind and left a dead begrudgery in its place. They are not for this world. I am not for this world. I belong where the sun meets the seas, and the trees grow with hope, and anguish is crushed by the beauty of life and absence of greed.

Their river flows green and brown. Diseases run through the centre of their world, like a careless child. It is desperate. It churns and sludges through the world, hating its existence, devoid of life. Men and women walk along it, indifferent to its suffering, ignorant to the pain they cause it. Their factories, their houses, their waste make her ill. The rush and fervour of her youth are swallowed by their greed. Her noises as she moves to the sea cry out for help, the whooshing and sludging, squelching towards the open sea. She knows there is no hope at sea, for her brown will cause the sea to brown and she will play a role in the turning of God’s world. 

I watch as orphans descend to drink her water. I plead for them not to. But they cannot hear me. They do not understand. As my cries dissolve, so does the poison, slowly mingling into their blood. In that moment they begin their long, laborious walk down the road of Death. They will not go nicely. Nobody ever does. They will die as they lived, forgotten and unwanted. Then when some other orphan boy sees their rotting corpse, he will not heed the warning on their dead lips.

The dilapidated tenements rise above the streets. An influx of men, women and children come crawling from their home. The door is jammed as ten people fight for an exit from the towering monster. They run from the smell of excrement and disease, running as far as they can to work, or to beg on the streets. Curiosity becomes me. I cannot help but enter.

The plaster and paint crumble from the walls. The green paint is an unwelcoming sight, warning people away. But yet they have no choice. They must suffer this life. I enter the room to be met with fifty makeshift beds. Not even an inch between them. Mothers lie with their sick younglings, and hold them tight against their chests as if I have come to eat them. I cannot bear the sight, frail and wretched, pleading for help in their silence. A small child sits in the corner trying to draw. A rose growing from a chink in the concrete. Maybe all hope is not dead. Maybe he will turn this world around.

Their landlord leaves them to hang dry. Their money is their home, and their home is nothing. A bucket lies in the corner, a defecating smell of defecation? of faeces?. You can taste the despair in the room. I continue through a small nook, where empty containers of oats sprawl across the counter. There is no water for them. They must fetch the green sludge murking past their door. There they will bottle death, have it at their command. Yet they will not know that. They will consume their concoction and unknowingly kill the creators. They will never know what killed them. Only that they fought hunger and won. They will not know a greater enemy lay lurking, ready to strike them down.

I feel the cold brush over my body as I exit the house, out onto the streets. They do not represent the city they inhabit. There remain signs of a greater time when they were clean and new. Georgian and grand. A young girl carries a wheelbarrow, crying through the streets of the cockles and muscles she sells. How I yearn for such luxuries. I remember the taste of fresh fish, plucked ripe from God’s ocean. Her delicacies come from a better place, one where the green touches the sea and doesn’t poison it.

The post office looms high on Sackville Street, connecting the city to the world. The flags of the Empire flap from high above, out of reach of the Irish below, and casts a shadow on the nation below. Men in duffle coats and hats whisper sweet treason, and look in disdain at the blue and red. They huddle in alleys and conspire to throw the aristocrats’ world into chaos and their world into liberation. But then they discharge. Today is not their day. One has failed before. They must take their time to sow the seeds - and reap the rewards.

The police march along the streets. They have come to observe, just as I have. They watch men frolicking to work, not a care in their world. Women go to buy bread when they can afford it. They, like us, are contempt. They know no difference different.

When the police brake into a frenzied sprint, I follow. They grab a young child and fling him against the wall. One of them seizes the loaf of bread from his hand. He begs for mercy; his sister is starving. Yet compassion cannot melt hearts of ice in a city of stone and they hit the child for good measure before leaving. He is not the first nor the last. Children lurk in every corner, waiting to seize the opportunity. These children should not be judged, for their plight is their hope. They may survive a little while longer. 

I find a morsel of delight hidden among the bleak streets. I find a huge, lush green. Here, things and life can prosper. Trees grow from the ground to tower over people. The grass can be felt between my feet. I watch as a flower blossoms in a patch of darkness, growing with immense vigour. Here I can feel my creator. I am with him once more. In this place, nature sprouts back to life to consume the senses and overwhelm you with passion. I cry with joy at this newfound land. This is where peace becomes human. This place transcends fear, poverty and wealth. The green is the dream that they will move forward and become better than they ever were. A slight few linger in quiet reflection, having come to escape their dastardly world of greed and corruption. Black turns to green and darkness turns to hope. Some may not be self-aware, but an enlightened few are. Here, I rest my hope in humanity. 

I leave this spiritual Heaven to return to the real world. I see boys riding beaten bicycles, wearing brown shorts, shirts and caps. Their cry emanates through the street of the morning paper, hot off the press. Their smiles radiate a new light through the city. It is no longer black and white. They enjoy their life. Many others do. They do not know my joys, they do not feel poor. They feel alive. Some may fie, but they will not die in vain. Let them die for a better day O, Lord!

Write a descriptive essay in which you take your readers on an urban journey.

But I am not made for this world. I am made for the green, for the sea, the salty taste of fish in the mornings. And so I spread my wings and soar, soar to my world, as I leave theirs behind.

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash
Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

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