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Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! (1.6)
Here is an example of conventional light imagery. The European pioneers head into the darkness of unknown territory bearing little flares of light like torches or glittering swords that represent their vigor and their enlightenment.
The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect on a mudflat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway – a great stir of lights going up and going down. 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. (1.7)
Darkness has finally fallen after the prolonged sunset and the only natural source of light now comes from the stars. All other light comes from manmade sources – lighthouses and ships. But not all of this light is beautiful; on the west, where the last vestiges of sunlight illuminate the town, it only comes diluted through the "brooding gloom" and is transformed by that gloom into an infernal "lurid glare."
"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth." (1.8)
Marlow pronounces a hallmark Western city, London, as dark as the interior of Africa where he has recently traveled. This suggests that the English and all of Europe, by extension, are as morally corrupt as they claim the native Africans are.