Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lines Written after a Snow-Storm by Clement C. Moore, 1824 and 1844 versions

Now accessible online courtesy of Troy Public Library and New York State Historic Newspapers, the first printing of "Lines Written after a Snow-Storm" by Clement C. Moore:
Untitled and unsigned, this poem appeared in the Troy Sentinel on February 20, 1824, almost two months after the anonymous first printing of Moore's "Account of A Visit from St. Nicholas" on December 23, 1823. The two poems may have been composed around the same time. There was in fact a snowstorm in New York City on Saturday, December 21, 1822, a few days before Christmas. The speaker in both poems is a father with children (asleep in "Visit" while sugarplum visions "danc'd in their heads"; awake in "Lines" while snowflakes "dance upon the air"). Significant verbal parallels with "Visit" include the shared beds/heads rhyme, the simile with the trigram "as the snow," as well as forms of the words dance, vision, and winter's. Presumably the person or persons (Harriet Butler and Sarah Sackett, according to different reports) who furnished editor Orville L. Holley with a copy of Moore's "Visit from St. Nicholas" also provided Moore's lovely little snow poem. In the 1844 volume Poems by Clement C. Moore it appears on pages 80-82 under the title, "Lines / Written after a Snow-Storm."
Troy Sentinel - February 20, 1824
Troy Public Library via NYS Historic Newspapers
FOR THE TROY SENTINEL.
Come dearest children look around,
    And see how soft and light
The silent snow has clad the ground,
    In robes of purest white.

The trees are deck'd by fairy hands,
    Nor need their native green;
And every breeze now seems to stand,
    All hush'd, to view the scene.

You wonder how these snows were made
    That dance upon the air;
As if from purer worlds they stray'd,
    So lovely and so fair.

Perhaps they are the summer flowers,
    In northern stars that bloom;
Wafted away from ivy bowers,
    To cheer our winter's gloom.  
Perhaps they are feathers of a race
    Of birds, that live away
In some cold wintry place,
    Far from the sun's warm ray.

And clouds perhaps are downy beds,
    On which the winds repose;
Who, when they move their slumbering heads,
    Shake down the feathery snows.
But see, my dearlings, while we stay
   And gaze with such delight,
The fairy scene now fades away,
   And mocks our raptur'd sight.

And let this fleeting vision teach
    A truth you soon must know —
That all the joys we here can reach,
   Are transient as the snow.
New York Evening Post - December 23, 1822
via GenealogyBank
Numerous corrections and changes were made in revision of this poem for publication in Moore's 1844 Poems. My favorite example is "ivy bowers" in the 1824 printing, corrected by Moore to "icy bowers" in the later book version. The copyist's or printer's error of "ivy" for "icy" nicely illustrates why "original" printings, including first printings in newspapers, do not necessarily offer the most accurate and reliable textual readings. Here's the 1824 version again, but this time with 1844 changes shown in brackets:
Come dearest children [1844: children dear, and] look around, [1844: semicolon],
    And see [1844: Behold] how soft and light
The silent snow has clad the ground, [1844: end comma deleted]
    In robes of purest white.

The trees are [1844: seem] deck'd by fairy hands [1844: hand],
    Nor need their native green;
And every breeze now seems [1844: now appears] to stand,
    All hush'd, to view the scene.

You wonder how these [1844: the] snows were made
    That dance upon the air; [1844: end comma]
As if from purer worlds they stray'd,
    So lovely [1844: lightly] and so fair.

Perhaps they are the summer flowers, [1844: end comma deleted]
    In northern stars that bloom; [1844: end comma]
Wafted away from ivy bowers [1844: icy bowers], [1844: end comma deleted]
    To cheer our winter's gloom.  
Perhaps they are [1844: they're] feathers of a race
    Of birds, [1844: comma deleted] that live away,
In some cold wintry place, [1844: cold dreary wintry place,]
    Far from the sun's warm ray.

And clouds perhaps are downy beds, [1844: And clouds, perhaps, are downy beds]
    On which the winds repose;
Who, when they move [1844: rouse] their slumbering heads [1844: slumb'ring heads],
    Shake down the feathery [1844: feath'ry] snows.
But see, my dearlings [1844: darlings], while we stay
   And gaze with such [1844: fond] delight,
The fairy scene now [1844: soon] fades away,
   And mocks our raptur'd sight.

And let this fleeting vision teach
    A truth you soon must know —
That all the joys we here can reach, [1844: end comma deleted]
   Are transient as the snow.
And here's the book version that appears in Moore's 1844 Poems:



1844 version, transcribed below:
LINES
WRITTEN AFTER A SNOW-STORM.
COME children dear, and look around;
   Behold how soft and light
The silent snow has clad the ground
   In robes of purest white.

The trees seem deck'd by fairy hand,
   Nor need their native green;
And every breeze appears to stand,
   All hush'd, to view the scene.

You wonder how the snows were made
   That dance upon the air,
As if from purer worlds they stray'd,
   So lightly and so fair.

Perhaps they are the summer flowers
   In northern stars that bloom,
Wafted away from icy bowers
   To cheer our winter's gloom.

Perhaps they're feathers of a race
   Of birds that live away,
In some cold dreary wintry place,
   Far from the sun's warm ray.

And clouds, perhaps, are downy beds
   On which the winds repose;
Who, when they rouse their slumb'ring heads,
   Shake down the feath'ry snows.

But see, my darlings, while we stay
   And gaze with fond delight,
The fairy scene soon fades away,
   And mocks our raptur'd sight.

And let this fleeting vision teach
   A truth you soon must know —
That all the joys we here can reach
   Are transient as the snow. 
--Clement C. Moore, Poems (New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1844), 80-82.
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