Sunday, November 20, 2016

Two poems by Clement C. Moore, as first published in the New York Evening Post

Found on

To start with, here is the original version of "Lines Written after a Season of Yellow Fever" by Clement C. Moore as first published under the title of "Congratulatory Lines" in The New York Evening Post, November 27, 1805.

These "Lines" were republished with interesting revisions in Moore's 1844 volume Poems. For example, Moore significantly revised this confession by the "veteran belle" who is his invented speaker throughout:
my soul’s to madness wrought
By forms which fly like meteors in my thought!
In revision, Moore replaced "forms" with "visions" and changed the end rhymes:
I'm madden'd with delight
By visions flying round, as meteors bright.
Moore deleted two couplets of imagined censure by "moralists and dull divines," and weakened their supposed authority by changing "purists" to casuists."  Moore also changed "pas battu" to "pigeon-wing"; and "ever-willing belles" became "ever-ready" in revision. He changed "which" to "that" and normalized archaic spellings of "frolick," "eccentrick," and "panick." In the last line, the belle's carefree perspective prevails over that of the moralizing poet, when "starch morality" mockingly replaces the former, heavy-handed concern with endangered salvation.


Addressed to the fashionable people of New-York upon their return to the city, after the disappearance of the yellow-fever. BY A LADY.
Dread pestilence hath now fled far away;
And life and health, once more around us play.
The din of commerce spreads from street to street;
Long-parted friends with new-warm'd friendship meet.
Now many-color'd nymphs, in noon-tide rows,
To gazing eyes fresh-gather'd charms disclose.
Welcome; all welcome to your wish'd abodes,
But chiefly you who’re skill'd in pleasure's modes;
Whose minds on humbler themes ne’er deign to dwell,
Receive the welcome of a veteran Belle
Whose heart's now dancing at the visions bright
Of high exploits which play in fancy's sight.
Now haste we to our winter's lov'd campaign,
Arm'd for the glorious contests we maintain;
Not wars of prudish belles with forward beaux
(These but inure to strife with real foes)
But wars with all the rules grave matrons teach,
Cold purity applauds, and parsons preach.
Courage, dear friends! our cause shall yet prevail:
But there are notions, hatch'd from doctrines stale,
'Gainst which 'twere well your valorous souls to guard;
For trifles oft e'en conquerors retard.
We're told by moralists and dull divines
That no pursuit becomes us which confines
Our highest wishes to mere sensual joys,
And thought of dread futurity destroys.
But most they deem morality disgrac’d
When those who’ve just by threat’ning death been chas’d
Soon as the danger’s o’er, with ten-fold glee,
Return to idle sports and revelry.

They hold it not, indeed, true wisdom’s part
To wear grief's impress ever in the heart,
But think the oblivious temper of our mind
For noble purposes by Heaven design'd;
To aid mortality beneath the weight
Of evils which oppress our tottering state;
To check despair, and give our reason play;
Reason, which calls from anxious cares away;
And teaches to behold, with minds serene
The joys and ills that crowd life's motley scene.
Try now this antique stuff by reason's test.
All science and all rules of action rest
On few clear principles assum'd as true.
The rule we, frolick's children, keep in view
Is this plain truth, whence all true precepts flow;
“Pleasure's the worthiest object man can know:”
Not pleasure felt by intellect alone;
Nor dreams of bliss in distant prospect shown;
But solid pleasure, present and secure,
All that can flatter passion, sense allure.
Let no vain fears this golden maxim hide,
But let heart-chilling laws by this be tried;
Then mark how emptily these croakers prate
Of what becomes [1844: beseems] our frail inconstant state.
Our frailty well we know; and 'tis for this
We should forget futurity's abyss,
And snatch from ruthless time each proffer’d joy.
Shall we, like drowsy dotards, e'er destroy
Our blissful sports by thought, of ills the worst
With which humanity by Heav’n is curs’d?
Thought! which forever tells some hateful truth;
Says wintry age soon chills [1844: must chill] the glow of youth;
To towering strength decrepitude foretells,
And wrinkles to the cheek where beauty dwells?
No! but this once the unruly traitor use
Then drive the fiend forever from your breasts;
On thoughtlessness alone your pleasure rests.
‘Tis true, we’ve just been chas’d by panick fears:
Whence sure ‘tis wise to claim the due arrears
Of pleasure thus detain'd, and to our store
Of present joys add those withheld before.
Let listless drones serenity approve;
In no dull medium let us deign to move.
Society is like a running wheel;
All parts the same progressive impulse feel;
And yet towards happiness, the general end,
These various parts with different motions tend.
Calm conscientious minds the centre hold;
While we are in the swift circumference roll'd.
Those at the centre keep an even way;
We in eccentrick movements round them play.
In quick vicissitudes we're whirl'd around;
Now rais'd on high, now low upon the ground.
We spurn the safe unchanging course they keep;
And while they calmly take their central sleep,
We rush like wind; we make the sparkles fly;
We raise the dust, and plunge through wet and dry;
We splash the folk, and make the world all know,
Our rattling shall be heard where'er we go.
"Enough of argument"; I hear you cry,
"Where pleasure calls we'll like the lightning fly.”
Come then, ye honour’d [1844: lofty] favourers of the dance
And splendid feast, whom fortune's gifts advance
To eminence in Fashion's wide domain;
Whose bright example leads a mimic train,
With eager steps, your flowery paths to tread;
Whose ire all deprecate with deeper dread
Than wrath of Heav'n (for how can Heav'n assist
The heart which mourns an invitation miss'd?)
Come forth with all your gay munificence,
And teach mankind that true pre-eminence
In dignity from outward grandeur springs;
That they rise highest in the scale of things
At whose command the guests most numerous throng;
Whose halls ring oftenest with the dance and song;
Who Nature's ill-fram'd laws most boldly slight;
Convert the night to day, and day to night;
Decrepitude in youthful sports engage;
And teach to youth the confidence of age.
To arms! ye ever-willing belles, to arms!
Sharpen each glance, and brighten all your charms.
Arouse! ye gallant beaux, at Fashion’s call:
She, to excuse you from the feast or ball,
Will heed no specious plea by sloth alledg'd,
And chiefly you, ye beaux with chins unfledg'd,
Who wisely quit your Algebra and Greek,
True honour in our well throng'd school to seek;
Now quickly muster all your hopeful band,
Train'd by our care, the glory of the land.
How bright ye shine beyond those awkward clowns
Who care for none but their preceptor's frowns;
Who heed their noisy sports and cross-grain'd books
More than the fairest fair-one's sweetest looks.
Men are too oft by this persuasion led;
Beneath the unpolish’d sage too oft they place
The beau who walks and dances with a grace.
But you, ne'er let your learned feet forget
Their chassez, pas battu and pirouette;
And let mankind by your example know,
The head's no worthier member than the toe.
Ye tawny minstrels; wake your viols sweet
Whose measures guide our lightly tripping feet;
Our life, depriv'd of you, were worse than death,
Your heav’nly notes are pleasure's vital breath.
How oft doth gloom the crowded hall pervade;
In vain the hostess smiles, the beaux upbraid;
Soon fly the whispers, and [1844: The whispering murmurs rise,] the gape goes round;
Decorum's self in weariness is drown'd.
But let your magic string's approaching twang
Be heard, and feast of Comus sure ne'er rang
With keener ecstacy, and mirth more loud
Than burst tumultuous from the wakening crowd.
Thus, when some bark's becalm'd upon the deep,
The listless passengers lie press'd with sleep
And lassitude; the moments scarce creep by;
And Sol seems weary as he climbs the sky.
But when some skilful mariner foresees,
By tokens sure, the fair approaching breeze,
Then instant life appears in every part;
All spring alert, for joy fills every heart;
With various notes the coming breeze they hail,
Strain every rope, and set each swelling sail.
Ye powers of sport! my soul’s to madness wrought
By forms which fly like meteors in my thought!

Cotillions, concerts, fiddlers, mirth's whole train
Of countless joys rush wildly through my brain.
Oh! may the phrenzy catch from soul to soul;
May all who now own sober law's controul
Acknowledge law mere breath, mere ink and paper,
And sacrifice salvation for a caper!
The previous spring, on May 24, 1804, the Evening Post had published Moore's "Lines to the Fashionable" over the pseudonym "Florio."

Found on

In the transcription below, bracketed words indicate revisions to the text printed in the 1806 Juvenal translation under the title, "Lines Addressed to the Fashionable Part of My Young Countrywomen." Moore's heading in the 1844 Poems volume adds, "and happy am I to say, now no longer applicable to them." The 1804 preface to the newspaper version addresses William Coleman, the first editor of the New York Evening Post.



It is hoped that the cause which the following lines are intended to serve, will induce you to excuse the faults which they contain. And if the strife and tumult of politics have afforded you leisure, for a year past, to look into the fashionable world, you must acknowledge that they are not guilty of any misrepresentation.
Ye gentle Fair [blooming nymphs], our ornament [country's joy] and pride,
Who in the stream of Fashion thoughtless glide;
No modish lay, no melting strain of love
Is here pour'd forth, your tender hearts to move—
Yet, think not envious age inspires the song,
Rejecting all our earth-born joys as wrong:
Suspect [Think me] no matron stern, who would repress
Each modern grace, each harmless change of dress;
But one whose heart exults to join the band,
Where joy and innocence go hand in hand.
One who, while modesty maintains her place,
That sacred charm which heightens every grace,
Complacent views [sees] your robes excell the snow,
Or borrow colors from the painted [1844: aerial] bow;
But dreads the threaten'd hour of Virtue's flight,
More than the pestilence which walks by night.
Say, in those half rob'd bosoms are there hid,
No thoughts which shame and purity forbid?
Why do those fine-wrought veils around you play,
Like mists which scarce bedim the orb of day?
What mean those careless limbs, that conscious air,
At which the modest blush, the vulgar stare?
Can spotless minds endure the guilty leer,
The sober matron's frowns, the witling's sneer?
Are these the charms which, in this age refin'd,
Insure [Ensure] applause, and captivate the mind?
Are these your boasted powers? are these the arts
Which kindle love, and chain inconstant hearts?
Alas! some angry pow'r, some envious [envious] demon's skill
Has [1844: Hath] wrought this strange perversity of will:
For sure some foe to innocence beguiles,
When harmless doves attempt the serpent's wiles,
True, Fashion's laws her ready vot'ries screen,
And ogling beaux exclaim, Oh, goddess! queen!
But, low [vile] the praise and adoration sought
By arts degrading to each nobler thought.
A base-born love those notes of praise inspires--
That incense rises from unhallowed sires.
If deaf while shame and purity complain,
If reason's gentle voice be heard [rais'd] in vain;
Learn from the flowers which deck those bosoms white
What charms alone can give unmix'd delight—
[Those flowers you cull with such instinctive art,
Shall teach the charms that captivate the heart.
1844: Learn from the scented nosegay in your hand
The charms that can alone true love command.]
The flaunting tulip you reject with scorn,
Though ting'd with ev'ry hue which can adorn [Its hues tho' brilliant as the tints of morn:] And careful, search for humbler flowers which bloom [But search with care, for humbler flowers that bloom]
Beneath the grass, yet scatter sweet perfume,
The buds which only half their sweets disclose
You fondly seize; but leave the full blown rose.
Humble the praise, and trifling the regard,
Which ever wait upon the moral bard.
But, there remains a hateful truth unsung
Which burns the cheek, and faulters on the tongue;
And which, if modesty be more than sound [still hover round]
With shame each virgin bosom must confound. [Each virgin breast, with sorrow must confound.]
These modes becoming [graceful modes], say your flattering beaux,
From ancient times, and tastes refin'd arose.
Disgrace not thus the names of Greece and Rome,
Their birth-place must be sought for nearer home.
Shame! shame! heart-rending thought! Disgraceful [deep sinking] stain!
That Britain's and Columbia's Fair should deign,
Should ev'ry art employ, to dress, to dance [Nay, strive their native beauties to enhance,]
Though virtue blush, [By arts first taught by] like prostitutes of France!*
Oh! Modesty, and Innocence! sweet pair
Of dove-like sisters! still attend our Fair.
Teach them how vain, without your [heavn'ly] influence,
Are all [How vain] he charms of beauty, or of sense.
Invest them with your radiance mild, yet bright;
And give their sparkling eyes a softer light.
Enchanting [1844: Quick mantling] dimples on their cheeks bestow;
And teach [bid] them with a purer red to glow.
Let winning smiles, too from [round] those dimples gleam,
Like [sportive] moon-beams sporting on [o'er] the ruffled [curling] stream.
[1844: Like moon-beams on the ruffled stream.]
And if resentment should [on] the Muse attend,
Who thus presumes to shew herself your friend; [From those she loves, and truly would befriend:]
Tell them how cruel and unjust their ire;
How pure the feelings which this strain [these lays] inspire;
How pants her heart, those graces to secure [oft she sighs, those beauties to impart,]
Which constant love, and endless praise ensure [charm the soul, and meliorate the heart.]
[1844: Tell them, that cruel and unjust their ire;
That she would warm their hearts with holy fire;
And to the charms that soon must pass away
Would add those mental beauties which shall ne'er decay.]

*Dr. Barrow, in his treatise on education, vol. 2, p 305, says, "Our young women are probably little aware that the fashionable nakedness of the present day was first adopted in this country in imitation of the revolutionary prostitutes of France."
Moore's poem "To the Fashionable" was reprinted at the end of A New Translation with Notes, of the Third Satire of Juvenal by Moore's friend John Duer. The 1806 Port-Folio review of  Duer's volume sharply criticized Moore's contributions. The reviewer made fun of Moore's immature, hyper-critical preface and derided the appended contributions as morally sound but aesthetically vapid.
We have made no secret of the disgust excited in our minds by the critical preface to this volume. But the author of the preface, too, appears before us as a poet. "This and the following pieces, subscribed L, was given me by the friend who furnished the introductory letter; most of them have been already published, either in the Port Folio, or in the New-York Evening Post." Really this gentleman gives and furnishes with profusion! he gives too, it appears, what he had given elsewhere before; and this second-hand sort of gift must be infinitely valuable: 
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes!
 The note, just transcribed, is appended to the lines from which we have already extracted the beautiful and delicate images, and which the author’s primary concern (and certainly a very allowable one) is, not to be thought an old woman. --The Port-Folio
In the last sentence the reviewer has humorously paraphrased Moore's plea, "Think me no Matron stern."

Among other lessons, the Port-Folio review shows why aspiring poets rarely signed their real names to fledgling verses. Over time Moore seems to have heard and heeded as best he could the just verdict of the Port-Folio reviewer:
"Sound sentiments are truisms; what we expect from the poet is, to deliver them in beautiful terms. He that does this, is a poet; he that does not, is none."  --The Port-Folio
Not surprisingly, neither one of these early ventures was selected for inclusion in The New-York Book of Poetry,  the 1837 anthology of well-regarded fugitive pieces by natives of New York State. Besides "A Visit from St. Nicholas," three additional poems there by "C. C. Moore" are
No doubt marriage tempered Clement C. Moore, and made him a better, wiser poet. He acknowledges as much in the poem From a Husband to His Wife:
You have awaken'd in my breast
   Some chords I ne'er before had known;
And you've imparted to the rest
   A stronger pulse, a deeper tone.
As shown in a previous post, Moore's Lines Written after a Snow-Storm originally appeared, like "A Visit from St. Nicholas," in the Troy Sentinel. "To the Sisters of Charity" (signed "SILVIO") appeared in the New York American on April 15, 1834. "Sisters of Charity" was reprinted in The Churchman, and later the Philadelphia Catholic Herald, August 28, 1834.


No comments:

Post a Comment