Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Clement C. Moore's poem "To a Lady" in the Port Folio

Clement C. Moore was 26 years old, almost, when he published his "Verses, addressed to a lady" in the Philadelphia Port Folio (June 1, 1805) over the pseudonym "Simplicius." On December 21, 1805 The Port Folio published Moore's "Congratulatory lines addressed to the fashionable people of New-York" as "ORIGINAL POETRY," although these "Lines" ostensibly "By a Lady" had already appeared in the New York Evening Post, November 27, 1805. The following year, both Port Folio poems appeared with other of Moore's poems over the signature of "L.," in A new translation with notes of the Third Satire of Juvenal.

In 1837, Moore authorized publication of "To a Lady" (dated "1804") and three other poems including "A Visit From St. Nicholas" in The New-York Book of Poetry. In 1844, Moore included both 1805 Port Folio poems with his collected Poems, printed there under the title To a Lady and Lines....From a Veteran Belle.

Moore's 1844 volume deletes the original 1805 preface of "To a Lady" which explained the motive for the poem and identified its initial audience--not the poet's wife (Moore did not get married until 1813) but a young mother of his acquaintance. Among other interesting revisions (for example, deletion of "vermil cheek," revision of "tender mother" to "Fond Mother";  "rules the skies" changed to "thron'd above the skies"; and altering the surround/ground rhyme in the closing stanza to enshroud/cloud), Moore cut one whole stanza which does not appear in the 1837 New-York Book of Poetry and 1844 Poems:
Vain thought! the evening's firm resolve
We break, ere morning clouds dissolve;
   Then boast the life we'd lead,
Would heaven but infancy restore.
Thus o'er an idle dream we pore;
   But slight the waking deed.
In the sixth stanza, revision of the first verse eliminated the "'Twas...when" construction that Moore used in the famous first verse of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ('Twas the night before Christmas, when...."). Before revision, the sixth stanza in the 1805 Portfolio version of "To A Lady" began
'Twas then, when evening call'd to rest,
I'd seek a father to request.... [1837 New York Book and 1844 Poems: "I sought my father, to request"]
The 1806 reprinting in A new translation with notes of the Third Satire of Juvenal preserves the original construction, before revision:

Revised in the 1837 and later versions to:
"Whene'er night's shadows called to rest, --The New-York Book of Poetry
The Port Folio, June 1, 1805

[Verses, addressed to a lady, who maintains, that the pleasures of childhood, are not to be desired in comparison of those, which we enjoy at a more advanced period of life.]

Thy dimpled girls, and rosy boys,
Rekindle in thy heart the joys,
   Which bless'd thy tender years.
Unheeded, fleet the hours away;
For while thy cherubs round thee play,
   New life thy bosom cheers.

Once more, thou tell'st me, I may taste,
Ere envious Time this frame shall waste,
   My infant pleasures flown--
Ah! there's a ray of lustre mild,
Illumes the bosom of a child,
   To age, alas! scarce known.

Not for my infant pleasures past
I mourn; those joys, which flew so fast,
   They too, had many a stain.
But for the mind so pure and light,
Which made these joys so fair, so bright,
   I sigh; and sigh in vain.

Well I remember you, blest hours!
Your sun-beams bright, your transient showers,
Thoughtless, I saw you fly;
For distant ills then caus'd no dread;
Nor cared I for the moments fled;
For memory call'd no sigh.

My parents dear then rul'd each thought;
No blame I fear'd, no praise I sought,
   But what their love bestow'd.
Full soon I learnt each meaning look;
Nor e'er the angry glance mistook
   For that where rapture glow'd.

'Twas then, when evening call'd to rest,
I'd seek a father, to request
   His benediction mild.
A mother's love more loud would speak;
With kiss on kiss she'd print my cheek,
   And bless her darling child.

Thy lightest mists and clouds, sweet sleep!
Thy purest opiates thou dost keep,
   On infancy to shed.
No guilt there checks thy soft embrace;
And not e'en tears and sobs can chace
   Thee from an infant's bed.

The trickling tears, which flow'd at night,
Oft' hast thou stayed, till morning light
   Dispell'd my little woes.
So fly before the sunbeam's power
The remnants of the evening shower,
   Which wet the early rose.

Farewel, bless'd hours! full fast ye flew;
And that which made your bliss so true,
   Ye would not leave behind.
The glow of youth ye could not leave;
But why, why cruelly bereave
   Me of my artless mind?

The fair unwrinkled front of youth,
The vermil cheek, the smile of truth
   Deep lines of care soon mark.
But can no power preserve the soul,
Unwarp'd by pleasure's soft controul;
   Unmov'd by passions dark?

These changes, which o'ertake our frame,
Alas! are emblems of the same,
   Which on the mind attend.
Yet, who reviews the course he's run,
But thinks, were life once more begun,
   Unspotted it should end?

Vain thought! the evening's firm resolve
We break, ere morning clouds dissolve;
   Then boast the life we'd lead,
Would heaven but infancy restore.
Thus o'er an idle dream we pore;
   But slight the waking deed.

Thou tender mother! hope thy bosom warms,
That on the pratler in thine arms
   Heaven's choicest gifts will flow.
Thus let thy prayer incessant rise;
Content, if he who rules the skies,
   But half the boon bestow.

"Oh thou! whose view is ne'er estrang'd
"From innocence; preserve unchang'd
   "Through life my darling's mind.
"Unchang'd its truth and purity;
"Still fearless of futurity;
   "Still artless, though refin'd.

"As oft' his anxious nurse hath caught,
"And sav'd his little hand that sought
   "The bright, but treach'rous blaze;
"So, may fair wisdom keep him sure
"From glittering vices, which allure
   "Through life's delusive maze!

"Oh! may the ills which man surround,
"Like passing shadows on the ground,
   "Obscure, not stain, my boy.
"Then, may he gently drop to rest,
"Calm as a child by sleep oppres'd;
   "And wake to endless joy!


No comments:

Post a Comment