Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New York Review on the poetry of Clement C. Moore: "ripeness of feeling with an ease of versification"

Robert Walter Weir, Saint Nicholas

From the notice of the New-York Book of Poetry in the New York Review for October 1837:
A visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore, is one of the most appropriate passages of the New-York Book.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump; a right jolly old elf;
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.—p. 219.
These lines have lately been illustrated by Weir's painting of St. Nicholas, where we have the very impersonation, the second self, of the jolly Saint, with his happy Dutch visnomy, full of broad enjoyment, twinkling grey eyes, expanded mouth, and warm rubicund nose—a more lumbering Dutch Puck or Robin Goodfellow, just ascending the chimney after his humorsome labours, while the scripture tiles round the fireplace and rich oak mantel throw a ruddy light on this worthy representative of the Russian Calendar.

Not less pleasing, though in another way, a thoughtful melancholy mood, are the Lines 'To a Lady,' 'From a Father to his Children,' 'From a Husband to his Wife,' by the same hand. They combine a ripeness of feeling with an ease of versification that might profitably have been employed on wider subjects. With the Father's reverie from the last-mentioned of these poems we conclude our notice.

The dreams of Hope that round us play,
   And lead along our early youth,
How soon, alas! they fade away
   Before the sober rays of Truth.

And yet there are some joys in life
   That Fancy's pencil never drew;
For Fancy's self, my own dear wife,
   Ne'er dreamt the bliss I owe to you.
Hope comes, with balmy influence fraught,
   To heal the wound that rends my heart,
Whene'er it meets the dreadful thought
   That all our earthly ties must part.

Bless'd hope, beyond earth's narrow space,
   Within high Heaven's eternal bound,
Again to see your angel face,
   With all your cherubs clustering round.

Reflected images are seen
   Upon this transient stream of Time,
Through mists and shades that intervene,
   Of things eternal and subhme. 
Then let us rightly learn to know
   These heavenly messengers of love:
They teach us whence true pleasures flow,
   And win our thoughts to joys above.

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