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Monday, February 12, 2018

Review of Clement C. Moore's 1844 Poems in the Churchman

Signed "L.*" and published in the The Churchman on August 31, 1844, this seriously formal and favorable review of Clement C. Moore's Poems appeared under the heading, "Communications." One mistake by "L.*" worth noting: the name of the widowed father in A Trip to Saratoga is Henry Mildmay, not "Mayville."

For the Churchman.

Poems by C. C. Moore, LL. D.,
In One Volume. 12mo.

———"O quae fontibus integris
Gaudes, apricos necte flores,
Necte meo Lamiae coronam,
Pimplea dulcis."
Hor. Carm., Lib. I., xxvi. [Horace, Ode 26]

Truly this is an age prolific of doggerel. Witness the puerile efforts and "tender effusions," with which, under the caption of poetry, the periodical press generally teems! Witness also the splendidly bound trash, called "Poetical Miscellanies," which exist, perchance, a brief hour, and then sink quietly into merited oblivion! Every one, now-a-days, that can count his ten digits, or can cause a few syllables to gingle together agreeably, deems himself, of a truth, impregnated with the "gift divine." Here and there a pure gem glistens solitarily amid the surrounding rubbish; but
"Qui nescit versus, tamen audet fingere." Hor. Art. Poet., 382.
[Horace: Ars Poetica]
It is really refreshing, therefore, to chance, in our barren pilgrimage, upon some beautiful exotics from Parnassus; or to listen to tones so heart-thrilling as to remind one of sorrowing Orpheus. Indeed, the "Poems" before us are founded evidently on the best models of antiquity; and prove, moreover, that their author has not drunk sparingly of the "Pierian Spring." It is no light charge against the ancient—(shall we not say also, in too many instances, against the modern?)—Muse, that she exposes, as if purposely, through her glittering trappings, much of shameless obscenity! Now, in this volume we find not a single sentence subversive of modesty; not one vicious thought, nor any terms of vulgarity; all is classical in diction, and in sentiment pure. What a shining and rare example for our rising poets! Space will, at present, allow to notice only cursorily a few of the poems.

"A Trip to Saratoga" is the title of the first, as well as the longest, poem in the collection. Exhibiting vivid powers of description, and much fertility of imagination, tempered with good taste and judgment; it is written in a happy humor, and evinces a shrewd insight of human nature. Its style recalls the chaste and natural manner of our favorite Goldsmith. The poem embraces six parts, and alternates from gay to grave just as the subject or the occasion suggests. Among many others, we notice one beautiful and poetical effort, where "Henry Mayville" (who escorts his children to the Springs) is watching anxiously over his slumbering and guileless daughter. The inimitable "Visit of St. Nicholas" is universally known; and, though originally written for the author's own children many years since, is still taught to our little ones, and served up annually as a merry dessert at our Christmas feasts. The "Wine Drinker" and the "Water Drinker," would not shame even Horace. His Euriosus felicitas [Curiosa felicitas] sparkles in every line. But they ingeniously inculcate the golden and true mean—(so necessary in this ultra-era)—between intemperance and austerity. The lines of the author to his daughter "on her marriage," possess much poetical merit, combined with solid and excellent advice, applicable to all the gentler sex under the same happy but solemn circumstances. But the stanzas composed "On his childrens' requesting the author to have his portrait taken," are, in our opinion, a chef d'œuvre of the pathetic—indicating alike a parent's disinterested and deep affection, and the holiest feelings of humanity. We would, however, refer to the concluding poem, addressed to the late poet-laureate Robert Southey, as a striking specimen of what the author is capable of effecting in the higher ranges of poesy. Here we directly perceive that ϑυμός ζωτικος or vivid ardor, which glows only in the bosom of the genuine poet. If any one can look with insensibility upon the sad but real scene, here so nervously and naturally depicted, he must be any thing but human! Nor can such an one ever duly appreciate the productions of an intellect and sensibilities so highly cultivated and refined. Our author will not, we predict, be ranked low amongst American Poets.

We pass over the minor points, not because they are indifferent, (some of them indeed are rare flowers,) but because our allotted space is filled. But it is the healthful CHRISTIAN tone, pervading this work, that challenges our warmest and most lasting admiration. We rise from it with a stronger conviction, that virtue is not a mere name, nor our holy religion a cunning contrivance; but that there is a place (so to speak) where no "night" is; where we shall embrace again our loved lost ones; and "where sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

The author, in a well written preface, modestly states, that these poems were composed at various periods, in his leisure moments; have cost him some pains, and are dedicated (admirable precedent!) to his children. In concluding, then, this necessarily imperfect notice, we would cordially recommend this collection of poems, as well to the classical as general reader, promising in their perusal—the end of all good poetry—no stinted measure both of profit and delight.

L.*

New York, Aug. 26, 1844.
On July 31, 1847 the Churchman reprinted the review of Moore's 1844 Poems by William Alfred Jones in the Literary World.

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