Thursday, November 25, 2021

1844 ALBION review of POEMS by Clement C. Moore

This might be the only contemporary review of Clement C. Moore's Poems that does not mention A Visit from St. Nicholas as a highlight of the 1844 collection. Evidently the Santa Claus business, perceived as a curious local custom practiced by Dutch-descended Knickerbockers, did not impress the British conductors of the New York Albion or their target audience of British expats. Checking just now, the earliest and only mentions of Santa Claus I can find in the Albion all appear in various notices of the Santa Claus symphony by William Henry Fry, first performed on Christmas Eve, 1853 by Louis Jullien's orchestra.

New York Albion - August 17, 1844


By Clement C. Moore, L. L. D. Bartlett and Welford, New York, 1844.

Here we have a volume of poems, produced by the publisher in the London style. The luxury of broad margin, fine paper, clear and beautiful type, attract the attention like any aristocratic-looking volume from the other side of the Atlantic. Indeed we thought it of English birth, until we saw the name of Wm. Van Norden, Printer. It is, in a word, a genuine specimen of good book printing, as far distant from the paltry cheap, as it is from the flimsy gew gaws now so frequently put forth to catch the eye and the penny. 

The poems are from the pen of a gentleman, well known and highly esteemed in this community, who in a chaste and well written preface addressed to his children, assigns his reasons for giving his little volume to the reading world. We extract from this preface the following passages, recommending them to writers generally.

Of the poetic merits of the work we need only say, that the sentiments are chaste and moral, the versification smooth and accurate, and that the tendency of the whole is, to purify and soften the taste and to cultivate the moral perception of the reader.

We present two or three extracts:--

I do not pay my readers so ill a compliment as to offer the contents of this volume to their view as the mere amusements of my idle hours ; effusions thrown off without care or meditation, as though the refuse of my thoughts were good enough for them. On the contrary, some of the pieces have cost me much time and thought; and I have composed them all as carefully and correctly as I could.

I wish you to bear in mind that nothing which may appear severe or sarcastic in this collection, is pointed at any individual. When vice or absurdity is held up to view, it is the fault, and not any particular person that is pointed at.  


There is a language giv'n to flowers,
   By which a lover may impart
The bitter anguish that devours,
   Or extacy that swells his heart. 
And all the feelings of the breast,
   Between the extremes of bliss and wo,
By tender flow'rets are exprest,
   Or plants that in the wild wood grow. 
These new-cull'd blossoms which I send,
   With breath so sweet and tints so gay,
I truly know not, my kind friend,
   In Flora's language what they say ;

Nor which one hue I should select,
   Nor how they all should be combin'd,
That at a glance, you might detect
   The true emotions of my mind.

But, as the rainbow's varied hues,
   If mingled in proportions right,
All their distinctive radiance lose,
   And only show unspotted white,
Thus, into one I would combine
   These colors that so various gleam,
And bid this offering only shine
   With friendship's pure and tranquil beam.


Fill'd as thou art with attic fire,
And skill'd in classic lore divine,
Not yet content, woulds't thou aspire
In Flora's gorgeous wreath to shine ?
Woulds't thou in language of the rose
Lessons of wisdom seek t'impart,
Or in the violet's breath disclose
The feelings of a generous heart ? 
Come as thou wilt, my warm regard
And welcome, shall thy steps attend;
Scholar, musician, florist, bard —
More dear to me than all, as friend.
Bring flow'rs and poesy, a goodly store,
Like Dickens' Oliver, I ask for Moore.

ON HER MARRIAGE — 1826 [1836].

For you, my Margaret dear, I have no art
To sing a jocund hymeneal strain ;
What rises strong and deep within the heart
Must ever have some touch, at least, of pain. 
Nor know I that the bird of merriest lay
Gives happiest omen in the bridal hour ;
That gaudy flowers, with brilliant tints and gay,
May best adorn the sacred nuptial bower.

But think me not of mind morose and sad,
Where naught but sullen censure finds abode,
If, in the midst of voices blithe and glad,
I greet you with a song of graver mode. 
The glow on pleasure's cheek, it is not this
That always tells where heartfelt joys appear;
The hidden wellsprings of our purest bliss
Are oft betoken'd by the gushing tear.

I am not like the parent bird that tries
To lure its young one from the fostering home ;
That gladly sees its new-fledg'd offspring rise
On outspread wing, in distant shades to roam :

Yet I were form'd in Nature's sternest mood,
Did not my inmost soul with you rejoice.
To see your lot amid the wise and good,
The gentlest friends, the husband of your choice.

Mysterious bond, that kindred souls unites !
Great law of nature hallowed from above !
Bless'd remnant of lost Eden's pure delights!
The sum of all our bliss — connubial love ! 
Oh, holy flame ! seraphic influence mild !
Sweet incense, kindled by celestial ray !
For ever warm the bosom of my child,
And gently soothe her through life's rugged way !

And you, my child, while yet your life is strong,
While in the calm of peace your thoughts repose,
Prepare for ills that to our state belong,
And arm you to contend with numerous foes.

For many ills unseen beset us round,
And many foes within ourselves we raise.
What sudden checks in smoothest paths are found !
How few and fleeting are our golden days !

At Hymen's altar when we plight our truth,
For better and for worse, we thoughtless say;
We dream of only good ; the heart of youth
Drives ev'ry fear of distant ills away.

Till death do part, how gaily we repeat
When joy and health are in their prime and strength:
Life is a vista then whose borders meet ;
So endless, to our fancy, seems its length.

But oh ! how soon we pass this endless track,
That, like perspective art, deludes our view :
And, when we turn and on our path look back,
How short the distance ! and our steps how few !

Trust not the gilded mists and clouds that rise
Where flattering Hope and fickle Fancy reign ;
But turn from these, and seek with anxious eyes
The clear bright atmosphere of Truth's domain.

Ascend, full oft, her highest vantage ground,
And look beyond the circuit of this earth.
Review the things its narrow limits bound ;
And, with her guidance, learn to scan their worth.

Nor think that with relentless stern regard
She frowns on all our fleeting pleasures here.
Believe me, no true joys by her are marr'd,
But, in her light, more lovely they appear.

And now, while youth and health are in their bloom,
Why should you dread to look beyond this state ?
The traveller's pleasure knows no boding gloom
Because the charms of home his steps await.

Thus, like the compass, shall your tranquil soul,
With one wish'd haven steady in its view,
Though tempests rage and threat'ning billows roll,
Rest even-pois'd, and point for ever true.
New York American - October 6, 1835

The third poem transcribed above from the New York Albion of August 17, 1844 addresses Clement C. Moore's oldest daughter Margaret after her marriage on October 5, 1835 to John Doughty Ogden (1804-1887). Her father's sober expectation of "sudden checks in smoothest paths" proved true, too soon, when Margaret Elliot Moore Ogden passed away in April 1845, age 29. 

So Margaret died less than one year after the publication of Poems by Clement C. Moore. The poet already had lost his wife Catherine Eliza (d. April 4, 1830) and two daughters, Emily (d. April 18, 1828) and Charity (d. December 14, 1830).

In 1848 Margaret's widower John D. Ogden married her sister Mary Clarke Moore (1819-1893). Mary Ogden made an illustrated copy of Moore's St. Nicholas for her husband in 1855, reproduced in the December 10, 1951 issue of LIFE magazine

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