Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Arrowhead in January


Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Troy, New York. I drove there from Albany (Rensselaer, technically) after a gorgeous ride along the Hudson on Amtrak from Penn Station in New York City. Spent a lot of my time at the Troy Public Library, looking at old newspapers on microfilm in the Troy Room.

For a break I drove to Pittsfield in western Massachusetts and (of course) stopped by Arrowhead.


After parking my rented SUV (unsolicited upgrade, thanks enterprise!) I walked on over to the front of Herman Melville's old home. Check out the reconstructed front porch, something added they say by Herman's brother Allan Melville around 1870, when he owned the place...


I proceeded on around for a look at the famous Piazza, also a reconstruction...


and then walked a little ways up The Melville Trail before heading back in a light snowfall.

It's a beautiful place to be, still.


John Keese

John Keese (1805-1856)
Frontispiece portrait in John Keese, Wit and Littérature (1883)
via The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore
the wittiest book auctioneer of his day in New York 
--
Evert A. Duyckinck on John Keese
Only a year before his death, Evert A. Duyckinck wrote a marvelous tribute to New York publisher, editor, and auctioneer-punster John Keese (1805-1856) titled "Keese-ana," published in The Magazine of American History Volume 1 for August 1877. Duyckink's piece was supplemented in the December 1877 issue by Keese's son, William Linn Keese.

On March 30, 1837 John Keese served as toast-master at the grand inaugural Bookseller's Dinner or "Festival" in New York City, honoring distinguished authors and, more generally, everybody who was anybody in the book trade. Publisher George Dearborn performed the duties of master of ceremonies. So then, Dearborn and Keese, two anthologists and early publishers of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" officiated at the 1837 Bookseller's Festival. Also in attendance: Moore's close friends Charles King, Philip Hone, and John W. Francis--all of whom gave speeches before some 300 assembled guests. Irving, Paulding, Bryant, and Halleck were all there, along with other luminaries including Chancellor Kent, Albert Gallatin, Colonel John Trumbull, Columbia president William Alexander Duer and the professors of Columbia College. Here the enterprising co-host George Palmer Putnam first met Washington Irving, who glorified Halleck and warmly toasted:
 "Samuel Rogers—The friend of American genius."  --The American Monthly Magazine
Willis mailed in his pro-copyright toast to "The Republic of Letters—in which all who speak the same language are compatriots, and should reciprocate protection and kind feeling." Edgar A. Poe raised his glass to his closest colleagues: "The Monthlies of Gotham—Their distinguished Editors, and their vigorous Collaborateurs."

In his opening address, reprinted in the Evening Post and other New York newspapers, John Keese acknowledged substantial contributions by the book trade in the past, and challenged publishers to do even more for the cause of American letters:
"We desire still further to explore the mind where mental ore lies buried, to awaken slumbering genius, and to call into active exercise the dormant energy and shrinking talent of our young and much-loved land. Why sleeps the Muse of Drake's twin-brother bard? Why comes not he forth with fairy wand to silence the scribblers of the day? Who among us would not esteem it a high honor to be his publisher, and to issue his beautiful creations in a guise as beautiful as the taste of our best artisans can exhibit ?"
--John Keese, Wit and Littérateur
A few years later, Keese seemed to answer his own challenge by publishing the two-volume set, The Poets of America: Illustrated by One of Her Painters (1840-1842). However, the first volume would offer only the usual selections by Fitz-Greene Halleck ("Drake's twin-brother bard"): a lyric from "Fanny," "Alnwick Castle" and "Marco Bozzaris." A Visit from St. Nicholas also would grace Volume 1, attributed to "C. C. Moore" and illustrated with one drawing of St. Nicholas by another guest at the 1837 Bookseller's Dinner, John Gadsby Chapman. Another celebrity artist in attendance was Robert Walter Weir, who had just finished his own painting of St. Nicholas. The month before the Bookseller's Festival, Weir had offered his freshly painted St. Nicholas to Gulian Verplanck, rating it as "one of the best things I have done" (quoted in Lauretta Dimmick, Robert Weir's Saint Nicholas: A Knickerbocker Icon).

Keese recycled his 1837 speech at the 1850 Printer's Banquet and (probably) on similar occasions.

John Keese's son remembered Henry T. Tuckerman and Charles Fenno Hoffman as frequent visitors to their home "on the north side of Atlantic street." Like Duyckinck, Hoffman and Tuckerman later became good friends with Herman Melville.
"within the walls of that house, that evening and on many which followed, with and without the presence of the writer [Henry Morford], was gathered a literary circle which has rarely been equaled in America in numbers, and which has scarcely ever had its superior in the quality of persons composing it…"  --John Keese, Wit and Littérateur
Other members of Keese's literary circle around 1839-40 according to Henry Morford were Seba Smith and his wife Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Robert Balmanno and Mary Balmanno, Frances Sargent Osgood, Emma C. Embury, William Gilmore Simms, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, William H. C. Hosmer, Richard Grant White, and Nathaniel Parker Willis.

Considering Keese's intimacy with Duyckinck, Hoffman, and Tuckerman, Melville had to know of him. As Luther Stearns Mansfield notes in Melville's Comic Articles on Zachary Taylor, Duyckinck named John Keese among other occasional contributors to Yankee Doodle. The most likely time for Melville and Keese to have met or socialized would have been in New York City between say 1847 and 1850, before Melville moved himself and family to Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Found on Newspapers.com powered by Newspapers.com
Here's a sample of John Keese at work, from Evert Duyckinck's 1877 memorial:
His deprecatory remark on the sacrifice of a copy of Bacon's Essays for twelve and a half cents was pathetic. “Really, that is too much pork for a shilling!" Selling, one evening, a book on German politics by Goetz, he hesitated over the catalogue, as if at the delicacy of the author’s name. “What is it?" asked one of the audience. “ Oh! something, I suppose, on the internal difficulties of the country." In a similar vein was his introduction of Gutzslaff's China with the observation, “This was the gentleman with a commotion in his bowels."

Sometimes his wit would be more pointed. “This," said he, holding up a volume of verse of a well known type, “is a book, by a poor and pious girl, of poor and pious poems." There was a heavy remainder of a certain volume, the “ Lives of the Shoemakers," which required all his ingenuity to dispose of. He would bring out a copy with the unfailing introduction, “This is the last copy. The book was awl the the author wrote and was awl that his widow inherited from him, her sale reliance"—a jest which may have been stimulated by Shakespeare’s cobbler in Julius Caesar. Of some heavy folio, dragging at a feeble price, he would end his efforts—“ Going—going—cheap for a back-log!" Knocking down a “ Hand-book," he added, for the comfort of the purchaser, “You will see that it is pretty well fingered." “Damaged, you say, yes—a little wet on the outside—but you will find it dry enough within." On another occasion he parried this word "damaged" quite happily. A young son of a highly respectable Episcopal clergyman of this city, was a privileged attendant at the auction room. Keese offered a soiled or injured copy of the “Book of Common Prayer." “ Isn’t it damaged," exclaimed the youth; upon which Keese turned round to him slowly, and fixing his attention upon him with great gravity, in a tone of soberness and solemnity, addressed him, “ Has your father taught you to regard that as a damaged book ?" 
--Keese-ana by Evert A. Duyckinck

Friday, February 24, 2017

Augusta Melville on the poetry of Felicia Hemans

Felicia Hemans via Wikimedia Commons
At least ten different school compositions by Herman Melville's sister Augusta Melville (1821-1876) survive in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. Call number MssCol 1109, Box 308. When she began writing them Augusta was fifteen years old, in the 3rd Department at the Albany Female Academy. Her usually untitled essays treat the following topics:
  • Exemplary human exertion
  • Character of Christ
  • History of a Hat
  • Execution of Lady Jane Grey
  •  Mourners
  • The Sabbath
  • Childhood
  • The Lark (two separate drafts)
  • Sufferings of Christ 
  • Poetry of Mrs. Hemans
The Albany Female Academy gloried in its "particular attention" to Composition during the period of Augusta Melville's attendance there:

Composition has received particular attention in this institution; and it is believed that the plan pursued in teaching this important branch, has resulted in producing many correct and elegant writers. Instruction in this branch of study is commenced in the fifth department, where the pupils are daily required to incorporate in sentences, to be written by themselves, words given them by their teachers. This exercise is continued in both divisions of the fourth, and occasionally in addition to regular essays in the third department, and experience has demonstrated it to be, an efficient mode of teaching the definition and use of words, as well as the structure of language. In the first and second departments, this productive system is continued. The teachers of composition devote one hour a day to each of these departments, in correcting the essays which are given in once in every two weeks. The composition of each pupil is read aloud in her presence., and all the faults in orthography, incorrect sentences, improper use of words, &c. &c., carefully pointed out. 
Themes are occasionally given to the scholars, with an analysis or sketch of the outline, to be pursued in the construction of the essay. After the composition is corrected, the scholar is required to make a copy of the same, and return it to the teacher to be preserved in the institution.  --Documents of the Senate of the State of New York
As reported in the Albany Argus on July 22, 1836, one essay titled "The Character of Christ" (Augusta's?) nearly won 3rd prize but lost out to another student's composition on the "Genius of John Milton." The big prize-winners:
  1. Constitution of Man
  2. Traits of Indian Character
  3. Genius of John Milton
Albany Argus - July 22, 1836
In Melville Unfolding (University of Michigan Press, 2008), John Bryant devotes a couple of pages to Augusta's writing and her brother Gansevoort's editing, helpfully summarizing their relative strengths:
In 1836, Gansevoort was himself an exuberant stylist developing his own rhetorical skills; Augusta, a clearly talented by inexperienced writer in need of (and grateful for) fraternal "correction." He was twenty years old, and she fifteen. 
--Melville Unfolding, 186
In the first volume of The Melville Log, Jay Leyda gave excerpts from two of Augusta's compositions, the one about Childhood dated October 15, 1836; and the one on Mrs. Hemans, submitted according to Leyda on January 15, 1837.
None can exceed her, and few can equal her writings in their ethereal purity of sentiment. None can do justice to them, and they will ever remain a bright meteor in the sky of fame to humble all who dare cope with her and bind undying laurels round her brow. --The Melville Log, 1.67-8
Besides getting editorial help from Gansevoort, Augusta utilized the influential criticism by Francis Jeffrey in The Edinburgh Review, excerpted in some editions of The Poetical Works of Mrs. Hemans. For instance, the canceled phrase "touching and accomplished," is Jeffrey's.

Augusta Melville's essay on the poetry of Felicia Hemans is transcribed in full below. The strike-through and highlighted portions indicate revisions made by Augusta's older brother Gansevoort Melville. Stray words and fragments aim to represent text only, not exact spatial position or arrangement on the manuscript page. Two draft headings are blotted over in dark ink, the longer and more central of which appears to have read "Mrs. Heman's Poetry."
Mrs. Heman's Poetry

A sweet A sweet
        A sweet A sweet
sweet        A Sweet

A sweet tenderness and loftiness of feeling characterizes all the poetical productions of Mrs Hemans. They possess "a purity of sentiment which could only emanate from the soul of a woman" [Francis Jeffrey in The Edinburgh Review]. In her descriptions, taste, and elegance enriched with varied images of beauty, which leave an impress like that of natures handiwork a soothing impresssion upon the mind, And they are not merely placed there for ornament, but they possess a meaning, a full decided meaning. And some peices that seem at first but mere descriptions have a fine moral attached, which shows a thorough acquaintance with human nature. Her style is fine. It paints the virtues and the vices in their true light, and condemning the vicious, applauds the virtuous. Her choise of subjects shows an acquaintance with the human mind, and an extent of knowledge which few possess. She is ever bright and beautiful in her illustrations., some have a sweet, pathetic expression which paints its image upon the mind.
"Oh! ask of them stranger!—send back the lost!
"Tell them we mourn by the dark blue streams,
"Tell them our lives but of them are dreams!
"Tell how we sat in the gloom to pine,
"And to watch for a step,—but the step was thine!"
[The Stranger in Louisiana]
Her vivid descriptions bring the scenes before our minds eye, with a force which is not equeled [underlined spelling error] by any other female writer, for she is by all means the most touching and accomplished. Her writings are preeminently distinguished for their touching simplicity & exquisite pathos.
Most of her poetry is peculiarly adapted to musick., There is a softness and delicacy of sentiment, contained in it, combined with such perfect euphony,
dream
that it breaths a sweet unison with
dream dreams
any musical instrument. "Bring flowers," "the tyrolise evening hymn" "the captive knight" and many others
 dreams
are sweetly warbled by young voices in all their native purity. But her sweetest poem is "Gertrude Von Der Wart." None but a woman could have described the tenderness, the enduring love, even unto death of that frail but heroic woman,! Who could watch by the tortured
vivid her vivid vivid her her her
form of him she loved, and pour forth her voice in prayer for his soul, beneath the pale stars, alone and in darkness. She strengthens him to bear his agony 
"And show my honoured love, and true,
Bear on bear nobly on,
We have the blessed heaven in view,
Whose rest shall soon be won."  [Gertrude]
And how touching the conclusion when death has at length arrived to put a period to his agonies.
"While e'en as on a martyrs grave,
She knelt on that sad spot,
And weeping blessed the God who gave,
Strength to forsake him not."
"The Better Land," the "messenger bird," and "hour of prayer" are sweet effusions from a pious soul. The "childs first grief" breaths a touching symplicity and innocence which which we seldom meet with. "The Sisters," too abounds with beautiful ideas, most beautifully expressed. The broken hearted one is about to leave the tender and devoted sister, the companion of her childhood, who is using every persuasion that ardent love can suggest to wean her back, how touching her answer. 
"Oh! woul'dst thou seek a wounded bird from shelter to detain,
"Or woul'dst thou call a spirit freed to weary life again?  [The Sisters]
And of an and
This is but a single example of the numerous beauties of pathetic description. None can exceed her, and few can equal her writings in their ethereal purity of sentiment. None can do justice to them, and they will ever remain a bright meteor in the sky of fame to humble all who dare cope with her and to bind such undying laurels round her fair brow. which will do her the honours too well deserved. Yes! hers is an enduring fame, a fame which all might covet which shall last as long as refinement and pure taste remain. In lamenting her death that exquisite passage which she composed comes forcibly to mind. 
Bring flowers pale flowers o'er the bier to shed,
A crown for the brow of the early dead.
For this through its leaves hath the white rose burst
For this in the woods was the violet nursed,
Through this look in vain for what once was ours
They are love's last giftbring flowers, pale flowers.
Augusta
undying       lau
                    laurels
laurels lau

Miss A. Melville
Composition
--Gansevoort-Lansing collection, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sophia Hawthorne's view of Melville: "free, brave & manly"

Sophia Hawthorne, September 4, 1850 letter to her mother Elizabeth [Palmer] Peabody
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
In Herman Melville: A Biography (V1.773) Hershel Parker calls this "by all odds  the fullest such description of Melville known to exist." Most recently, Sophia Hawthorne's physical description of Herman Melville in 1850 has been reprinted in Melville in His Own Time, edited by Steven Olsen-Smith. Now you can see online what Sophia Hawthorne wrote in manuscript, courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections
To day Mr Hawthorne & Mr Melville have gone to dine at Pittsfield. Mr. Tappan took them in his carriage.... This would have been no particular courtesy in some persons, but for this shy dear, who particularly did not wish, for some reason to be introduced to Mr Melville, it was very pretty. I have no doubt he will be repaid by finding Mr Melville a very different man from what he imagines - & very agreeable & entertaining - We find him so - a man with a true warm heart & a soul & an intellect - with life to his finger-tips - earnest, sincere & reverent, very tender & modest - And I am not sure that he is not a very great man - but I have not quite decided upon my own opinion. I should say I am not quite sure that I do not think him a very great man - for my opinion is of course as far as possible from settling the matter. He has very keen perceptive power, but what astonishes me is that his eyes are not large & deep. He seems to see every thing very accurately & how he can do so with his small eyes, I cannot tell. They are not keen eyes, either, but quite undistinguished in every way. His nose is straight & rather handsome, his mouth expressive of sensibility & emotion. He is tall & erect with an air free, brave & manly. When conversing, he is full of gesture & force, & loses himself in his subject. There is no grace nor polish. Once in a while his animation gives place to a singularly quiet expression out of these eyes, to which I have objected--an indrawn, dim look, but which at the same time makes you feel - that he is at that instant taking deepest note of what is before him. It is a strange, lazy glance, but with a power in it quite unique. He does not seem to penetrate through you, but to take you into himself. I saw him look at Una so yesterday several times.

He says it is Mr Mathews who, writing in the Literary World the visit to Berkshire, Mr Mathews calls Mr. Hawthorne "Mr. Noble Melancholy" in the August number of the paper. You know what you read was the Introduction only. It is singular how many people insist that Mr. Hawthorne is gloomy, since he is not. He is pensive perhaps - as all contemplative persons must be, especially when as in him "a great heart is the household fire of a grand intellect" (to quote his own words).
From the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library. "Peabody, Elizabeth [Palmer], mother, ALS to. Sep. 4, 1850." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/ce433d10-852c-0131-589e-58d385a7bbd0


Monday, February 20, 2017

Fragments from a Writing Desk: The approaching conclusion of a long project, THE ...

Fragments from a Writing Desk: The approaching conclusion of a long project, THE ...: Alma MacDougall has bundled up all the final volume of the Northwestern-Newberry THE WRITINGS OF HERMAN MELVILLE and shipped it off to Nor...

Melville in Joseph Gostwick's 1856 Handbook of American Literature

The reader who is wearied by sentimental fiction, may find relief in turning to the tales of adventure by Dr Mayo, Lieutenant Wise, and Hermann Melville. To write a grave critique on these books, would be ridiculous; and to make any protest against the extravagances of the writer last named, would be useless; for it would never be read by those who find delight in the pages of Mardi, Kaloolah, and similar tales. It must not be supposed that we deny the peculiar merits of these romances: we intend only to shew the impossibility of giving any critical account of them. They must be received as reports of the fluent, careless, and often brilliant talk of imaginative travellers, or dreamers of travel, who have written without any care for rules of art, or fear of critics. The passion for reading of the class to which we refer, is a curious feature in recent years. It prevails in England and Germany as in America. As practical life becomes tame and monotonous, the youthful imagination goes back to barbarism and the wildness of nature, to find excitement. Tales of adventure by land and sea, in the forests, or on the prairies of the far west, or highly coloured pictures of sensuous and luxurious life in the islands of the South Seas—these supply the intellectual refreshment of numerous young readers, and lure away their minds from the study of realities. The wildness of Melville's stories—Typee, Omoo, Mardi, and others—seems to be infectious; for in a review of Mardi, we find a critic writing in the following style:—'Reading this wild book, we can imagine ourselves mounted upon some Tartar steed, golden caparisons clank around our person, ostrich plumes of driven whiteness hang over our brow, and cloud our vision with dancing snow. . . . . Away, away, along the sandy plain!' &c. This is perhaps our most concise mode of indicating the rhapsodical style of the book itself. Typee, the first of Melville's books, tells the story of two sailors who escaped from their ship, and landed on an island of the Pacific, where they were received by the Typee natives, with whom they lived luxuriously, feasting on sucking-pigs and breadfruit, and enjoying all the licence of a primitive state of society. Mardi intermingles with its voluptuous scenery a dreamy philosophy of which we can give no clear account. --Joseph Gostwick, Handbook of American Literature
Joseph Gostwick (1814-1887) compiled well-received surveys of  German Literature, and also wrote influentially on The spirit of German poetry and English Poets.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Israel Potter in Akron, Ohio


From the Summit County Beacon [Akron, Ohio], April 4, 1855:
Israel Potter; His Fifty years of Exile, By Herman Melville. For sale by BERBE, ELKINS & CO.
The readers of Putnam's Magazine, will hear with pleasure that this deeply interesting narrative is at length complated, and given to the country in book from. Long before we guessed at the authorship, we found ourselves absorbed in the narrative; and now that the author stands revealed, we are no longer surprised at the beauty of the sketch. Melville has never written anything more readable than "Israel Potter;" and the country owes him a debt of gratitude for depicting so faithfully the chequered history of the Exiled hero.

Melville at Brentano's on Christmas Eve, 1891--with Clement C. Moore and others

via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
Even if they never met in real life, Herman Melville did get to hear Clement C. Moore recite "A Visit from St. Nicholas" on Christmas Eve, 1891--in the imagination of their living mutual acquaintance, A. Oakey Hall. In A Christmas Eve at Brentano's, published in the January 1892 issue of Book Chat, Hall describes a dream vision populated by the ghosts of famous authors. Hall's departed literati are attending a holiday party conducted by another ghost, that of famed bookseller August Brentano
"... every Christmas Eve I hold a symposium of dead and gone authors and authoresses and a merry making here from the mysterious recesses where dwell what you mortals call 'the Majority.'"
Nathaniel Parker Willis meets up with Disraeli and Bulwer. Thomas Hood and Edgar Allan Poe compare new editions. Likewise Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Felicia Hemans are found "examining choicely bound volumes of their poems." Shakespeare and Bacon laugh "heartily" together over The Great Cryptogram by Ignatius Donnelly. The late Herman Melville (who had died September 28, 1891) joins British authors Owen Meredith and Lawrence Oliphant, "all recent recruits to 'the Majority'" and now "pleasantly occupied" at the festive gathering. August Brentano personally requests the recital by Clement C. Moore, who gets introduced by Santa Claus himself:
But before I had time to stow further guests of the banqueting literate in my perplexed memory there was a bustle at the head of the table, and for the first time on this occasion of the fairy like feast I heard a voice—that of Santa Claus—saying: "by request of our great book-selling Host, Clement C. Moore will now recite his celebrated ode beginning—'Twas the night before Christmas when,' etc."

This the old Knickerbocker bard gave ore rotundo with spirited emphasis from his seat next to General Geo. P. Morris: while Santa Claus, with eloquent eyebrows, picturesque shaking beard, and suggestive gestures gave strange effect to the timely lines. 
--A. Oakey Hall, "A Christmas Eve at Brentano's" in Book Chat, Volume 7.
 

Earlier in 1891, A. Oakey Hall had separately mentioned both Moore and Melville (living yet) in published reminiscences of Poe and "Literati of New York Forty Years Ago." In the retrospective that appeared in the New York Weekly Press on February 25, 1891 under the main heading "Poe as Man and Poet," Hall's inventory of writers whom he had met before the Civil War included
"Clement C. Moore, whose song of Santa Claus has cheered four generations of Christmas children"
and
Herman Melville, whom Stevenson has seemed to take as his model; the Duyckinck brothers, the daintiest critics of their day; Cornelius Mathews, the American Dickens, whom Lowell so excoriated in his "Fable for the Critics"… 
--New York Weekly Press, February 25, 1891

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Evert A. Duyckinck on Clement C. Moore: "one of the best of men"

In the posthumously published article for Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly (June 1884) titled "Life in New York City in its Later Colonial Days," Herman Melville's friend Evert Duyckinck remembered Clement C. Moore as "one of the best of men" and extensively quoted Moore's "exquisite rhymes" on St. Nicholas:
Besides, has not Weir painted the scene? and has it not been described by one of the best of men in most exquisite rhymes? --Evert A. Duyckinck
There were several national or religious festivals kept by the Dutch in New Amsterdam: Christmas, New Year's Day, Paas or Easter, Pinxter at Whitsuntide, and Santa Claus or St. Nicholas Day. Some of the peculiar Dutch honors of the last have been transferred to Christmas; particularly the visit of St. Nicholas, who, to the wondering children of Manhattan, on the eve of the sacred day, still, as of yore, a burly, benevolent figure, clad in his ancient furry habiliments, a pipe in his month, a capacious, well-filled hamper of toys on his back, rides in his airy sleigh, swiftly borne by his reindeer-team, over the roofs of the houses, descending, spite of narrow flues and modern contracted chimneys, to fill the stockings suspended, in expectation of his gifts, at the mantel-corner. The faith in the old legend of St. Nicholas, patron of the Manhattoes, would, with other superstitions of the past, doubtless have died out long ago were it not invigorated by these perennial gifts and bounties. There is practically no discrediting a belief which is backed by such unfailing beneficence. We, "children of a larger growth," hoodwink our perceptions and act upon it every day in our intercourse with society and estimate of character, feigning to believe in more doubtful virtues than those of the boy-saint. Besides, has not Weir painted the scene? and has it not been described by one of the best of men in most exquisite rhymes?—
"The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
* * * *
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
Tho prancing and pawing of each little hoof—
As I drew In my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound,
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of 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 laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly." *
 This, is the children's saint of the Manhattoes, fixed in his great lineaments for all time.
* Poems by Clement C. Moore, LL. D: 1844, pp. 125-6
 --Evert A. Duyckinck; also incorporated in "The Origin of the New York Churches," Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine (March 1886).
In their 1855 Cyclopædia of American Literature, co-editors Evert A. Duyckinck and his brother George L. Duyckinck had accorded Moore a similarly generous treatment, likewise informed by some personal knowledge of the man being described:
Professor Moore has lightened his learned labors in the seminary by the composition of numerous poems from time to time, chiefly expressions of home thoughts and affections, with a turn for humor as well as sentiment, the reflections of a genial, amiable nature. They were collected by the author in a volume in 1844, which be dedicated to his children. Though occasional compositions they are polished in style....
--Cyclopædia of American Literature
Even more expansively, the updated National Cyclopedia of American Biography praises the same admirable traits of character in Clement C. Moore:
He was a man of rare beauty and simplicity of character, kindly disposed and generous to a fault. Upon his death, the faculty of the seminary he had so faithfully served passed resolutions declaring, "We recognize in him one whom God has blessed with selected gifts; warmhearted in friendship, genial in society, kindly and considerate to all; possessed of fine literary tastes, poetic instincts and expressiveness, and of cheerful humor withal; at the same time well accomplished in severer studies and resolute for more laborious undertakings, as his learned works in Hebrew grammar and lexicography distinctly testify."
From the New York Sun, May 16, 1886:
... Lady Lilford, formerly Miss Theresa Moore, the daughter of the late Clement C. Moore, who will be remembered by all old New Yorkers as one of the most estimable, genial, and popular men of his day. He wrote the Christmas poem familiar in every nursery and school room, beginning, "'Twas the night before Christmas," and was well known in both the literary and the social world.


Related posts:

Battle-Pieces in New Orleans

We are indebted to HARPER & BROTHERS, New York, for a very handsomely printed and bound volume, entitled Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War, embracing a collection of fugitive pieces written during the conflict, by Herman Mellville. The writer, though he gave in to the general sentiment of the North in regard to the necessity of "crushing out the rebellion" by any and all means, seems often to have had a secret misgiving, as to whether much that was done, was in reality justified by the laws of humanity which rise higher than those of war. Hence, when the conflict is over he ranges himself on the side of the Conservatives and peace. The lines entitled "Lee in the Capital," evidence this mind. He makes the hero say without disapproval:
"These noble spirits are yet yours to win.
Shall the great North go Sylla's way?
Proscribe—prolong the evil day?
Confirm the curse? Infix the hate?
In Union's name forever alienate?
               . . . Unless you shun
To copy Europe in her worst estate—
Avoid the tyranny you reprobate."
--DeBow's Review - November 1866

Melville as "poetical trimmer" in Battle-Pieces

From the New York Christian Advocate, September 6, 1866:
BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR, By Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Brothers.

The excitements and events of the war of rebellion (for so we must name it, though the term may grate harshly on such sensitive ears as Mr. Melville's) have proved the occasion of a great deal of poetizing—some good, some very poor, and very much neither good nor bad. The author of this volume—a voluminous and much read writer of other days—here gives poetical remembrances of many of the chief military affairs of the war. These "battle pieces" have but little enthusiasm about them, for evidently his heart was on both sides of the conflict, and his appended notes, and especially the supplement to the volume, still more clearly evince his sympathy with the South. These pieces, while not specially remarkable, possess some real poetical merit, but in thought, they are only of the most superficial kind. There is throughout a sad lack of all deep and strong sentiments in favor of the right and the true. He is indeed the laureate of that class of men who sought to conduct the late so-called "Union" convention at Philadelphia, but who found themselves to be mere puppets in the hands of men of more decided and positive convictions; men whose outspoken sympathies with the South during the rebellion would not permit them to float away with the current of patriotism that the war aroused and sent through the land. Mr. Melville here presents himself as a poetical trimmer, nominally favoring the Union cause, but much more careful of the rebellious South than of the loyal and patriotic Unionists of all portions of the country.
Published in New York, the Christian Advocate in 1866 was edited by Daniel Curry and William Harrison De Puy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Toronto reader protests slander of the Duke of Wellington in Moby-Dick

via Regency History
In this 1851 letter to the editor of The Albion signed "Fair Play," one early reader of Moby-Dick writes from Toronto to protest Melville's satirical treatment of the Duke of Wellington in the "Heads or Tails" chapter. The disposition of commas in the longer quotation (setting off the clause "if for the future") actually matches the punctuation in the British rather than American edition. If he had only the British version, Melville's Canadian critic would have missed the boldest and most objectionable of all Melville's digs at Arthur Wellesley, deleted from The Whale:
Is this the still militant old man, standing at the corners of the three kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms of beggars? --Moby-Dick
From The Albion: A Journal of News, Politics and Literature, December 13, 1851:
MOBY DICK, THE DOVER FISHERMEN, AND "THE DUKE"
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE ALBION"
Toronto, December 7, 1851

SIR,—Moby-Dick is a great character, and Herman Melville may be as smart a whale-man as he is certainly a fine writer, and, therefore justly to be admired by all of Saxon breed; but when from under the lee of Moby-Dick, he takes upon him to dart a malicious lance at that grand old warrior of the Anglo-Saxons, whose name is never spoken throughout the British empire but with reverence, it behoves to look keenly if that lance has struck true.

He begins his story with a high-flown description of the poor fishermen of Dover giving hard chase to a whale, and after their much toil being set upon by a stony-hearted agent of the Warden's to surrender their hard-earned prize, as much to their astonishment as disgust. Now, Sir, if my recollection of the circumstance is correct, the whale in question was a stranded one. But to let that pass, it is not true that the whole of the whale so caught belongs to the Warden; his share amounts in general to about one-fifth part, and in this particular case, when the author sets down the value of the fish as £150, the Warden's share was only £25. Of course the fishermen are all well aware beforehand of the Warden's claim; and the astonishment and remonstrances with the agent, so pathetically described by the author, are altogether to be set down to that vivid fancy, which has made gods out of savages, and turned man-eating Typee into a paradise.

The author goes on thus:—"In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of Wellington received the money. (This as I have shewn, cannot be true.) Thinking, that viewed in some particular lights, the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree be deemed, under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman of the town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him to take the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration. To which my Lord Duke in substance replied, (both letters were published) that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be obliged to the reverend gentleman, if for the future, he (the reverend gentleman) would decline meddling with other people's business."

It might be remarked on this, that after all, law is law, and good or bad, until altered, it must be obeyed, as none have been more obstinate in enforcing than the Americans themselves—witness the Fugitive Slave Law; but "mark how plain a tale will set him down." In the first place, it was not an "honest clergyman" who wrote, and who might have been excused as having the welfare of his parishoners at heart, but a meddling busy-body of a surgeon, who had no more to do with the matter than Moby-Dick himself, unless may-be he wanted the Duke's autograph. Secondly, the letter was by no means respectful, but on the contrary, decidedly impertinent. Lastly,—a circumstance which takes the last sting out of this low piece of slander, and which, for his own sake, I hope Melville was ignorant of, is that, after a short time, the Duke returned the money.
I am, Sir, &c.,

FAIR PLAY.

Our correspondent is thanked for not abusing us, that we did not take up the cudgels on behalf of the Duke; but libels on great men may very well be left to themselves. If "Fair Play" desire another subject for his indignation, he will find one in Mr. Horace Greeley's "Glances at Europe," lately published here. That author, in allusion to intemperance, gravely states that the aristocracy of England "drink, almost to a man"!!

Moby-Dick in Zion's Herald and Wesleyan Journal

Published in Boston, the important Methodist newspaper Zion's Herald was edited from 1840 until 1852 by Abel Stevens (1815-1897). Daniel Wise took over in 1852. In 1856, future Northwestern president Erastus Otis Haven replaced Wise as editor of Zion's Herald.

From Zion's Herald and Wesleyan Journal, November 26, 1851:
MESSRS. HARPERS have issued another work from the pen of Herman Melville, entitled Moby-Dick, or The Whale; it relates to marine life as connected with whaling, and abounds in the well known qualities of the author. The London Athenaeum says that it cannot recall another sketcher who has given the poetry of the ship, her voyages and her crew in a manner at all resembling his. He is not only thoroughly original, but combines a great variety of rare excellences. We take exception to some of his moral views, but acknowledge his attractive talents. Few books are more readable than his.—Mussey & Co., Boston.
Transcribed below from the same newspaper, notices of White-Jacket and The Confidence-Man:

1850
WHITE JACKET, or the World in a Man-of-War, by Melville, has been issued by the Harpers. Like all Mr. Melville's works there is a remarkable air of veri-similitude about this narrative; and we learn from a note on the fly-leaf, that he spent more than a year as an ordinary seaman on board of an American man-of-war. There are irresistably attractive pictures of marine life and adventure in the volume. Mr. Melville has the art of giving life-like interest to his characters, without apparent effort or exaggeration. He comes the nearest to De Foe of any of our later authors.—Mussey, Boston
--Zion's Herald
and Wesleyan Journal, April 10, 1850
1857
THE CONFIDENCE MAN: His Masquerade. By Herman Melville, author of "Piazza Tales," "Omoo," "Typee," &c.—This is a quietly humorous book, conveying some good lessons in a quaint, strange style. The author has had many readers, and though this book does not promise such adventure as the former publications of the author, it exhibits the same descriptive talent and power.—Dix, Edwards & Co., New York: Whittemore, Niles & Hall, Boston--Zion's Herald and Wesleyan Journal, April 22, 1857

Notice of Moby-Dick in the Louisville Daily Journal

From the Louisville Daily Journal, December 13, 1851:
NEW WORKS.—Moby-Dick, or the Whale.— By Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Brothers, publishers.—This is a strange, wild book, in which there are many features of extraordinary interest and many others that might have been profitably omitted. It is a singular compound of what is true in relation to whaling and what is utterly false, and yet the volume will be eagerly read, as all the volumes of Mr. Melville have been. We hope that Mr. Melville, as he has attained to great perfection in mingling fact and fiction together, will now be satisfied with his achievements in that direction, and give us books in some other departments of literature, such as his great and various talents eminently qualify him to produce.
Earlier Melville notices in the same newspaper:
TypeeA Peep at Polynesian Life—This is a new and revised edition of Melville's first and eminently successful work. Typee has been greatly praised both in Europe and this country, and is certainly one of the most fascinating books in the language. If any of our readers have not become acquainted with Mr. Melville's works, let them read Typee, and they cannot afterwards resist the temptation to read those charming books, Omoo and Mardi. --Louisville Daily Journal, July 19, 1849
RedburnHis First Voyage.—Herman Mellville, the author of this book attained great popularity by the production of his first work, "Typee." Since then, each book that he has written has been eagerly sought for by a very large circle of admirers. Redburn, though inferior in interest to Typee, is yet very decidedly interesting, and will amply repay perusal. --Louisville Daily Journal, December 5, 1849

Clement C. Moore's "Prometheus" in the Port-Folio, 1805

When I argued for including verse translations in the data set of Clement C. Moore's poetry, I had not yet seen the original preface that Moore wrote when submitting his lines on "Prometheus" to The Port-Folio, over the pseudonym "Hermes":
"I have taken such liberties, that, by a squeamish critic, it would hardly be considered as a translation."  --Clement C. Moore, 1805
Along with the prose introduction, Moore's lines from Aeschylus were first published, in the Port Folio on May 4, 1805. In 1806, the Prometheus verses appeared again with other of Moore's poems (credited to "L.") at the end of A new translation with notes of the Third Satire of Juvenal. Much later, "Prometheus" was collected in Moore's 1844 Poems. Interesting revisions in the 1844 volume include pruning of commas and exclamation marks, restoration of the 1805 reading "feverish brain" (1806: fever'd brain), and in the last stanza, keeping the 1806 revision of the 1805 end-rhyme rung/sung to more standard preterite forms, rang/sang.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.

MR. OLDSCHOOL,

I submit to your judgment the following translation of one of the choruses in the Prometheus of Aeschylus; though I have taken such liberties, that, by a squeamish critic, it would hardly be considered as a translation. Prometheus is supposed to be seen chained to a rock, by the command of Jupiter, for having conveyed fire from heaven for the use of man; and for having instructed mortals in many useful arts, of which it had been decreed that they should remain ignorant. The chorus is composed of Sea Nymphs, one of whom addresses Prometheus as follows.
Oh, may no thought of mine e'er move
The vengeance of almighty Jove!
Ne'er shall my incense cease to rise,
Due to the Powers, who rule the skies,
From all the watery domains
O'er which my Father Ocean reigns.
And till his towering billows cease
To roll, lull'd in eternal peace,
Ne'er shall an impious word of mine
Irreverence mark to power divine.
How lightly flew my former days,
With not a cloud to dim the rays
Of hope, which promis'd peace to send,
And golden pleasures without end!
But what a blast now mars my bliss,
Prometheus, at a scene like this!
While thus thy tortures I behold,
I shudder at the thoughts, so bold,
Which could impel thee to withstand,
For mortal man, Jove's dread command.

Where's now the aid from mortals due
For all thy deeds of love so true?
Alas! their shadowy strength is vain
As dreams which haunt the feverish brain.


How then can fleeting shades like these
Oppose the Thunderer's decrees?
Such thoughts will rise; such strains will flow,
Prometheus, at thy bitter woe.

How different were the strains we sung,
When the blest bridal chamber rung
With voices of the choral throng,
Who pour'd the Hymeneal song
To thee, and to thy joy, thy pride,
Hesione, thy blooming bride!

HERMES.
For his base-text, Moore takes the 2nd Choral Ode from lines 526-560 of Prometheus Bound.
526-560. Second Stasimon. The Chorus, deeply impressed with the intensity of Prometheus' sufferings, offer a fervent prayer that they may never come into conflict with the will of Zeus. It is good to live in peace. What profit is there in the aid of helpless mortals?  --The Prometheus Vinctus of Aeschylus


Confirming the point of the earlier melvilliana post Settle your brains, the word brain proves a good Moore-marker, distinctive to Moore's individual style and not merely a reflex of his Greek source. Compare Moore's four verse lines ending in "feverish brain" to alternative English translations:

Herbert Weir Smyth via Theoi:
Come, my friend, how mutual was your reciprocity? Tell me, what kind of help is there in creatures of a day? What aid? Did you not see the helpless infirmity, no better than a dream, in which the blind generation of men is shackled?
G. M. Cookson via Internet Classics Archive:
What prowess for thy bold essay
Shall champion thee from men of mortal race,
The petty insects of a passing day?
Saw'st not how puny is the strength they spend?
With few, faint steps walking as dreams and blind....
 G. Theodoridis via Poetry in Translation:
The mortals have given you no recompense, Prometheus, so what gain is there in your cunning for both, you and for the ephemeral creatures? Could you not foresee this? Was it just like a weak dream to you, where the blind race of men stay fettered for ever?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gansevoort Melville as Broadway exquisite

View of Broadway via New York Public Library Digital Collections
From the Louisville Courier Journal, July 19, 1845:
GANSEVOORT MELVILLE.--The appointment of this Broadway exquisite and pink of modern Democracy, as the Secretary of Legation near her Britannic Majesty, does not meet with the approbation of the more respectable portion of the Democratic Press. The New York Evening Post thus notices the appointment:
ANOTHER APPOINTMENT.--The Union of Tuesday, makes the following announcement:
"We understand that Mr. Gansevoort Melville, of New York, is going out to London as Secretary of the Legation. It is not yet decided whether Mr. Melville will go with Mr. McLane on the 16th of July, or on the next steamer. The appointment was offered to him without solicitation for the office."
We think this a bad appointment. The person selected is scarcely qualified for the office, either by his abilities or his character.
What is a Broadway exquisite?
As in Paris, a great deal of New York life is spent out of doors. During summer, the oppressive heat drives people into the open air, particularly in the cool of the evening; and during winter they are tempted out to enjoy the pleasures of sleighing. At the close of a summer afternoon, Broadway, particularly between the Battery and the Park, is crowded with promenaders of both sexes, generally dressed in the newest cuts, and in the most showy manner; for the New Yorkers take their fashions direct from Paris, in which they come much nearer the Parisians than we do. It is impossible to meet with a more finished coxcomb than a Broadway exquisite, or a "Broadway swell," which is the designation attached to him on the spot. Whilst multitudes are promenading to and fro, there are generally groups of strangers, either seated in comfortable armchairs, disposed in dozens on the wide pavement, in front of the hotels, or standing upon the steps leading into them, picking their teeth, to indicate to the passers by that they have just risen from a champagne dinner.  --Alexander Mackay, The Western World
 Related post:

Ruth K. MacDonald on Moore's high style and influences

Back in 1847, William Alfred Jones perceived the "classical" element as the strongest and most essential feature of Clement C. Moore's poetry, appealingly complicated by "a mingled happy vein of delicate humor and pathetic sentiment."

Ruth K. MacDonald got to the heart of Moore's high classical style in her 1983 article, Santa Claus in America: The Influence of "The Night Before Christmas" which I unfortunately overlooked in the recent post here on Moore's facility with Homeric similes. Professor MacDonald provides the basic foundation for understanding Moore's poem as a literary effort, with specific and apparently still much-needed attention to its literary form, style, and antecedents:
... But Moore wrote in rhymed, closed couplets, as eighteenth-century poets had, and used many devices from classical poetry, such as epic simile—"As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, / When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, / So, up to the housetop his coursers they flew. . ."—metonymy—"Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, / Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap. . ."—and high diction, such as "More rapid than eagles his coursers they came." The description of St. Nick's physical appearance—"His eyes—how they twinkled!. . ."—reads like a catalog of the virtues of some Greek hero from the Iliad or the Odyssey.

Moore also incorporated many ideas from other writers into his poem. He may have borrowed the idea of reindeer from The Children's Friend: A New-Year's Present, to Little Ones from Five to Twelve which was published in New York in 1821, the first work to mention reindeer in connection with St. Nick. The names for the reindeer, first given in Moore's poem, may have been derived from this alliterative catalog of fairies in Michael Drayton's Nymphidia....  --Ruth K. MacDonald via Project MUSE
Professor MacDonald footnotes the counter-claim for Henry Livingston's authorship (investing it with unmerited legitimacy), citing Tristram Potter Coffin's The Book of Christmas Folklore.


Hop and Mop and Drop so clear, 
Pip and Trip and Skip that were 
To Mab, their sovereign, ever dear, 
      Her special maids of honour ; 
Fib and Tib and Pink and Pin, 
Tick and Quick and Jill and Jin, 
Tit and Nit and Wap and Win, 
      The train that wait upon her.  
--Michael Drayton. Nymphidia, The Court of Fairy

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.
THE SAINT OF MANNAHATTA.

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.
A HUSBAND TO HIS WIFE.

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.
 

Clement C. Moore's "To the Sisters of Charity" in the New York American

First published over the pseudonym "Silvio" in the New York American (April 10, 1834), Clement C. Moore's lines "To the Sisters of Charity" were revised and reprinted in The Churchman some months later. The poem circulated in other contemporary periodicals, most notably in Catholic newspapers and magazines, during the summer and fall of 1834. Ten years later, Moore reprinted it again in his 1844 Poems.

New York American for the Country - April 15, 1834

Found so far in:
  • The New York American, April 10, 1834
  • American Railroad Journal, April 12, 1834
  • New York American - For the Country, April 15, 1834 
  • Philadelphia Catholic Herald, August 28, 1834 [Here and elsewhere, Catholic editors credit the immediate Protestant source: "From the Churchman ! ! !"]
  • Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph, August 29, 1834
  • United States Catholic Miscellany, September 13, 1834
TO THE SISTERS OF CHARITY.

For you, ye heaven-sent Sisters, pure and meek,
No idle, flattering accents I intend--
I know, full well, no earthly meed you seek;
Above all mortal praise your thoughts ascend.
Undaunted intimates of death and pain!
You heed no minstrelsy of earth-strung lyre:
The softest siren notes would sound in vain
To ears impatient for the heavenly choir.

But who that treads life's rough and weary way,
If some fair prospect open on his sight,
Seeks not his fellow wanderers' step to stay,
And make them partners in his new delight?

Turn then, all ye who, with indignant mind,
Behold the vileness of this mortal state;
Where craft and guile on ev'ry hand you find,
With all the forms of selfishness and hate--

Here let your misanthropic brow unbend,
And warmest feelings of the heart expand;
For, if to earth some gleams of Heaven descend,
They sure must light upon this sacred band.

And ye who sport beneath the golden beams
That o'er youth's jocund morning shed their light,
To whom the downward path of life still seems
Immeasurably distant from the sight;

Oh! think me not a censor cold and stern,
A frowning foe to all that's bright and gay,
If, for a moment, I would have you turn
And see these Sisters tread their holy way.

I would not have fierce superstition's power
Bear down your minds, in sullen gloom to grope;
I would not overcloud one radiant hour,
Nor crush one rising bud of youthful hope:

Yet, stay awhile, nor all your moments waste
For joys inconstant as the vernal sky:
You here may deep, though silent, pleasure taste,
Whose impress on the soul shall never die.

For how can earth present a goodlier scene,
Or what can waken rapture more refin'd,
Than dauntless courage, silent and serene,
With maiden gentleness and love combin'd?

Behold in yon receptacle of wo,
Where victims of disease assembled lie,
That gliding form, with noiseless footstep go,
From couch to couch, her angel task to ply:

She dwells mid sounds and sights of pain and death;
The feeble plaint, the involuntary cry,
The fierce convulsive throw, the infectious breath,
The heaving groan, the deep-drawn burning sigh.

Oh! child of frolic, in whose giddy brain
Delusive fancy's ever on the wing,
Think you this gentle maid feels nought but pain?
That in her path no lovely flowrets spring?

Gay visions round your pillow nightly throng--
The morning ramble, and the evening dance,
The rout, the feast, the soul entrancing song,
The flatterer's whisper, and the lover's glance.

Around her couch no brilliant phantoms play;
No airy spectre of past pleasure flies;
But deeds of mercy which have mark'd the day
Give tranquil slumber to her tear-stain'd eyes.

They're precious gems, those tears that wet her cheek
Worth more than all that earth or ocean know:
The noblest language of the heart they speak;
From high and holy extasy they flow.

Her feelings ye alone can understand
Whose deeds have wak'd the sufferer's grateful prayer;
Who've felt the pressure of the dying hand,
The rich reward of all your pious care.

No sad or strange reverse her pleasures dread;
Of time and chance, they mock the strong control.
Her heaven-aspiring virtues ever shed
A cloudless light upon her peaceful soul.

The follies that command this world's esteem,
Within her spirit find no resting place;
Like idle motes that cross the solar beam,
They serve its bright and changeless way to trace.

Yes! such this sacred band, such peace is theirs;
Unchang'd when days shine bright, or tempests lower
Through life they pass, untainted by its cares;
When death draws near, they gladly hail his power.

And then, like birds that seek a better clime,
On swift untiring wing their spirits rise,
And gladly leave this turbid stream of Time,
To take their homeward progress thro' the skies.
SILVIO.

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.

The Port Folio, June 1, 1805
ORIGINAL POETRY.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.

[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 now 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!

SIMPLICIUS