Give Us Moore Poetry, Please
ON Christmas Eve the lovely lady signing off the news quoted the poem by Clement Clarke Moore, Twas the Night Before Christmas," and said, "Merry Christmas to All!" Good for the news! At least the poet's name was right. The poem is really "A Visit from St. Nicholas," and as the old boy drove out of sight he "exclaimedHappy Christmas! not "Merry." Look it up!I notice a continuing tendency to abuse our several poets named Moore. Clement Clarke Moore was a professor of Biblical studies (1779-1863), and his verses about St. Nicholas appeared anonymously as a magazine Christmas feature in 1823. In 1844, they appeared again in a book of his poems. His description of St. Nicholas pegged down the appearance of Santa Claus for all time, and the poem's finest hour is as a recitativo during the annual Christmas program of the Boston Pops. Professor Moore was no kin to other poets of the same name - at least three of whom are American: Julia A. Moore, Ruth Moore, and Forrest Everett Moore. Forrest Everett was known to his admiring neighbors as "Forever." Of all the American Moores, Ruth seems to be the only one with poetic competence. She wrote many novels and now and then dallied with verse. Her "Cold as a Dog and the Wind Northeast" is still in print and worth a look. It is interesting that Julia A. Moore, the worst poet of the bunch, has achieved fame for her lack of talent. In the Oxford Companion to American Literature she has more than twice the space of Clement Clarke Moore. Known as "The Sweet Singer of Michigan," she had a transient popularity for "bad" verse. In 1930 appeared in England a happy little volume called "The Stuffed Owl." It was "an anthology of bad verse," and Julia A. Moore is in it while Clement Clarke Moore isn't. Not too many American poets, i t seems, wrote bad verse - but along with Miss Moore are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edgar Allen Poe. Miss Moore, however, never wrote any good verse. Her most famous quatrain is: And now, kind friends, what I have wrote I hope you will pass o'er, And not criticize as some have done Hitherto herebefore. Strange that when Miss Moore can get into an anthology with such, Forrest Everett Moore remains completely unknown. He lived on Preachers' Point in the coastal town of Burnt Harbor and was by trade a painter and decorator. His poetry was published only in the Pripet Packet, a biweekly "covering Pripet Peninsula like the dew." He gained immediate popularity with the summer colony with his first offering. It was addressed to Kilby Brook, beseeching the stream not to flood the Patterson meadow with its new sprouting of Hungarian millet: Halt! Euphrates! Heed my words, And rein thy reeking steeds! The immediate demand by the several readers of the Packet for more of his verse launched a career, and for better than 30 years Forever contributed regularly. There was a complete philosophy neatly compressed into Forever's tribute "To The Lily," which appeared in an August issue, 1927: The soil for onions rank Is fine for lilies, too; Some don't like onions much, Others do. His eulogy for the Christmas roast of beef was much admired: Behold the string, so tight and brown That holds the rotund shape in place! When severed, either up or down, Then Father says the usual grace. Forever had compassion for the failings and frailties of others. His touching comfort to Celia when she forgot her lines in the Grange play is memorable: Dear Celia, never mind what you done, Don't you care, don't be blue. We all of us, most everyone Forgets things, too. Forever's bucolic touches were many: Behold our goodly friends the cows! She gives milk; her husband plows.