Clement Moore

Well, now I know that it was Clement Moore who wrote the poem entitled, “’Twas the night before Christmas,” and also I now know that the title of the poem is actually “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Also, it’s the first time I’ve read this poem in its entirety. I am not sure there’s much more to say about this poem. And yet I have laid down for myself the rule that I will comment on all the poets in the Library of America collection of 19th century American poetry, so I suppose I’ll say some grumpy, joyless things about it.

This poem is to poetry what Christmas music is to music: a pleasant trifle if you can really get into the Christmas spirit, and otherwise kind of excruciating. It’s written in anapestic tetrameter with nothing bolder than the occasional iambic substitution, which means it gets sing-song-y pretty quickly. (It also has a number of lines that, while metrical, have to be forced into the meter a little bit.) Contributing to this sing-song-y effect is the AABBCC… rhyme scheme. Early American poets were not good at using this rhyme scheme, let me say.

Also, to end by going full curmudgeon, isn’t it terribly anti-climactic to go from “Happy Christmas to all” to “and to all a good night”? To go from the greeting specific to the season to a greeting that applies generically to every night of the year? Or is that just me?

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Parry

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