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Short poem

Selected Poetry of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent's hand to use
When virtue's path his sons refuse.
        (Old Santeclaus (attributed), 25-32)

  1. Old Santeclaus (attributed)

Notes on Life and Works

Moore's career was academic: born in New York, he took a B.A. from Columbia University in 1798 and from 1823 to 1850 was Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, whose site he in fact donated for the college. His Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language was published in 1809, but his fame came from a ballad that he did not write in 1822 for his two daughters, Margaret and Charity, and that was anonymously published a year later. Martin Gardner describes the great affection Moore obtained for a poem, "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," that he deceptively claimed as his own in his collected Poems in 1844:

Every year, in late December, a Clement Clarke Moore Christmas Commemoration is held in the Church of the Intercession at Broadway and 155th Street in uptown Manhattan. After the candlelight service, at which Moore's ballad is read, there is a lantern procession, with luck through snow, to Moore's grave across the street. (The Annotated Night Before Christmas, ed. Martin Gardner (New York: Summit Books, 1991; PS 2429 M5Z 54 1991 Robarts Library).

Moore was buried in the Trinity Church cemetery at 155th Street and Amsterdam Ave. The 1990 commemoration was the 79th.

In 2000, Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, published a book that was to change Moore's reputation forever. External and internal evidence clearly showed that Moore could not have been the author of that poem. Instead, it probably was the work of Major Henry Livingston, Jr., and that Moore had written another, and almost forgotten, Christmas piece, "Old Santeclaus." Foster's detection of this deception appears in his Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous (New York: Henry Holt, 2000): 221-75.

Biographical information

Given name: Clement Clarke
Family name: Moore
Birth date: 1779
Death date: 1863