A Visit From St. Nicholas


We would not vex our readers, in this genial season, With wearisome quibbles, except for this reason: The poem you’ve just read may not be by the dour Professor of languages, Clement Clarke Moore! Henry Livingston, Jr., a genial sort Enjoyed his religion, and children, and port, Madeira and Christmas, and writing light verse In the anapest meter. Moore could have been worse At this verse form, but Henry was rather more fluent; Wrote poem after poem in this meter, pursuant To the doings of children; while Moore usually chose Stately iambics and Johnsonian prose. Henry found that some rhymes seemed especially good, And put them to paper whenever he could, Such as “jelly” and “belly”—which appear in the poem That Moore was supposed to have written at home To delight his small children. The difficulty’s That the poem first surfaced anonymously— Moore chose not to claim it till Henry was dead; But later a Livingston granddaughter said Her grandpa had written it; and now who can say? No original copy is extant today. So let’s leave them both, Henry so jolly and facile In verse, Moore a sober and taciturn vassal To iambs and language. They both were good men, And we have no real quarrel with either of them; And now that our small controversy is through, The best of this excellent season to you!