In a Dead Poet’s Society

Television networks do a lot of re-runs this time of year, so I’ll do the same.

Two years ago, I had so much fun with my December post on the Novel Journey blog (now known as Novel Rocket), I’ve decided to share it with you all here.

Before we started doing the annual contest on that blog, most of my posts dealt with writing awards. But every once in awhile I’d “interview” classic authors, like John Bunyan or Charles Dickens. Other columnists did interviews of living authors, so why couldn’t I interview a dead one? Besides, it was a more interesting format than simply writing a report.

One year, for my Christmas post, I decided to interview Clement C. Moore, known as the author of the most famous — and parodied — Christmas poem of all time. The result, first published in the Novel Journey blog on December 14, 2009, is as follows…


Remembering the fun I had interviewing Charles Dickens last December, I thought I’d have a chat with Clement C. Moore, famous for giving us the beloved Christmas poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (aka The Night Before Christmas).

It was a tough interview. I found Mr. Moore unresponsive and hard to pin down. He answered questions in as few words as possible and offered nothing I didn’t ask directly. I tried to draw him out, but it was like talking to a dill pickle. (If you’ve ever tried this, you’ll know what I mean.)

I wasn’t happy with the post I wrote, but it was due in the morning, the hour was late, I was tired, and I didn’t want to start over with a new topic.

Yawning, I clicked “Publish Post,” comforting myself with the thought that no one reads this stuff anyway, and went to bed.

What happened next was rather surprising. I’ll let a guest blogger, the late Henry Livingston, Jr., tell the story in his own, distinctive style. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did when I found it on my computer, put there by means unknown.


A Visit From the Author of ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’

‘Twas twelve nights before Christmas, and all through the blog,
Not a reader was stirring; each slept like a log.
I’d crafted tomorrow’s entry with care,
Set it to post, then retired to my lair.

Then out of the darkness I heard a strange sound,
Flung open my eyes and in bed I turned ‘round
To find my computer in sleep mode no longer.
Its screen was aglow. My unease grew stronger.

A man’s voice began speaking, and then his face, too,
Wavering and pulsing, came into view
Like a Halloween video or fun house display.
The sight and the sound made me gasp in dismay.

“How dare you!” he cried, his face angry and blue.
“You’ve failed to give credit where credit is due!
I’m quite fed up. Sick of it! Had it, d’y’ hear?
I shall not sit by while my good name you smear!”

I sat up and yawned, trying to wake from the dream,
But the flickering image continued to scream.
“I’ll be silent no more! I must have my say!
Amend your post, woman, or you’ll rue the day!”

“Who are you?” I queried, wishfully thinking
It must be unreal. With blurry eyes blinking
I turned on the light by my bedside. But no,
The monitor still continued to glow.

The face glared most fiercely. I said, “You are rude
To be shouting at me in such a foul mood.
I demand to know, mister, what gives you the right
To take over my computer and give me a fright.”

“Your post to the masses,” he howled, agog,
“It’s in error. Untruthful. You can’t write a blog
Without checking the facts to make sure they are true.
Don’t propagate myth, like the liberals do.”

“Who are you?” Again I queried the spectre,
Who looked just a bit like Hannibal Lector.
He answered, “My name was once that of a popular poet,
Henry Livingston, Jr., though few now know it.

“I created that poem about which you’ve just written,
And with which the world’s been entirely smitten
Since first it was published with another man’s name —
Who made no objections, more is the shame.”

The fog in my brain drifted slowly away.
“Oh, I get it. You’re the guy who, some people say,
Wrote the poem that is largely responsible for framing modern society’s conception of Santa Claus, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and the tradition that he brings toys to children.”

“Quite artlessly put,” said he, “but yes,
That does rather sum it all up, I guess.
It was I who wrote it, not Clement C. Moore,
Though this has been seldom acknowledged before.”

“As I hear it,” I said, “there is evidence
That should be sufficient to build your defense.”
For the first time, he smiled. “Exactly what I
Would like you to say to your readers, and cry
Out for justice. I have been wronged.
For such an announcement I have sore longed.”

Now his eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

To speak any more he would not be persuaded,
But, dimming away as the monitor faded,
I heard him exclaim in words friendly, not terse:
Happy Christmas to all, and to all, fun verse!

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