It is Clement Moore, the poet, later famous—nhe will write “The Night Before Christmas.”nThey talk of books,neven Italian books and writers. Moore,nin his late twenties, is charmed by the foreign mannin his middle fifties.nHis father. Bishop Moore,nis President Moorenof Columbia College.nClement brings da Pontenhome, and they start a class there in Italiannlanguage and literature.nIt’s a job,na respectable calling. He is the caw maestronbringing culture, tradition, refinement,nto these eternally young, impossibly eagerninnocents.nThis is not what he wanted,nnowhere near what he knows he deserves,nbut tolerable.nAn end, at least, to the tormentsnhe hasn’t deserved either.nA remission then?nStay there, settle, be content,nwe tell him, looking back from the future’s heavennwhere we know what the gods know.nHe won’t, can’t,nhas no idea who he is, what he ought to do,nwhat he should settle for.nThis was the lossnback in Ceneda, that wrenching him from the namenhis mother called him.nWhy not take the suggestionnthe country offers, however absurd? The countrynis large, limitless, strange, a great slatternnwelcoming any and all. His in-laws have movednto Sunbury, a Pennsylvania townnbut frontier still, on the Susquehanna River.nWhy not go there, trade, sell liquor, grain,nspices, medicines?nThe woods are rich in game,nthe water clear as Como or Garda. They move,nto start a new life in a new placento put down roots and end,nthese vicissitudes, this endless turning overnof new pages.nThe book still reads the same,na brief prospering, then the slipping awaynof gains, the always innocent lambnswindlers recognize as a giftnfrom God or the devil for them to fleece.nA terrible businessman! He folds,ngoes to Philadelphia. She sells hats;nhe teaches, or tries to,nfinds two pupils,nonly two,nwhile a stern landlady drillsnfor the rent, the rent, the rent.n16/CHRONICLESnNothing is changed.nSoon he is selling his books again,nhis clothing . . .nA letter comesnfrom Moore, in New York, a reprieve, an invitationnto come back, teach there.nHe has learned and accepts.nOr is it a temporizing, a compromise,na tactical, provisional retreat?nIt is hard to say what’s in his mind, but he stays,nlives in New York for another nineteen yearsnand dies there.nBut all the time, in his heartnis the feeling children haventhat none of this is real, or if it isnthen only for now. Something will happen, newnteeth will come in, bones grow, hair will grow,nthere will be changes: a real self, a real worldnwill emerge in which I will be no longer a strangerneven to myself.nIt is 1819.nHe is sixty years old.nThat adolescence children wait fornin snug cocoons of latency has comenand gone.nThere are only disimprovements nownin body and spirit, a settlingnfor what is,na recognition that this ill-fitting garmentnis what the wardrobe holds.nThere is nothing to grow intonbut a shroud.nWe learn to bear even this, settle, accept,nwho have never scribbled a clever verse and heard itnset by Mozart. . .nA gift, but also a burden.nThis is what God would demand, if there were a god;nthis is your authentic self, your talent,nyour spirit’s heritage.nWeep, then, weep, and dream unbearable dreamsnof that life you ought to have led, the amazing worknyou ought to have done, the gift you betrayed, and still,nwith every breath betray, deny, dishonor.nLook to an empty sky, leaden and low,nand wait for some sign, hope for a dispensationnthat has come before and could therefore come again.nIt will not come to you.nYou have had your chance.nBut Byron’s poem.nnn