Friday, December 25, 2009

A Visit From St. Nicholas... A Poem and a Mystery...

A Visit From St. Nicholas

Legend has it that it was a 19th century professor of classics, Clement C. Moore, that wrote one of the most beloved Christmas poems, A Visit From St. Nicholas, for his family on Christmas Eve of 1822, during a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village. Supposedly the jolly Dutchman who drove his sleigh that night was who he based Santa Clause on. Since that fateful day in when the beloved poem was first published anonymously in The Troy Sentinel newspaper in 1823, no one has really questioned the authorship of A Visit From St. Nicholas (also known as 'Twas The Night Before Christmas). In 1844 Clement C. Moore officially took credit for the poem... But another family is claiming that the poem was probably written by their relative Henry Livingston Jr., a gentleman-poet of Dutch descent. So a 7th generation descendant of Mr. Livingston, Mary Van Deusen, hired literary sleuth Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College and a scholar of authorial attribution, to investigate. (BTW, Don Foster is the guy who figured out who wrote the book Primary Colors a few years back). Do people who love reading Twas The Night Before Christmas every year as a family tradition care who actually wrote the poem? Clement Clarke Moore II, a descendant of the famous poet, said he was not concerned about the challenge. "It is the poem itself that is important, not the authorship." What do you think? And in the meantime...

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(A Visit from St. Nicholas)

by Clement Clarke Moore
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good-Night!"

6 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I would have to say I don't care who wrote it! It's such a great poem no matter who did!

Merry Christmas!!!

Heidi V said...

The poem brings back memories, as a child I always thought my Dad made it up since he would dress up as Santa and come to the school and tell it. I bought a picture book for my kids when they was small but I don't think I have once looked at who wrote it.

From me and my two teenagers we wish you a wonderful Holiday!

J. Kaye said...

Merry Christmas!! :)

Cathy said...

Merry Christmas!

Esme said...

I loved this poem as a child. I have not thought of it in years. Thanks for the memories.

Merry CHristmas.

Mrs. B. said...

Yes, it doesn't matter who wrote it, it's still a great poem!

Happy Holidays!

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