Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Visit From St. Nicholas

Here's a facsimilie of that famous poem, "'Twas the Night
 Before Christmas," as it was written by Dr. More 
himself nearly 100 years ago.
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas, When All Through the House" ---Here's Famous Poem as Written 91 Years Ago 

      What is the best Christmas poem ever written?
      That's an easy question, - there's hardly a man, woman or child in America who doesn't know!
      What boy or girl, indeed, in all the broad land, hasn't been thrilled by the fascination of that beautiful fairy-tale poem about good old St. Nick and his reindeers and sleighful of presents, that came down the chimney that wonderful Christmas eve?
      And here is that very poem, just as good old Dr. Clement C. Moore wrote it, nearly 100 years ago--in his own handwritting and with his own handwriting and with his own signature! And this is doubtless the very first time YOU have ever seen a copy of this precious manuscript--one of the treasures of the New York Historical Society, and which was never photographed in its entirety until a copy was made for this paper!
      Old Dr. Moore didn't think much of the poem when he wrote it for his two little children, in 1822. It was just a trifle, hardly worthy of a SCHOLAR, he thought! The author was professor of Greek and Oriental languages in the general theological seminary of New York, and a very, very learned man. He counted on his Hebrew lexicon and other ponderous works to win him fame. But they are all forgotten, and this "trifle" that he was half ashamed of is his real claim to immortality!
      And this poem has probably done more than any other thing to make out great American Christmas such a wonderful children's festival. For there wasn't much Christmas before it was written. (Utter nonsense, really folks.)
      New Yorkers used to celebrate St. Nicholas eve. December 5, as they did in Holland, without paying much attention to Christmas itself. By 1822, however, they had begun to merge the two festivals in a celebration on December 25. And the "Visit From St. Nicholas" sweeping over the country with its quick, strong appeal to children, mad the change complete and created our modern "Santa Claus" Christmas.
      This copy of the poem printed here was made by Dr. Moore in 1862, 40 years after he had first written it, when he was over 80 years old. -The Star, December 22, 1913

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       The most popular Christmas poem ever written for children was that familiar to the world, beginning:
       "Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the hourse--
       The poem was written by a very learned man, Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a profound Greek and Hebrew scholar. He was a professor in the General Theological seminary in New York City. He was born in 1779 and died in 1863.

'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 the St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;
And mama in her 'kerchief and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my 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 know 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 Donder 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."

by Pastor Clement Clarke Moore (1822, New York clergyman)

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