Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

December 24, 2006

"’Twas the Night Before Christmas," illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

 
 

 
 

 

pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)
 
 
– – –

 
 

written, very likely, by either Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)
or
Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863)

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

originally titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas”
 
 
now popularly known as
 
 
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
 
 
Houghton Mifflin Company
 
 
Boston
 
 
Copyright (c) 1912 by Houghton Mifflin Company
 
 
All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
 
 
HC ISBN 0-395-06952-1
PA ISBN 0-395-64374-0
 
 
Printed in the United States of America
 
 
LBM 40 39 38 37 36

 
 

 
 

_____
 
 
Introduction

 
 
mid the many celebrations last Christmas Eve, in various places by different persons, there was one, in New York City, not like any other anywhere. A company of men, women, and children went together just after the evening service in their church, and, standing around the tomb of the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” recited together the words of the poem which we all know so well and love so dearly.

Dr. Clement C. Moore, who wrote the poem, never expected that he would be remembered by it. If he expected to be famous at all as a writer, he thought it would be because of the Hebrew Dictionary that he wrote.

He was born in a house near Chelsea Square, New York City, in 1781; and he lived there all his life. It was a great big house, with fireplaces in it;–just the house to be living in on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Moore had children. He liked writing poetry for them even more than he liked writing a Hebrew Dictionary. He wrote a whole book of poems for them.

One year he wrote this poem, which we usually call “‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” to give to his children for a Christmas present. They read it just after they had hung up their stockings before one of the big fireplaces in their house. Afterward, they learned it, and sometimes recited it, just as other children learn it and recite it now.

It was printed in a newspaper. Then a magazine printed it, and after a time it was printed in the school readers. Later it was printed by itself, with pictures. Then it was translated into German, French, and many other languages. It was even made into “Braille”; which is the raised printing that blind children read with their fingers. But never has it been given to us in so attractive a form as in this book. It has happened that almost all the children in the world know this poem. How few of them know any Hebrew!

Every Christmas Eve the young men studying to be ministers at the General Theological Seminary, New York City, put a holly wreath around Dr. Moore’s picture, which is on the wall of their dining-room. Why? Because he gave the ground on which the General Theological Seminary stands? Because he wrote a Hebrew Dictionary? No. They do it because he was the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Most of the children probably know the words of the poem. They are old. But the pictures that Miss Jessie Willcox Smith has painted for this edition of it are new. All the children, probably, have seen other pictures painted by Miss Smith, showing children at other seasons of the year. How much they will enjoy looking at these pictures, showing children on that night that all children like best,–Christmas Eve!

E. McC.               

 
 

_____
 
 
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 
 

 
 
was 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;
 
 

 
 
he 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 our brains for a long winter’s nap,
 
 

 
 
hen 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.
 
 

 
 
he 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,
 
 


 
 
 

 
 
 
ith 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:
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
ow, 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!”
 
 

 
 

 

s 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.

 

 

nd 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.
 
 
e 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.
 
 

 
 
is 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;
 
 

 
 
he 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.
 
 

 
 
e 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;
 
 

 
 
e 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;
 
 

 
 
e 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.”
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

_____
 
 
thanks to The Project Gutenberg
 
 
_____

 
 

8 Comments »

  1. Hard to believe Christmas is already around the corner. I am ready for some Thanksgiving turkey though.

    Comment by retro — November 19, 2007 @ 2:35 pm

  2. i really like this poem

    Comment by bubby — December 17, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

    • Thank you!
      Truth be told, I wrote this poem, not that no good Moore. We used to call him Shakey Clement back in the day. Poor chap would get writers block just trying to write his own name! I mean really, look at me! Im beautiful! I have the profile of a president, and him… well the profile of a weedy malmsey-nosed pumpion!

      Comment by Henry Livingston, Jr. — September 29, 2009 @ 5:22 am

  3. There is a print of a girl peaking behind curtain spying on parents trimming christmas tree,by jessie willcox smith that Ive seen,on back says the night before christmas.Im searhing for any info on this,please help me.

    Comment by Kim Bush — March 7, 2010 @ 2:48 am

  4. thank you – better pictures and words than any book of this title that i have ever read over sixty years

    Comment by Anonymous — December 24, 2010 @ 6:04 am

  5. You saved Christmas EVe!

    Comment by Sara Tyler — December 24, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  6. […] "'Twas the Night Before Christmas … – Clattery MacHinery on Poetry Dec 24, 2006 … One year he wrote this poem, which we usually call “'Twas the Night before Christmas,” to give to … […]

    Pingback by Stuck » Blog Archive » night before christmas poem with pictures — June 14, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  7. […] "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," illustrated by Jessie Willcox … Dec 24, 2006 … But the pictures that Miss Jessie Willcox Smith has painted for … was the night before Christmas, when all through the house ….. children's poetry (11), children's stories (4) … […]

    Pingback by Pilot » Blog Archive » the night before christmas story with pictures — June 19, 2011 @ 5:15 am


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