Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

December 24, 2006

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

 
 

 
 

 

pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)
 
 
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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

 
 

 
 

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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.               

 
 

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‘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.”
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

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thanks to The Project Gutenberg
 
 
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September 24, 2006

The Babes in the Wood: a Randolph Caldecott Picture Book

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Printed in Great Britain

 

 

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author anonymous
 

THE BABES

IN THE WOOD

 

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The Babes in the Wood

 

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                        Now ponder well, you parents deare,
                                    These wordes which I shall write;
                        A doleful story you shall heare,
                                    In time brought forth to light.

                        A gentleman of good account
                                    In Norfolke dwelt of late.
                        Who did in honour far surmount
                                    Most men of his estate.

                        Sore sicke he was, and like to dye,
                                    No helpe his life could save;
                        His wife by him as sicke did lye,
                                    And both possest one grave.
 

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                        No love between these two was lost,
                                    Each was to other kinde;
                        In love they liv’d, in love they dyed,
                                    And left two babes behinde:

                        The one a fine and pretty boy,
                                    Not passing three yeares olde;
                        The other a girl more young than he
                                    And fram’d in beautye’s molde.

                        The father left his little son,
                                    As plainlye doth appeare,
                        When he to perfect age should come
                                    Three hundred poundes a yeare.

                        And to his little daughter Jane
                                    Five hundred poundes in gold,
                        To be paid downe on marriage-day,
                                    Which might not be controll’d:
 

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                        But if the children chanced to dye,
                                    Ere they to age should come,
                        Their uncle should possesse their wealth;
                                    For so the wille did run.
 

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                        “Now, brother,” said the dying man,
                                    “Look to my children deare;
                        Be good unto my boy and girl,
                                    No friendes else have they here:

                        “To God and you I do commend
                                    My children deare this daye;
                        But little while be sure we have
                                    Within this world to staye.

                        “You must be father and mother both,
                                    And uncle all in one;
                        God knowes what will become of them,
                                    When I am dead and gone.”
 

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                        With that bespake their mother deare:
                                    “O brother kinde,” quoth shee,
                        You are the man must bring our babes
                                    To wealth or miserie:
 

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                        “And if you keep them carefully,
                                    Then God will you reward;
                        But if you otherwise should deal,
                                    God will your deedes regard.”
 

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                        With lippes as cold as any stone.
                                    They kist the children small:
                        ‘God bless you both, my children deare;’
                                    With that the teares did fall.
 

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                        These speeches then their brother spake
                                    To this sicke couple there:
                        “The keeping of your little ones,
                                    Sweet sister, do not feare:

                        “God never prosper me nor mine,
                                    Nor aught else that I have,
                        If I do wrong your children deare,
                                    When you are layd in grave.”
 

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                        The parents being dead and gone,
                                    The children home he takes,
                        And bringes them straite unto his house,
                                    Where much of them he makes.
 

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                        He had not kept these pretty babes
                                    A twelvemonth and a daye,
                        But, for their wealth, he did devise
                                    To make them both awaye.

                        He bargain’d with two ruffians strong,
                                    Which were of furious mood,
                        That they should take the children young,
                                    And slaye them in a wood.
 

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                        He told his wife an artful tale,
                                    He would the children send
                        To be brought up in faire London,
                                    With one that was his friend.
 

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                        Away then went those pretty babes,
                                    Rejoycing at that tide,
                        Rejoycing with a merry minde,
                                    They should on cock-horse ride.
 

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                        They prate and prattle pleasantly
                                    As they rode on the waye,
                        To those that should their butchers be,
                                    And work their lives’ decaye:

                        So that the pretty speeche they had,
                                    Made murderers’ heart relent:
                        And they that undertooke the deed,
                                    Full sore did now repent.

                        Yet one of them, more hard of heart,
                                    Did vow to do his charge,
                        Because the wretch, that hired him,
                                    Had paid him very large.
 

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                        The other would not agree thereto,
                                    So here they fell to strife;
                        With one another they did fight,
                                    About the children’s life:
 

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                        And he that was of mildest mood,
                                    Did slaye the other there,
                        Within an unfrequented wood,
                                    Where babes did quake for feare!
 

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                        He took the children by the hand,
                                    While teares stood in their eye,
                        And bade them come and go with him,
                                    And look they did not crye:

                        And two long miles he ledd them on,
                                    While they for food complaine:
                        “Stay here,” quoth he, “I’ll bring ye bread,
                                    When I come back againe.”
 

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                        These prettye babes, with hand in hand,
                                    Went wandering up and downe;
 

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                        But never more they sawe the man
                        Approaching from the town.
 

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                        Their prettye lippes with blackberries
                                    Were all besmear’d and dyed;
                        And when they sawe the darksome night,
                                    They sat them downe and cryed.
 

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                        Thus wandered these two prettye babes,
                                    Till death did end their grief;
                        In one another’s armes they dyed,
                                    As babes wanting relief.

                        No burial these prettye babes
                                    Of any man receives,
 

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                        Till Robin-redbreast painfully
                                    Did cover them with leaves.
 

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This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.            You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

 

 

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