“A Visit from St. Nicholas” (from the New York Mirror, December 23, 1837; p. 207)
Christmas Eve.—With all its early and cherished associations, is at hand. It is the festive season of family meetings, of the gathering together of kinsmen and friends by the hearthside of home. Bright and happy be the re-unions of our readers upon this joyous anniversary! Blessed, if the owners of a homestead, in the merry-making of children and friends around their hospitable board; and cheered, if no domestick fireside of their own glow for them, by the warm welcomes of those who, still in heart, if not in kith, are dear. Let thine eyes, gentle maiden, smile more kindly upon thy bachelor, who joins the gladsome family-circle upon this hallowed eve; and you, ye romping juveniles, who, perchance, may sometimes look upon our page, let not your noisy mirth provoke the chiding of pensive Griselda, or infirm old gran nam, who but half sympathises with your revels from her thoughtful seat in the chimney-corner. The charm of the season, it is true, is chiefly yours, with whom its recurrence brings no sad thoughts of happy moments passed: but use kindly your license for boisterous merriment. Your party, young hopefuls, is for the nonce in power, and we, like all others, must give way to its ascendency for the time, and cater as we can for your amusement here. We present each of you, therefore, with a copy of the following beautiful little poem, every word of which is as true as anything you can find in Philip Quarle, the Arabian Knights, or those most authentick of all historical narratives, the Fairy Tales of John Smith. It is written by Professor Clement C. Moore, who, in stealing leisure from the gravest and most important studies, for so light and graceful a production, has set an example which austere wisdom should oftener imitate among its solemn disciples.
’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 through their heads;
And mamma 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 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 rein-deer,
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! now, Vixen!
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen—
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
As 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 tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he look’d like a pedler 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 on 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 laugh’d, like a bowl full 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!”