“The Night Before Christmas” & “The Night After Christmas” (from Frank Leslie’s Budget of Fun, March 1864; p. 7.)
’Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring—not even a mouse—
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hope that Saint 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 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 gaze 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 Saint 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, Dunder and Blixen!
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 housetop the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too;
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on each roof
The neighing and prancing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint 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 pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His queer 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 laughed like a bowlfull 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—
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”
’Twas the night after Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Every soul was abed and as still as a mouse—
The stockings, so lately Saint Nicholas’s care,
Were emptied of all that was eatable there;
The darlings had duly been tucked in their beds,
With very full stomachs and pains in their heads.
I was dozing away in my new cotton cap,
And Nancy was rather far gone in a nap,
When out in the nursery arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my sleep, crying, “What is the matter?”
I flew to each bedside, still half in a doze,
Tore open the curtains and threw off the clothes,
While the light of the taper served clearly to show
The piteous plights of those objects below;
For what to the father’s fond eye should appear
But the little pale face of each sick little dear;
For each pet that had crammed itself full as a tick
I knew in a moment now felt like Old Nick.
Their pulses were rapid, their breathings the same—
What their stomachs rejected I’ll mention by name:
Now turkey, now stuffing, plum-pudding, of course,
And custards, and crullers, and cranberry sauce;
Before outraged Nature, all went to the wall—
Yes, lollypops, flapdoddle, dinner and all.
Like pellets which urchins from popguns let fly,
Went figs, nuts and raisins, jams, jelly and pie,
Till each error of diet was brought to my view,
To the shame of mamma and Santa Claus too.
I turned from the sight, to my bedroom stepped back
And brought out a vial marked “Pulv. Ipecac;”
When my Nancy exclaimed, for their sufferings shocked her,
“Don’t you think you had better, love, run for the doctor?”
I ran, and was scarcely back under my roof
When I heard the sharp clatter of old Jalap’s hoof;
I might say that I hardly had turned myself round
When the doctor came into the room with a bound;
He was covered with mud from his head to his foot,
And the suit he had on was his very best suit;
He had hardly had time to put that on his back,
And he looked like a Falstaff half fuddled with sack.
His eyes how they twinkled! Had the doctor got merry?
His cheeks looked like port and his breath smelt of sherry;
He hadn’t been shaved for a fortnight or so,
And the beard on his chin wasn’t white as the snow.
But inspecting their tongues in despite of their teeth,
And drawing his watch from his waistcoat beneath,
He felt of each pulse, saying, “Each little belly
Must get rid”—here he laughed—“of the rest of that jelly.”
I gazed on each chubby, plump, sick little elf,
And groaned when he said so in spite of myself;
But a wink of his eye, when he physicked our Fred,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He didn’t prescribe, but went straightway to his work
And dosed all the rest, gave his trousers a jerk,
And adding directions while blowing his nose,
He buttoned his coat, from his chair he arose,
Then jumped in his gig, gave old Jalap a whistle,
And Jalap dashed off as if pricked by a thistle;
But the doctor exclaimed, ere he drove out of sight,
“They’ll be well by to-morrow—good-night, Jones, good-night.”