The St. Paul Daily Pioneer and Democrat wasn’t the only paper to pair Clement Clarke Moore’s oh-so-popular poem with another. The Pioneer, however, could have found a much better poet. (Though the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s poet would be tough to beat.) Jane Gay Fuller (who also wrote several books and some articles for major magazines) was a poet of the solemn-and-sentimental Victorian school of generic Christianity. By contrast, Moore’s sentimental, Monroevian verse is a vivid celebration of cosiness and whimsy. Fuller never had a chance.

Minnesota was, at this time, teeming with white settlers (and about to become a state)—which the Pioneer’s editor reflects in a tidy bit of racism celebrating the “resistless and untiring energy of the Anglo-Saxon.” His main focus, however, is on nostalgia, the great theme of the winter holidays. Just as Medea’s magic could transform an old goat into a young kid, so Moore’s poem—now 34 years old—had the power to remind most adults of the hopes and lives they had first time they read it. Like I said, Fuller never had a chance.
“Christmas Day”; with “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement C. Moore, and “A Christmas Lyric,” by Jane Gay Fuller (from St. Paul Daily Pioneer and Democrat [St. Paul, Minnesota] 25 December 1857; p. 1.)
Christmas Day.

Of all the truisms most frequently repeated occurs the one of “Christmas comes but once a year;” and when we take into consideration the scant cause we but too often have for congratulation on the occurrences and experiences of the past year, it is fortunate, perhaps, that we are only called upon once during the period, to pass a mental review of the last twelve months.

We are no puritans, and in these days of expediency and greedy [sic] would willingly see the old customs of our ancestors more frequently kept up, tending as they do to bring together all classes of society, and for a while at least, to smother discontent, and forget during one day, the carking cares of life.—We have not yet seen two scores of Christmas days, but what changes have taken place, not only in our own circle, but in the world’s face since then? Thousands of miles have been reclaimed from solitude and nature, and from howling wildernesses have been converted into smiling fields of golden grain and green pasture, whilst before the resistless and untiring energy of the Anglo-Saxon, the native of the plain and the forest, like the feræ naturæ, have retreated and all but vanished before the might of civilization.

But it will not do to wander too far from our subject, which is essentially domestic, and that should transfuse into our mature mind something like the dreams of our former days, bringing back to our recollection the days of our youth, and the hills and valleys in which, many a weary mile from this our place of sojourn, we saw the future glowing with the rosy tints of imagination, and the dull, leaden skies of reality invested with the azure tints of hope. Since that time the old have died, raven hair has turned to grey, and our companions of those days are scattered over all countries from the equator to the pole. Yet, of all the seasons that recall past events to the mind, this is the one that should be less given up to regret than any other, and although hard times have come upon us, freezing up the kindly sympathies of man towards his brother, we trust that a good and genial future is in store for us, and that ere another misfortune visits us, we may look back upon our present trials with the satisfaction that the shipwrecked mariner reaches a friendly shore with the increased pride of having, by his own valor and courage, unassisted save by a watchful Providence, conquered a difficulty and gained strength in the contest.

We feel confident that ere the budding of the primrose,

“—that comes before the swallow dares and takes the winds of March with beauty,”

we shall be in a healthier and more prosperous condition than we have ever before experienced.

To all our friends we tender, not the compliments, but the best wishes of the season. For those little ones who, better than all the portions [sic] of Medea, can bring back youth again to the old, we tender the following spirited and appropriate lines to their patron, SAINT NICHOLAS; and for those of maturer years, who regard the day in its solemn as well as its holiday character, we give the magnificent poem, entitled “A Christmas Lyric,” from the pen of an old contributor to these columns. We are sure our readers will thank us for its reproduction, both on account of its intrinsic merit and appropriateness to the day, but also in compliment to the excellent lady who is its author:



’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 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 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! 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 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 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! ”



The night stars glittered like a diadem

Above the Judean hill-tops, when a band

Of way-worn pilgrims paused at Bethlehem,

Obedient to Cæsar’s stern command!

Group after group had gathered all the day,

And coldly now the keeper of the inn

Turned from these last benighted ones away.

for they were lowly in their garb and mien:

And with the poor who flocked at Rome’s decree

Came Judah’s wealth and her nobility.

The house was full—and sad and heavily

To a low basement stable then they turned,

For far beneath the skies of Galilee

The cot in Nazareth where their home fire burned,

And chilly was the dew-fall on them there—

Sick and exhausted with the tiresome way,

The world shuns poverty, and few will share

A home and fireside with the poor who stray;

So, while the wondering cattle fed around,

They made their beds upon the damp, cold ground.

Hark! Hark! what sounds break on the silent air—

The mellow tones of myriad harps are ringing

Through the clear night-vault! All the starry choir

Of heavenly angels join their might in singing

The world’s triumphant anthem, “Glory, glory!”

Dwellers of Bethlehem Judah, while the skies

Are waving their immortal banners o’er ye,

Shake off the leaden slumber from your eyes,

And bring your offerings! Many an angel guest

Is hovering round the city of your rest.

Upon the hills that gird the city round,

Amid the quiet flocks that seldom strayed,

Shepherds were seated on the dewy ground,

As years before, when the boy David played

His magic harp among the sheep-folds there!

The shepherd bard, in numbers deep and strong,

Pouring his inspiration on the air,

As the free-hunter pours his wild, glad song!

And the same star would burst on them this night,

That on his inner vision shed such light.

Gaze, shepherds! Lo, on the horizon’s rim

Is rising now that orb of Prophecy,

The glorious, wondrous star, that heralds him,

The world’s Redeemer, in his mystery

Of Earth-blood and Divinity combined;

Leave there your sheep upon the mountain side,

Meek-hearted ones, and follow till ye find

Your long expected King! Your angel guide

Shall show you to a babe, a new born stranger,

Softly reposing in a Bethlehem manger.

The night-stars faded when the next morn stained

The eastern hill-tops with its rosy light;

But the bright Star of Prophecy remained,

To chase away the wide world’s moral night!

And then awoke the busy city’s throng,

But all forgotten, like a night of dreams,

The angel hymnings and the choral song;

Each on his way, as best to each beseems,

The haughty Pharisee and begger [sic] trod,

Alike regardless of the Son of God!

Son of the Highest—Being so Divine!

From thy straw pillow wake not thou to weep:

The cattle on a thousand hills are thine—

They will not harm thee in thine earthly sleep!

For this poor stable thou hast left a throne,

Of heavenly beauty, and upon thy brow

A vail [sic] of shadow and of grief is thrown:

An earthly destiny is on thee now—

And thou must bear the burden of thy lot

Alone! alone! the world will know thee not!

Years sped along! The Babe of Bethlihem [sic] grew

To manly stature, in the humble home

Of his kind foster parents. No one knew

The mystery of the mission he had come

To work in human guise. The carpenter

Of Nazareth was his sire—though whispering

Of sorest meaning sometimes on his ear

Fell from envenomed tongues, as if to wring

From patient, honest poverty, its stay,

And cloud the dearest sunshine on its way.

But the forked tongue of malice could impart

No pang! From his lips, too strange things would fall,

Which but his mother heeded, in her heart,

She pondered o’er each word, and shrined them all;

For Oh! for him, the bitterest drops of scorn

Had been nectareous. Nor heeded she,

In the full treasure of her spirit born,

The world’s distrust, and cold uncharity!

She was a human mother, and her eye

Wept, as she marvelled at his destiny!

Jesus began his mission, and the land

Was filled with strange astonishment and awe;

Though on no fiery tables did his hand

Engrave the new commandments of his law:

He dropped them by the wayside, like the seed

Of flowers that fall to bless the wanderer’s lot;

His presence gladdened every heart of need,

While deeds of mystery by his word were wrought;

The hand of palsy at his touch grew strong—

The blind had sight—the dumb the voice of song.

The youth of Nain were sadly bearing one

In youth like them, a comrade, to his tomb;

He was a widowed mother’s only son,

And life’s last love-light had gone out in gloom,

From that lone mourner’s heart! Jesus drew near,

His eyelids moistened with compassion’s dew,

And kindly laid his hand upon the bier;

Then that electric touch started anew

The silent wheels of Life; the youth of Nain

To a new earthly life was born again!

Death crossed the Ruler’s threshold; one sweet bud

Had lain like a bright dew drop on his heart;

The bud was bursting into womanhood

Before his eyes, when lo! the Spoiler’s dart

Touched the young blossom, and its life-tide stilled.

He called the “Nazarene” to his abode;

And when he touched the hand that Death had chilled

Warmly through every vein the life-blood flowed;

And while the maiden looked on Christ and smiled,

The Ruler blest the Saviour of his child.

He stood beside a grave in Bethany,

“Groaning in spirit,” for its shadows fell

On one he loved, and whose warm sympathy

Had often been potential to dispel

The sorrows that so closely marked his way.

And while the weeping sisters urged him there

To leave unbarred the dwelling of decay,

A moment lifted he his eyes in prayer,

And then the dead a Godlike summons gave,

To his first resurrection from the grave.

Such are the wondrous deeds that cluster round

Thy name, Redeemer of our fallen race,

Until the mystic earth-tie was unbound,

That held thee in Humanity’s embrace!

The sun was darked, and no star arose

Above the Judean hill tops, on the hour

That brought thine earthly wanderings to a close:

Death claimed thee—but the Giant had no power

To bind his victim: thou didst rend his chain,

And clothe thee in Deity again!

The lights gleam brightly through the green wreathed pane;

The Christmas garlands tell of jubilee;

And crowds are thronging in the sacred fane,

Upon this eve of thy Nativity!

But in my silent chamber all alone

I sit, dear Saviour, now, and muse on thee,

And from thy Bethlehem birth place follow on

Each step of that lone way to Calvary,

Where thou did’st suffer for the unforgiven,

And die to make the dying Heirs of Heaven.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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