This week’s Featured Poem comes from Chantel Baldry, Communications Intern, who has been getting into the spirit of Christmas by reading some very festive poetry.
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
I don’t think there is a single person in the English-speaking world who does not know the first two lines of this poem, more commonly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. It has become associated, along with the shots of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in Home Alone 2, with my idea of what Christmas is all about. Incantations of the first two lines to other members of the family, especially my younger siblings, have become a Christmas tradition in my house. It is so atmospheric and reminds me of sitting with my Nan, next to a log-fire surrounded by fairy lights, watching Miracle on 34th Street.
“When out on the roof 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 shutter, and threw up the sash.”
Oh! the childish excitement which kept me from sleep on Christmas Eve after my mum had forced me and my brother into our bedrooms at 8pm. This poem reminds me, that one small glimpse of Father Christmas was all that we wanted, despite knowing that if we were awake when he arrived, we wouldn’t get any presents (nice try mum).
“He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!”
I’m not going to lie, I still find Christmas a wonderful time of the year but reading this poem takes you back to a time when, as a child, everything about Christmas was fantastical. It evokes warm memories of people, places and feelings at Christmas time. I will definitely be reading this poem aloud to my younger sister this year and will enjoy watching her get really excited about the prospect of having Father Christmas and his reindeer ‘prancing and pawing’ along our roof top.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
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 reindeer.
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, on Donner 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 peddler, 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!”