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Short poem

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

              1'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
              2Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
              3The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
              4In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
              5The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
              6While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
              7And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
              8Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap --
              9When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
            10I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
            11Away to the window I flew like a flash,
            12Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
            13The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
            14Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
            15When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
            16But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
            17With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
            18I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
            19More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
            20And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
            21"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
            22"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
            23"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
            24"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
            25As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
            26When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
            27So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
            28With the sleigh full of Toys -- and St. Nicholas too:
            29And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
            30The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
            31As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
            32Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
            33He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
            34And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
            35A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
            36And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
            37His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
            38His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
            39His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.
            40And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
            41The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
            42And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
            43He had a broad face, and a little round belly
            44That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
            45He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
            46And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;
            47A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
            48Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
            49He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
            50And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
            51And laying his finger aside of his nose
            52And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
            53He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
            54And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
            55But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight --
            56Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


1] In the year 2000, Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, used external and internal evidence to show that Clement Clarke Moore could not have been the author of this poem, but that it was probably the work of Livingston, and that Moore had written another, and almost forgotten, Christmas piece, "Old Santeclaus." Foster's analysis of this deception appears in his Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous (New York: Henry Holt, 2000): 221-75.

22] Later revised to "Donder and Blitzen" by Clement Clarke Moore when he took credit for the poem in Poems (New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1844).

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: pe=circle>Original Text: Don Foster, Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous (New York: Henry Holt, 2000): 222-24.
First publication date: 23 December 1823
Publication date note: Troy Sentinel (Dec. 23, 1823).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/18

Composition date note: Christmas 1807 or 1808 (Foster, 238)
Form: couplets

Other poems by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.