In fumbling about to create a clever name for this blog, I landed on a phrase from the famed Christmas poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore. Aside from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Moore’s poem probably did more to further the cause of Christmas consumerism than any single individual, though I seriously doubt that was his intention when he wrote the verse as a Christmas gift for his children in 1822.
Here’s a brief biography, excerpted almost in its entirety, from the Web site of the New York Institute for Special Education, of whose board Moore was a member in the mid-19th century:
Clement Clarke Moore was born on June 15, 1779 in New York City. The only son of Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia College and bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York, he graduated first in his class from Columbia College in 1798 and received his Masters degree from the same school in 1801.
From 1840 to 1850, Moore was a board member of the New York Institute for Special Education, then known as The New York Institution for the Blind. He is buried at the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum in Upper Manhattan, between Broadway and Riverside Drive. Charles Dickens’ son, Alfred Tennyson Dickens, is interred there, as are John James Audubon and John Jacob Astor.
Moore married Catherine Elizabeth Taylor in 1813, and settled with her in Chelsea, then a country estate outside New York City. Clement Moore is considered by some to be the savior of New York’s Greenwich Village for the anonymous 60-page pamphlet he wrote that argued against extending the orthogonal grid of the City’s streets into the Village. His arguments were persuasive enough to stop the grid at 6th Avenue and 14th Street.
Moore was a professor of classics at the General Theological Seminary in New York and wrote a most famous scholarly work on the lexicon of the Hebrew language. He is best known as the author of A Visit From St. Nicholas (better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas), which he wrote in 1822 as a Christmas gift for his children.
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 mama 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 rose 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 a luster 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! 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 a 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 month 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 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,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”