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VOA Learning English Presents 'A Visit From St. Nicholas'

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In 1822, an American professor named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem that redefined the image of Saint Nicholas. It was called “Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas.” He did not expect it to be published. He wrote it as a Christmas present for his young children. In recent years, experts have questioned whether Moore actually wrote the poem.

Some believe it was written by Henry Livingston, a map maker in New York who wrote and published funny poems in his spare time.

But whoever wrote this classic poem, it has since become a favorite around the world. This poem combines the traditions of Santa Claus, seasonal decorations and gift-giving that have come to define Christmas in America.

Thomas Nast illustrations
Thomas Nast illustrations

We give you the staff of Learning English reading Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, popularly known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

‘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 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 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 lustre of mid-day to objects below.

When, what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

Thomas Nast illustrations
Thomas Nast illustrations

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 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 Saint 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 Saint Nicholas came with a bound.

Thomas Nast illustrations
Thomas Nast illustrations

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, and went straight to his work,

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!

Santa Sleigh
Santa Sleigh

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!'

Dorothy Gundy produced the video.

Do you have a favorite holiday poem? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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