'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a sound could be heard, no barks or meows.
Not a creature was stirring, but lay perfectly still
In accordance with custom, and law, and God's Will.
The Bible was placed by the chimney with care,
In hopes of some preaching and an hour of prayer.
The children were sleeping all snug in their beds,
Flat on their backs and their neatly combed heads
Were turned at right angles, all parallel,
And their hands at their sides, and their chests rose and fell
Quietly breathing and dreaming good thoughts,
As they'd been trained since they were small tots.
And mamma in her nightgown tightly buttoned to the throat
Lay sleeping in bed, where I sat and wrote
By lamplight a list of righteous precautions
I found in St. Paul's letter to the Colossians,
When out on the lawn there arose such a sound,
As if something from heaven had dropped to the ground.
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
(Though when I say "breast," it's a metaphor, you know),
The moon on the snow made it all bright below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a man whose visage was dark and severe,
Dressed in black hat and a black woolen cloak,
And he lifted his head and solemnly spoke,
"Wickedness! Turpitude! Scandal and shame!
Laziness! Lust! I call you by name!
Man's sinful nature! His decline and his fall!
I've come to do battle and vanquish you all
Who have strayed from the truth and wandered and sinned!"
As dry leaves that fly up before a great wind,
So up to the house-top the gentleman flew,
With a bag full of cinders, and lumps of coal too.
As I drew in my head, too astonished to think
Down the chimney he came as quick as a wink.
He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
He was covered with ashes and cinders and soot;
His eyes--how they glared! His pupils were burnin,
His cheeks were like glaciers. His dimples, there were none.
His eyes were bright red, and his nostrils were redder.
And his nose was so sharp it could open a letter!
His mouth was jagged with razor sharp teeth,
There were six on the top and two fangs underneath.
He had a long face and his belly was boney
That shook when he spoke from sheer acrimony,
He was skinny and hard, a righteous old elf,
And I shuddered, though I am a Baptist myself.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He consulted a list that some diligent clerk
Had kept of the children's failings and flaws,
Grammatical errors and social faux pas,
All the things they had done that of course they shouldn't've
And the good things they did that were not quite good enough,
Every act that was lax or unorthodox,
And he filled all the stockings with sharp little rocks,
And cinders and thistles and ugly toadstools,
Except for my stocking, which he filled with bright jewels,
And shaking his head, he drew his cloak tight,
And I heard him exclaim, ere he rose out of sight,
"Let the children be quiet, no running, no noise,
And be satisfied with small rocks for their toys
And let them spend Christmas in patient forbearance,
And fast and be silent and wait on their parents."