We watched Ken Burns’ most recent documentary, The Dust Bowl, which was incredible and depressing and quintessential Ken Burns. As such, when I was “asked” to recite T’was The Night Before Christmas for Thanksgiving this evening, I decided to “annotate” the poem and will … grace my friends with a reading in grizzled old person voice.
T’Was The Night Before Christmas, As Annotated By Ken Burns
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;
During the Dust Bowl, mice were used in lieu of Christmas hams. -John Steinbeck
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,
A sugar plum was worth 2/3rd of a slave for a time in Alabama. -Dorothy Gray
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.
Ty Cobb was known for tearing drapes down in hotel rooms to hide his dead hookers.
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,
During the Dust Bowl, children considered new-fallen snow a cruel joke. -Elizabeth Henderson
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:
The name for St. Nick is, of course, taken from the name of Louis Armstrong’s first trumpet.
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!
Thelonius Monk kept a stable of breeding reindeer next to his 11-dimensional house.
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.
In the Confederacy, this verse was amended to say “white house-tops”.
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.
St. Nicholas’ ability to avoid soot in chimneys is due to him greasing up with magical elf butter every Christmas Eve.
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.
Johnny Appleseed was mistaken for St. Nick by native American cultures before he was cannibalized by the Mohawk in the winter of ‘62.
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;
Coincidentally, dimples were an identifying mark for dalliances by slave masters and Ty Cobb.
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.
St. Nick has Type 2 diabetes and has weighed over 400 pounds for the past 150 years.
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;
In 1925, St. Nick took a sabbatical to star on trombone in King Oliver’s band before being summarily replaced by T-Boz Jenkins, future senator from Missouri.
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;
The “Dirt Devils” were a travelling baseball team that had a chimney as their mascot; they were beaten to death as insensitive jerks by homesteaders in Oklahoma.
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.”