22 December 2013
“The Night After Christmas”
By Mary Ann Ashcraft
The following poem, entitled “The Night After Christmas,” was published in the Democratic Advocate on Dec. 24, 1898. The author was listed as “Anonymous.”
‘Twas the night after Christmas – when all through the house
Every soul was abed, and as still as a mouse.
Those stockings, so lately St. Nicholas’ care,
Were emptied of all that was eatable there.
The darlings had duly been tucked in their beds,
With very full stomachs, and pain in their heads;
I was dozing away in my new cotton cap,
And Nancy was rather far gone in a nap.
When out in the nurs’ry arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my sleep, crying “What is the matter?”
I rushed to each bedside, still half in a doze,
Tore open the curtains, and threw down the clothes,
While the light of the taper served clearly to show
The piteous plight of those objects below.
For what to the fond father’s eyes should appear,
But the little pale face of each sick little dear.
Each pet having crammed itself full as a tick,
I knew in a moment now felt like “Old Nick.”
Their pulses were rapid, their breathings the same.
What their stomachs rejected I’ll mention by name:
Now turkey, now stuffing, plum-pudding – of course,
Now custards, now comfits, now cranberry sauce,
Before outraged nature each went to the wall.
Aye! lollypops, flapdoddle – great things and small,
As from those epigastric, indigestible fly,
So figs, nuts and raisins, jam, jelly and pie;
All the horrors of surfeit thus brought to view,
To the shame of mamma and Santa Claus too.
I turned from the sight; to my bed-room stepped back,
And brought out a vial marked, “Pulv. Ipecac.”
When my Nancy exclaimed, (for their sufferings shocked her,)
“Don’t you think you had better, love, run for the doctor?”
I ran – and was scarcely back under the roof,
When I heard the sharp clatter of old Jalap’s hoof:
I might say – I had hardly had time to turn ‘round,
When the doctor came into the room with a bound.
He was splattered with mud from his hat to his boots,
And the clothes he had on seemed the drollest of suits;
In his haste he’d put all quite awry on his back,
And he looked like John Falstaff half-fuddled with sack.
His eyes how they twinkled! Had the doctor got merry?
His cheeks looked like Port, and his breath smelt of Sherry:
He hadn’t been shaved – so to fable the breeze,
The beard on his chin served as “cheveux de frise.”
But inspecting their tongues in despite of their teeth,
And drawing his watch from his waistcoat beneath,
He felt of each pulse, saying “each little belly
Must get rid of the rest of that pie-crust and jelly.”
I gazed on each chubby, plump, sick little elf,
And groaned when he said it, in spite of myself;
But a wink of his eye, as he physicked dear Fred,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He didn’t prescribe – but went straightway to work
And dosed all the rest – gave his trousers a jerk,
And adding directions while blowing his nose,
He buttoned his coat – from his chair he arose.
Then jumped in his gig – gave old Jalap a whistle,
And Jalap dashed off as if pricked by a thistle;
But the doctor exclaimed ere he drove out of sight,
“More cases just like them! Good night! Jones, good night!”
Mary Ann Ashcraft is a library volunteer at the Historical Society of Carroll County
Photo credit: Historical Society of Carroll County
Photo caption: This early 20th century Christmas postcard features Santa Claus riding a bicycle. Bicycling became very popular at the end of the 19th century.