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Listen To Bob Dylan Reading Twas The Night Before Christmas (2006)

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

 

American folk/rock singer and songwriter Bob Dylan smiles during a meeting with the British press, April 28, 1965. (Photo by H. Thompson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

American folk/rock singer and songwriter Bob Dylan smiles during a meeting with the British press, April 28, 1965. (Photo by H. Thompson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

In 2006 Bob Dylan entertained listeners to his satellite radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, with a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The poem first appeared in print on December 23, 1823.  No author was cited for the work then called A Visit from St. Nicholas. In 1837 literature professor Clement Clarke Moore claimed authorship. He’d written it for his family. Unbeknownst to him, his housekeeper had submitted it to a New York newspaper. But Henry Livingston, Jr  said Moore was wrong. He claimed that his father had been reciting A Visit from St. Nicholas for 15 years prior to the poem’s publishing debut.

 

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: A rare early collection of poems written by Bob Dylan in 1960 lies on display at Christie's Auction House, November 21, 2005 in New York City. The collection is expected to bring approximately $60,000 to $80,000 at today's auction. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

A rare early collection of poems written by Bob Dylan in 1960 lies on display at Christie’s Auction House, November 21, 2005 in New York City.

 

So much for the poem’s creation.

But nothing sits still. Originality is collaborative, a process of borrowing, plagiarism, inspiration, study, hard work and what the lawyers call ‘copyright theft’. When Bob Dylan reads the poem, it takes a new twist.

Many others, of course, have recorded versions of this enduring hit, each take right and ripe for its age. Perry Como was smooth in 1953; Louis Armstrong gave the words a gravelly edge in 1971; and in one hip-hop animation, the poem was truncated to the less spray-paint-wasting The Night B4 Christmas.

But few recordings of the poem are better than this reading by one of America’s foremost poets, Bob Dylan:

 

 

Others 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 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 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 lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he 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, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the 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 pedler 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 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 —
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”