Now, there’s a word that’s not enough a part of everyday English vernacular anymore. It gives us all just one more thing to love about Christmastime: ‘Tis the season for archaic contractions of “it was” (and “it is”, in the case of “’tis”) to fall lightly from everyone’s tongues, not just those people who tend to talk like they live in a Renaissance Faire.
Of course, as a minstrel who does indeed live in Avalon Faire, it’s twice natural for my Allyn-a-Dale to employ the word “’twas” – thrice natural, if he happens to be delivering a parody of the classic holiday poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, best known for that famed first line…
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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Faire
Not a creature was stirring, save those who dwelled there.
The boughs of Sherwood were by Fey hands adorned
All with holly and ivy, to be viewed come the morn.
Little John and the Hoods had retired to their beds,
Though yet sleepless were I and my brother in red.
Will Scarlet was keen for a long night of games,
And we’d scarcely begun the third round of charades
When, out beyond the forest, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my tent to see what was the matter.
Away toward Camelot I flew like an arrow,
Prepared to face any that our Isle would harrow.
The moon- and starlight on the fresh-fallen snow
Cast a mystical gleam over Avalon below,
While, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little driver so lively, bright, and brisk,
I thought surely my eyes must be playing some trick.
Swifter than wind-flight, his antlered team 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 tower! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away, all!”
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Scarlet, just now come alongside.
Pointing up to the roof of the castle, he cried,
“I’d never have thought such a thing to be true,
But we’re looking at Santa Claus!”
I replied, “Who?”
“You’ve never—?? Forget it. I’ll show you!” he said,
And taking my hand, through the castle’s gates led,
Just reaching the room of the Knights’ table round
As the one he’d called Santa came in with a bound.
He was dressed all in blue, from his head to his toes,
His silken hair shining a dawn golden-rose.
A stringed instrument he had strapped to his back,
And his hands bore a bundle like a peddler’s sack.
His eyes, how they twinkled! As merry a pair
As you’d find any place with the Merry Men there.
His mouth was drawn up like an outlaw’s longbow
In a smile that, any time or place, I should know.
I laughed, “Santa Claus, say you? Nay, were you astute,
I believe you would find this is Gant-o’-the-Lute!”
“But he’s dead!” Will observed. “And even in life,
Did he hitch sleighs to reindeer and fly through the night?”
“Perhaps it’s a dream; if so, of it I’m glad!
Hello, Father!” I said, and he embraced his lad.
A wink of his eye and a pat on my head
Warmed my heart, never minding whether he was dead.
He spoke not a word, singing lyricless tunes
As he pulled from his sack lights to hang round the room.
Then a twist of the wrist in a minstrel salute,
And out of the castle blew Gant-o’-the-Lute.
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, my Allyn, and to all a goodnight!”
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And a Happy Christmas to you, readers! And to all, a joyous day!