Will The Real St. Nicholas Please Stand Up?

And Indeed He Did

by Ogden Nash

Drawing by Al Swiller
Holiday, December 1963
St Nicholas Center Collection
Once there was a saint called St. Nicholas of Myra,
And his reputation for veracity was better than that of
     Ananias and Sapphira,
So when he recently called upon me with his complaint,
Well, I knew I was listening to a truthful saint.
He was also an angry saint, he was spoiling for a rhubarb
     or a scrimmage;
He was indignant over the vulgarization of his public image.
He said he hardly dared step out of Heaven for very shame
Because some obese buffoon known as Santa Claus had
     mis-appropriated his good name.
He said wherever he might go
He was confronted by this Santa Claus or one of a
     thousand facsimiles bellowing Ho! Ho! Ho!
None of whom had any decency or pride
Because they wore their red flannels outside.
He said if people wanted a Santa Claus that was all right
     with him,
He just didn't want them to confuse Santa Claus with St. Nicholas,
     which was like confusing Walt Disney with the Brothers Grimm,
Because he believed in spare the rod and spoil the child,
     and let reward be contingent on good conduct previous,
Whereas Santa Claus was of the permissive school and
     showered his gifts indiscriminately, even upon
     the most unregenerately mischievous.
Anybody misled by the similarity of the two names
     was not a homo sapiens but a most insapiens homo,
Just as likely to confuse Lindbergh with Strindberg or
     Pericles with Perry Como,
Yes, they would find a hundred ways to be vague in,
Mixing up Yankee-doodle with Der Dudelsackpfeiffer and
     Eugene O'Neill with Eugene Onegin.
He said this was a humiliation he had been forced to endure
Mostly thanks to one Clement Clarke Moore.
He said he had no recourse, that he was like a lion
     toothless or a porcupine prickleless,
Although the so-called hero of the Moore poem was really
     Santa Claus masquerading as St. Nicholas.
He said this was obvious because, if he did say so himself,
He was an authentic saint and nobody's jolly old elf,
And if further proof were needed that the identity was a
     transposed one,
Why, he had never seen a reindeer in his life, much less
     was he, as had been whispered lately, dependent
     on the good will and sagacity of a red-nosed one.
He said Mr. Moore had compiled the first Hebrew and
     Greek lexicon published in the U.S.,
     and had written a biography of Scanderbeg, too,
So he was perfectly capable, before
     composing his monstrous poetical tarradiddle,
     of checking his facts in any hagiological Who's Who.
By this time his indignation was such that he had lost the
     ability to reason well or think well;
I believe he must have confused me with Clement Clarke Moore,
     because he picked me up and dipped me in the inkwell.
He thereupon departed with his mitre cocked jauntily and
I cannot help feeling that, St. Nicholas or Santa Claus,
     his behavior was only faintly saintly.



The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus by Ogden Nash

By Ogden Nash, Holiday, December 1963, p. 94. Copyright © Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt A Tribute to the Poet, Ogden Nash (1902–1971) Permission pending.

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