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Dave's Xmas Message

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The Night Before a Printmaker's Xmas


'Twas the night before Xmas, and all through the shop
No printmaker was stirring, work was all at a stop;
The tools were hung up in their places with care,
The workbench was clean, on it nothing was there;
The gouges were nestled all snug in their rack,
Carved blocks were beside them, piled up in a stack;
The brushes on shelves, the chisels in a case,
The pigments in drawers, all was in place.
When up to my ears, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Down to the workshop I ran on the floor,
Turned the key in the lock, and flung open the door.

 

The moon in the window threw light on the scene;
I rubbed my eyes wildly, was all this a dream?
For my tools were all jumping, from rack and from shelf,
They came running and dancing, each moving himself!
On the bench stood the baren; to my disbelief,
He called them around him, he must be the chief.
More rapid than lightning, the tools they all came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now 'washi', now 'sumi', now 'nomi' and 'hake'!
On 'hangi', 'enogu', with 'nori' and 'take'!
To your place on the bench, from your place on the wall,
Get to work! Get to work! Get to work all!"

 

I stood in amazement as they all started working,
The scene was a bustle, not one tool was shirking.
The knives and the chisels cut lines in the block,
As the baren stood watching, one eye on the clock.
While the carvers were busy, the others prepared
The paper and pigments, the work was all shared.
From the door where I stood I was able to see
all they were doing, no one looked up at me.
The woodchips were flying, two mallets were busy,
Just watching the action made me feel a bit dizzy.
Then the woodblock was ready, the chisels adjourned,
The baren sprang up "Now it's time for my turn!"

 

His cover of bamboo was tight like a bow,
And the oil on it glistened as he walked to and fro;
He was cocky and proud, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A brush ran on the block, mixing colour and paste,
The paper then followed, lying down with no haste.
Then up jumped the baren, his face a wide smirk,
He spoke not a word, and went straight to his work.
He slid to the left, and he slid to the right;
He pressed down the paper with all of his might.
At last it was finished, the print was pulled free;
The tools then all gathered, to inspect it with glee.

 

But just then I coughed, the sound was a boom;
Everybody froze solid, no one moved in the room.
The baren then shouted "It's the end of the game!"
And whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now 'washi', now 'sumi', now 'nomi' and 'hake'!
On 'hangi', 'enogu', with 'nori' and 'take'!
From your place on the bench, to your place on the wall,
Back with you! Back with you! Back with you all!"

 

The tools all ran back to their own proper place,
Of the night's busy action there remained not a trace.
In the space of a second, the bench it was bare,
And nothing remained but the print that lay there.
The work was well done and the printing was clear,
My tools are well-trained, and their message sincere.
On the paper I read, what a beautiful sight:
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"


Translation notes:

  • baren (bah ren) = the printer's pad
  • washi (wah she) = Japanese paper
  • sumi (soo me) = Black carbon pigment
  • nomi (no me) = chisel
  • hake (hah kay) = brush
  • hangi (hang gee) = woodblock
  • enogu (eh no goo) = pigments
  • nori (noh ree) = paste
  • take (tah kay) = bamboo (the baren covering)