For years my grandfather, Irwin Alton Simpson, recited this poem every Christmas Eve, usually after a few shots of whisky. I’m not sure of its origin or when and where he first heard it, but he was an advertising man in Manhattan and, later, the Ad Director for the St. Petersburg (FL) Times, so he knew a ton of bawdy jokes and dirty limericks. (This poem is pretty tame compared to some he knew.)

After he died, the torch was passed to my father, Richard Irwin Simpson, who did an equally fine job, as he was also an ad man. He still recites the poem, even if it’s sometimes over the phone. James Irwin Simpson, that’s me, will be the next torch bearer.

With much love on this Christmas Eve, I share with you all this poem.

 

‘Twas Christmas Eve in the prison and the warden was walking the halls

Shouting ‘Merry Christmas, prisoners!’ and the prisoners replied, ‘Balls!’

This made the warden quite angry and he swore by all the gods,

‘You shall have no Christmas pudding, you dirty lowdown dogs!’

Then up spoke one old prisoner with face as hard as brass,

‘Warden, you can take your Christmas pudding and shove it up your ass!’

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JIM SIMPSON is an award-winning fiction writer and freelance music critic. A native of the wilds of Florida's Gulf Coast, he now resides on the scruffy fringes of Atlanta, Georgia.

He frequently writes about music, with his taste spanning all genres: Bluegrass, Americana, Classic Country, Alternative Country, Western Swing, Blues, Classical, Rock 'n' Roll, Punk, Reggae, Klezmer, and British Isles Folk (to name but a few).

He once sang Happy Birthday (with about 10,000 other people) to Joni Mitchell, and has seen such legends as Miles Davis, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Rockpile, Blue Rodeo, King Sunny Ade, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M., Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan live in concert. He has interviewed such musical luminaries as Those Darlins, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Marshall Chapman, Charlie Louvin, Derek Hoke, Jim Avett, the Secret Sisters, and Meghan McCormick.

Jim has been at work on his first novel for longer than he originally planned, and if all goes well it should be in bookstores sometime before his death.

20 responses to “‘Twas Christmas Eve in the Prison”

  1. I liked this poem, Jim. Also, not to rewrite it or anything, but if you took out the word “Warden” and replaced it with “Rudolph” I think it would work just as well, too.

    Just a thought…

  2. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    That is a great poem, Jim!

    I also just read your bio and laughed out loud!
    My husband thinks I’m crazy, cause I’m all by myself in here.
    (But there may be other contributing factors at play here.)

  3. Keep on carrying that torch, Jim. You’re doing a fine job.

    Heh.

    Balls.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Twas the night before Christmas, and in all Cell Block D,
    Not a creature was stirring — not a creature but me.

    [OK, someone else write the next line…]

    • We all hid our contraband inside of our hair,
      In the hope that the warden wouldn’t check there.

      I wrote on my Korean blog a version of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ that was all relating to pop culture. A few K-bloggers have done the same, with some very funny results –
      ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through Korea,
      The spicy Christmas dinner gave foreigners diarrhea’.

      We also did versions of ‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus’ and my one started –
      ‘I saw my wife kissing G-Dragon, (a popular Korean singer)
      in between the kimchi pots last night’

      • ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in all Cell Block D,
        Not a creature was stirring – not a creature but me

        We all hid our contraband inside of our hair
        In the hope that the warden wouldn’t check there

        Christmas hour was nigh and I hoped none would spoil it
        Or rat me out for the whisky I brewed in my toilet

        • ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in all Cell Block D,
          Not a creature was stirring – not a creature but me

          We all hid our contraband inside of our hair
          In the hope that the warden wouldn’t check there

          Christmas hour was nigh and I hoped none would spoil it
          Or rat me out for the whisky I brewed in my toilet

          When out on the landing there arose such a din
          The gates were thrown open and Santa flew in

        • Zara Potts says:

          ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in all Cell Block D,
          Not a creature was stirring – not a creature but me

          We all hid our contraband inside of our hair
          In the hope that the warden wouldn’t check there

          Christmas hour was nigh and I hoped none would spoil it
          Or rat me out for the whisky I brewed in my toilet

          When out on the landing there arose such a din
          The gates were thrown open and Santa flew in

          The reindeer were drinking and Santa was spewing
          It was clear to see that trouble was brewing

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      When all of a sudden there arose such noise
      The inmates were restless, but boys will be boys

      [Tag! someone else is IT.]

  5. Brilliant! I love this poem.

  6. Greg Olear says:

    We’re now up to this:

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in all Cell Block D,
    Not a creature was stirring — not a creature, but me

    We all hid our contraband inside of our hair
    In the hope that the warden wouldn’t check there

    Christmas hour was nigh and I hoped none would spoil it
    Or rat me out for the whisky I brewed in my toilet

    When out on the landing there arose such a din
    The gates were thrown open and Santa flew in

    The reindeer were drinking and Santa was spewing
    It was clear to see that trouble was brewing

    And all of a sudden there arose such noise
    The inmates were restless, but boys will be boys

    We all of us tugged on his red velvet cape,
    And cried, “Santa Claus! Santa Claus! Help us escape!”

  7. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Perfect!

  8. Ed Hazell says:

    I remember this one. My dad always told it. I was just a young kid so it really tickled me.
    I still think of it from time to time and get a warm smile.
    Maybe it is a sales thing, my dad was an on the road salesman for boats.

  9. John Unknown says:

    My dad used to recite a similar poem…

    Twas Christmas in the prison,
    The convicts were all there,
    Gathered ’round their Christmas turkey
    That was on their bill of fare.
    When all at once the warden strode in,
    His voice rang down the halls,
    “Merry Christmas all you convicts”,
    The convicts shouted “Balls”.
    This so enraged the warden
    That he swore by all the gods,
    “You shall not have your Christmas turkey,
    You dirty bunch of slobs.”
    Then one old convict rose and said,
    His voice as clear as glass,
    “Take your damn Christmas turkey
    And shove it up your ass!”

  10. Colt says:

    My Dad gave a similar rendition, but kept it clean:

    It was Christmas in the jailhouse,
    the warden was passing out butts.
    “Merry Christmas, boys”, he shouted.
    And the boys said, “Aw nuts!”
    The warden was very angry at this,
    he said, he said like this,
    “You’ll get no Christmas pudding
    nor any Christmas cheer.”
    Up spoke one bold prisoner,
    with a voice as deep as brass,
    “You can take your Christmas pudding
    and eat it yourself!”**

    ** The funny part is not using a rhyming bad word, like the comic strip below.

    See Aug 18,2018 Pickles: http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/wppic/2018/08/18/

  11. Charles W Martie says:

    My grandfather recited that poem to us every Christmas. We placed a copy in his casket when he passed. His version went:

    Twas Christmas at the prison, and all the prisoners there,
    Were eating Christmas dinner, of the scanty prison fare
    When in walked the warden, and gazing ’round the halls,
    Said “Good evening, merry prisoners!”
    And the prisoners shouted “Balls!”
    This made the warden angry, and he swore by all the gods,
    “You shall have no Christmas pudding, you dirty drunken slobs!”
    Up rose an ancient prisoner, with face as stern as brass, and said,
    “You can take your Christmas pudding, and shove it up your ass!”

    Although we don’t remember Grampy ever finishing the last sentence…

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