what should appear, <But> a miniature sleigh

Amika

Member
Thai
I read a Chirstmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore. I rather don't get what the last sentence means.
Could you please explain me more?


The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeers.

I guess the poet said he saw what he should saw on Christmas except a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeers.
Am I right?

Thank you
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It's tiny reindeer, not "tinny reindeers". With deer, the plural is the same as the singular. And they were small, not metallic.

    The "should" is what's confusing you. It doesn't mean an obligation. Read it as "did" (as in, "what did I see but . . . "). It's a someone old-fashioned use of the word. (This is a somewhat old poem.)
     

    Ça y est!

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I guess the poet said he saw what he should saw on Christmas except a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeers.
    Am I right?
    I think the last two lines say, basically, "Wow! A miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeeer! I never would have expected that!" So yes, I think your question is correct.
     
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