Tag Archives: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmas Bells

Bells

Earlier today, I heard the Casting Crowns version today of the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” from their Peace on Earth Album. Fascinated by the origins of songs, I was intrigued (and moved) to learn that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally wrote the words for “Christmas Bells” on Christmas Day in 1863. His son was severely injured in the Civil War the month before, not long after the loss of his wife in a fire. Here are the words he wrote:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet
The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound
The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn
The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

These words, written 150 years ago, form the basis of songs we sing even today. Yes, we still live in the midst of war and pain and hate. But, as Longfellow concluded in his poem: God is not dead, nor does He sleep; right will prevail.

Luke 2: 13-15 (NIV)

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Merry Christmas to you all!

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