Christmas Bells

21 12 2007

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem in 1864 while helping his son Charles recover from a serious wound received in Virginia.  Born in 1844, “Charley” (above as a child, a soldier, a samurai!, and a sailor) was a risk taker from the get-go, and lost his thumb in an accident with a gun at age 11.  As a Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, he was wounded at New Hope Church during the Mine Run Campaign on November 27, 1863 – shot through the shoulders, with the bullet “nicking” his spine.  Earlier, he had survived a bout with malaria.  After the war Charley lived a full life as a globe-trotting bachelor, but he died young in Boston in 1893.  Read more about him at the NPS Longfellow National Historic Site webpage, and at this SUV site.

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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!

The poem has also been adapted and recorded by various artists as a carol, my particular favorite being Frank Sinatra.  But here’s one from The Carpenters (removed) so here’s a different one from a group called Casting Crowns:

 And here is a link to some readings of the poem.

Take these as my poor gift to you.  Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!




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