Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 359, December 25

Did you know that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally composed "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" as a poem, "Christmas Bells?" Did you know that it was intended as much as an anti-war protest as it was a Christmas message? Did you know that he wrote it on December 25, 1864? And did you know that it started out with seven stanzas?

I didn't. When I did some research on the the origins of the hymn, I realized that I had many of my "facts" wrong. I had believed Longfellow to have composed the iconic words in response to his son's death in the Civil War. It is true that his son was injured but not fatally so. Longfellow composed the poem in his grief over his wife's death several years earlier. His wife died of burns received in a library fire.

Below I've included the poem in its entirety.

"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."

So, for today, I am grateful for inspired words from an inspired man. I am always grateful for Christmas bells.

1 comment:

  1. This is my most favorite Christmas song thanks for sharing the info