I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

One of my favorite Christmas carols originates from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. English nerds like myself know the poem “Christmas Bells” but everyone else will know the song as “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Longfellow penned this poem in the depths of another American crisis, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War.

It was a dark time for him personally as well – his wife of 18 years had succumbed to burns sustained in an accident. His son had also joined the Union Army without his consent and was subsequently injured.

I tell you this depressing story to tell you something else. History has proven time and again that this too shall pass. While we may struggle and hurt and suffer right now, brighter days lie ahead.

Read the poem below and listen to the carol if you have a favorite recording. Oddly enough, I’m partial to the Harry Belafonte rendition because he sings it with such reverence that it’s almost like a prayer set to music.

Wherever you are in this world and whatever your holiday looks like, Scout and I wish you a safe, happy and very MERRY Christmas!

Christmas Bells
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.”

7 thoughts on “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

  1. I was unaware of the origin of this beautiful song. Thank you for sharing the full poem and backstory. I imagine the Civil War encompassed very dark days for untold numbers of people.

    • I cannot even begin to imagine. If you get a chance, look up the novella “No Tears For Christmas.” It gives a glimpse into one Christmas Eve when a southern plantation home was occupied by Union troops. I read that a couple of weeks ago and found it thought provoking.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the story of this song. It really sheds new light on those words we often sign without thought.

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