Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas Poem “Christmas Bells”- The 12 Days of Blogmas Day 8

Happy Day 8 of the 12 Days of Blogmas! 

Today we are looking at the history behind another classic Christmas carol.

In 1863, the American Civil War was raging and in Massachusetts, a young son named Charles defied his father’s wishes and left to join the Union Army.  He sent his father a letter after he had left and wrote, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer.  I feel it to be my duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life if it would be any good.”

 Later that same year, Charles was badly wounded in battle.  His father, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, found out about his injuries on Christmas Day and sat down and composed his poem, “Christmas Bells”.  The poem was set to music several years later.

Below is the poem that he wrote that Christmas Day in 1863 to express his sorrow that the war was causing, but also offering a hopeful reminder that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

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.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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