Christmas Bells

By: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Editor's note:  In this Christmas season of 2020, we felt moved to post something that expressed, for us, the unusual nature of this year. We were reminded of the Christmas of 1863 when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells," which expressed his feelings during a challenging year.  Several years earlier, his wife, Frances, was accidentally killed in a fire. Then in 1862, his oldest son, Charles, enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. In November 1863, Charles was seriously wounded in the Battle of Mine Run. Thus, on Christmas Day, Henry wrote the following words, expressing his feelings of remorse but also of hope. Today, we feel they speak solace to many who have faced loss recently. In addition, the poem conveys confidence that we will learn to overcome the discord and strife which currently divides us.

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."


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