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#42: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

It was a time of intense sorrow and despair in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s life. His wife had tragically died in a fire in 1861. The American Civil War had just broken out, and his oldest son Charles had decided to join the Union cause without his father’s blessing. He was severely wounded in battle after several months of fighting. For Longfellow, this was just an endless punishment. In 1864, he sat down at his desk and penned the poem “Christmas Bells.” In this poem, Longfellow somberly recognizes that God is not dead, that right will prevail, and bring peace and goodwill to men. This is the message of Christmas and its promise of new life. The poem has been set to a few tunes, the two most common being the English organist John Baptiste Calkin’s melody in the 1870s, and Johnny Marks’ traditional melody in the 1950s.

Lyrics

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.

I 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.

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.”

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!

2 Responses to “#42: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

  • Paul and Dixie Clarke:

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for your beautiful music. What a gift you have! I am going to download all your music and burn a CD for each of our families! Thanks very much for sharing.

  • Trenna Sonnenschein:

    Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful talent with us. I downloaded them on my computer so I could listen to them while I work on my computer. Thanks again Justin & Merry Christmas to you!

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