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~I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
.

       Longfellow is not usually thought of as a hymn writer, but one of his poems has been set to music by an Englishman, John Calkin, and the result is one of our most popular Christmas carols.

       On Christmas Day, 1863, Longfellow wrote of the joys of the season:

 

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.

 

       As he came to the third stanza he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country.  The Civil War was in full swing.  The Battle of Gettysburg was not more than six months past.  Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can the last phrase of those stanzas to be true in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?”  But he kept writing:

 

As 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 man!”

 

       It seems as if he could have been writing for the present day, too.

       Then, as every Christian should do, he turned his thoughts to the one who solves all problems:

 

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.”

—Lindsay I. Terry

 

++++++++++

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.[1]

1           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.

2           I thought how as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along th’unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

3           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.

4           Then peeled 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.

5           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.

 



[1]Eckert, Paul, Steve Green’s MIDI Hymnal, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

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