I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

A print created for us by our friend Jenny Metcher, the artist of the Etsy shop Three Letter Birds.

A print created for us by our friend Jenny Mecher, the artist of the Etsy shop Three Letter Birds.

 

This is one of our favorite Christmas songs and we decided to record it and share it with you.

The story behind the song gives it much more depth and meaning. It was originally a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day in 1864 when the American Civil War was still raging on. Two years earlier his wife had died in a fire that also burned and scarred his face. His son Charles had secretly run off and joined the army but was stricken with typhoid and then shot through the chest.

On Christmas Day as Henry sat with his wounded son reflecting on the war and recent tragedies, he could hear the church bells in the distance and began writing this poem. It was later put to music by John Baptiste Calkin in 1872.

150 years later in light of the wars that are still being waged and the injustices of the world these words still seem relevant:

“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 all!”

But we also remain rooted in the wild, audacious hope that someday the world will turn from night to day, the wrong shall fail the right prevail… and the bells will peal more loud and deep God is not dead nor doth he sleep- and wild and sweet the words repeat of Peace on Earth, good will to all!

Longfellow’s son Charles recovered and went on to travel the world. May Christ and his church continue to be beacons of hope whose bells will not be drowned out.

 

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I heard the Bells on Christmas Day

*Thanks to Tim Anderson for recording and editing the song

Here is the original poem

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.”

 

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2 thoughts on “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

  1. What a lovely gift to hear your voices singing this much-loved Christmas carol this morning. It is one of my favorites, and became even more meaningful for me too, when I learned the back story. Christmas blessings and prayers for hope, peace, love and joy. Love, Mom/Judy

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