Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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."

5 comments:

  1. Very nice.

    It might be that I am not sufficiently familiar with Longfellow. I remember having read something about him being an abolitionist, like most other now known poets of his day and age, and also very concerned about the reconciliation between the North and the South, once slavery was done away with.

    Looking at his poem,I cannot help but wonder if that is not what the poem is about - and whether the peace on earth and good-will to men, which the poem predicts will manifest that God is neither dead, nor sleeping, is to be understood in these terms, rather than in terms of that peace which the world does not know ...

    Anybody, feel free to enlighten me ...

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  2. This article does a good job of telling the story behind this carol: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/civil-war/2011/dec/22/civil-war-beauty-tragedy-i-heard-bells-christmas-d/

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    Replies
    1. Enlightening indeed, and very moving. Thank you.
      It would seem to me, though, that this background story confirms my immediate impression of the theology of the poem, and thus leaves it somewhat questionable for ecclesiastical use.

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  3. I would agree the theology of the poem makes verses 4-7 as printed above (I believe this is not Longfellow's original order) unsuitable for ecclesiastical use. I have used an abbreviated form of only verses 1-3 as printed above for carol sings, etc.

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  4. I Heard the Belles on Christmas Day
    (in three verses for carol sings, etc.)

    by Anon.

    I heard the belles on Christmas Day
    Their vested garments much at play,
    and wild with beat
    and noise replete:
    "Obeisance to Gaia, and stuff hymen!"

    And thought how, as the age had come,
    The belfries of all ELCAdom
    Had roiled to urge
    The unbroken dirge
    "Obeisance to Gaia, and stuff hymen!"

    Till ringing, singing in THEIR way,
    The Word revolved from rock to clay,
    A voice, a chime,
    A pagan rhyme
    "Obeisance to Gaia, and stuff hymen!"

    ReplyDelete

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