“Christmas Bells” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

December 24, 2012

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote this poem on Christmas Day of 1864. Longfellow penned “Christmas Bells” after his son Charles was wounded while fighting in the Civil War. Although the country remained at war as Longfellow wrote the poem, he expressed his hope that peace would return to the country. Following the Civil War, Longfellow’s poem was put to music, but the stanzas directly related to the Civil War were omitted from the carol.

Christmas Bells

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!

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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