Christmas Bells

The poem Christmas Bells was written in 1863 by the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Dealing with personal grief, the loss of his wife and the wounding of his son (a Union soldier), Longfellow felt tormented by the ringing of the Christmas bells during the ongoing Civil War.

150+ years later things haven’t changed much. Incessant Christmas songs in malls, shows on tv, parades in the street, insist that we must pretend to be joyous, jubilant and jolly. Disregard the devastating news, ignore your neighbours in need, pass over your own grief. Spend your way to happiness or numbness at least.

But perhaps if we move beyond the commercialization of the Christmas season, we can allow some space for peace to enter our mind, soul, and spirit. Perhaps if we really listen to the clanging bells, we can find the reassurance that Longfellow finds by the end of the poem – that we still have a chance for some peace on earth and in our lives.

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."

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s