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I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


One of the most familiar carols of the Christmas Season, most people don’t know the story of Longfellow’s poem.  When I first learned what lay behind it, I listened to the carol in a whole new way.  That was quite a few years ago, but I still get goosebumps on my arms and a tear in my eye when I hear the lyrics, even today.

It was written during the Civil War, when Longfellow was in the depth of despair due to the tragic death of his beloved wife, and the severe injuries to his son, who was a soldier in the Civil War.  I won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say that his very faith was shaken, and then was restored by the sound of Christmas bells.  Pay close attention to verses three and four (in Italics), and you can see exactly what Longfellow was thinking and feeling, in the depth of his grief.

It seemed to me that these words are especially meaningful today, especially after we have all witnessed the pain and suffering of so many this week.  Maybe reading over these words will help some of you begin to come to terms with the fact that Life is often filled with terrible pain, but that we must never give up hope.  As Longfellow so eloquently expresses it, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.”

In spite of the great sadnesses that come into each of our lives at times, may you each find peace in your heart and hope for the future.


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.

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.

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.

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7 thoughts on “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  1. Thanks for the reminder.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War


  2. Such appropriate hope–thank you! This was my mother’s favorite Christmas carol–I love it.


  3. Thank you, Alice. It’s one of my very favorites, too, and while listening to it earlier, I realized how very applicable those words are today. Some things never change. You just have to have faith that right WILL prevail. (Not that it lessens grief any, but it gives you something to move towards.)


  4. Reblogged this on Who's Your Granny? and commented:

    Thought I’d add this post over here, as well, for those who don’t visit Bookin’ It very often.


  5. I really love this carol. Thanks for the background, as well. I love learning new things. 🙂


  6. You’re welcome, SC. Consider it a small payment for all the many new things I’ve learned from your blog. It’s a lovely carol, and the story is so moving. I think of the anguish behind it every time I hear it, and then feel happy that Longfellow held fast to his beliefs, in spite of it all. A lesson for each of us there, somewhere, I think.


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