Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bells on Christmas Day

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!"

Longfellow wrote this poem in response to tragedy in his personal life. He had been filled with sorrow at the death of his wife in a fire in 1861. Two years later he heard that one of his sons had been seriously wounded in the Battle of the Potomac, where many young men tragically died, and on Christmas day he wrote this reflection on the Christmas message


  1. It's an interesting poem in the light of modern circumstances. The poet's grief is real and obvious. But what are we to conclude about the war itself? Pointless? Barbaric? A waste of lives? I don't think so. The war was fought to keep the United states together and to end slavery. Parents and others grieve this Christmas for men and women killed in the service of their country, but that doesn't mean that the present war is wrong or pointless either. It's not easy.
    Have a great Christmas, Sue.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Toby.

    Have a wonderful Christmas yourself.

  3. Happy Christmas to you and your family.