Thursday, December 20, 2012

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Most people who know me at all, know that I take great interest in most things from the Civil War so I guess it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite Christmas songs was written partially in response to the feelings of despair that particular war caused. In 1863, Cambridge, Massachusetts' poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the poem "Christmas Bells" after his son Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia during the Mine Run Campaign.

First published in February 1865 in a juvenile magazine entitled Our Young Folks, it wasn't until 1872 that the poem was set to music when the English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used it in a processional accompanied with a melody he had previously used as early as 1848. The poem was set to several other melodies over the years but it has always remained a song that Ray Bradbury, in his 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, describes as "immensely moving, overwhelming, no matter what day or what month it was sung."

In light of last week's horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the words seem even more moving and overwhelming than they were back in the dark days of the Civil War as people still reel from the shock and grief and despair that was wrought upon a small town with the taking of the lives of 26 innocent people.
"... 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."
If you've got a few free moments, please take the time to watch the embedded video which tells the whole story of Longfellow's epic poem and includes a marvelous performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  If you aren't in need of a tissue by the end, I will be utterly amazed.


  1. Love, love LOVE this! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow! LOVE,, LOVE, LOVE this, too!

  3. Wow, probably could have used a tissue in the beginning, too.

  4. Fantastic! Loved this. I love watching/hearing the MTC. Dick and Brian got to visit a rehearsal once, several years ago. I was green with jealousy:)

    Big hugs, honey...

  5. Very nice Linda.

    Have a terrific day. :)


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