“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is.9:6, NKJV)

Listen! Longfellow’s bells. They’re peeling, wild and sweet!

Ah, but there’d been a time when the tolling of the bells pained the poet. Then, penned from his own anguish, Longfellow’s faith emerged victorious in this poem.

On Christmas Day in 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow continued to grieve the death of his beloved second wife Fannie. She had died tragically two years prior when her housedress caught fire. Longfellow himself tried to extinguish the flames with his own body, but Fannie did not survive. Worse yet, because of his burns Longfellow couldn’t attend the funeral.

During the subsequent two years Henry’s oldest son enlisted in the Union army to fight in the Civil War. On December 1st, Henry received a telegram that his son had been shot during a battle of the Mine Run campaign. The location of the exit wound from the bullet put his son at risk of being paralyzed.

When this widowed father of six heard the cannons thundering nearby, he was beside himself with concern for his children, his country, his neighbors. It’s hard to imagine the depths of emotions the bells evoked as they tolled on that Christmas Day. We know this wasn’t Longfellow’s first epic poetic endeavor, but it may have been his most passionate.

Especially this year, though despair and hardship maybe crowding in and around us, we can rise with faith as Longfellow had so long ago. Confident that God is not dead and He isn’t deaf!

I pray that as we hear the Christmas bells this Christmas, we acknowledge all the Lord has done for us. And from grateful hearts, we share the ever-abiding hope that we have in Jesus!

Merry Christmas!!  🙂

Written by eMarie

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     Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – 1807-1882

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.”



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1 year ago

I love the last stanza: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

God is not dead, nor is he deaf. We only see the moment, the clouds. He sees eternity.

Thank you for sharing the beautiful story of how Longfellow wrote this even in the midst of his grief.

(I really wanted to see the movie about this, but only one theatre in our area showed the film, and I didn’t hear about it until the last day.)

1 year ago

How incredibly apt for THIS time we are living in! I had not heard the story of the song, and of Longfellow’s pain, and more importantly his triumphing faith!. Thanks so much!

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