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I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day December 25, 2013

Posted by Retired Geezer in Heroes, Literature, Love.

This song makes Mrs. Geezer cry.

Here’s the story of the song, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

By Greg Laurie, Christian Post Contributor
December 21, 2013|9:45 am

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
– Luke 2:14

One of the most familiar carols we hear during the holidays is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The story behind the song, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is very interesting.

In 1860, Longfellow was at the peak of his success as a poet. Abraham Lincoln had just been elected President, giving hope to many in the nation. But things soon turned dark for America and for Longfellow, personally. The Civil War began the following year, and Longfellow’s wife died of severe burns after her dress caught fire. Longfellow sustained severe burns on his hands and face from trying to save his wife. He was so badly burned that he could not even attend her funeral. In his diary for Christmas Day 1861, he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”

In 1862, the Civil War escalated and the death toll from the war began to mount. In his diary for that year, Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “‘A merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” In 1863, Longfellow’s son, who had run away to join the Union Army, was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.

For Christmas Day that year, Longfellow wanted to pull out of his despair, so he decided to try to capture the joy of Christmas. He began:

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.

As Longfellow came to the sixth stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, goodwill to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But he kept writing and what did he write?

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!”
That could be said of our day as well.

But then, catching an eternal perspective and the real message of Christmas and Christ Himself, he wrote:

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!”

May you hear these bells in the coming year.


1. Retired Geezer - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to my IB family.

2. lauraw - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, honeys. Nice post, RG.

3. Michael - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all, and thanks RG.

4. jam2 - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

5. Lipstick - December 25, 2013

Thank you, RG. Merry Christmas to all of us.

6. Lipstick - December 25, 2013

Last night I went to a dinner party/gift exchange given by old friends. Their daughters were 5 and 2 when we first met and now they are both out of college. One is living in Switzerland and came home for Christmas. It was wonderful. For eight years I was living away from them and the place I love best, but last night was a re-entry to the people and rituals of the old days.

7. Retired Geezer - December 25, 2013

*electronic hug sent from Camp Geezer*

8. Lipstick - December 25, 2013

Woo Hoo!!!! Back atcha!

9. BrewFan - December 25, 2013

It is amazing how much difference the ‘eternal perspective’ makes to dealing with life.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” – 1 Cor 13:12

10. BrewFan - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas everybody.

11. geoff - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, y’all.

12. ChrisP - December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, all y’all!
Pray for a better 2014…

13. daveintexas - December 25, 2013

Back from Dallas with my sisters, brothers in law, nieces and neffers that are all in their 20s now except two.

They still think I’m the best uncle.

They are right.

Merry Christmas everyone.

14. Cathy - December 26, 2013

Over the last month I’d been working very hard getting my place repaired and in shape, and prepping for the visit from the kiddos, daughter’s boyfriend, and my mom — who all visited from the nethers for the holidays. The visit was great, but they all are already gone.

Tough few years.
Tough several months.
Very tough week.
And very very tough day today.

This morning I remembered the words of this song while changing sheets, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen. My heart feels so broken — but God knows I’m tougher than I think. And like Longfellow, I have been blessed with the ‘eternal perspective.’

Merry Christmas and Peace to all my IB Buddies.

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