Longfellow’s Lyrics Continue to Haunt

How many times have you joined others to sing a Christmas carol in church or caroling through the neighborhood and really never thought about the actual words of the song or the fact that it may have a unique origin? Too many to count I’m sure.

Most Christmas carols are sung from memory dating back to our childhood. While there are dozens of favorites which re-emerge each holiday season, there is one, in particular, that is more than relevant in today’s chaotic world.

The lyrics certainly ring true even though they were written 146 years ago. Few people realize that “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was actually a poem, consisting of seven stanzas, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day in 1863. The Civil War was at its height, and the poet was in deep despair at the time. Two stanzas were later omitted as they contained references to the Civil War.

Hearing the Christmas bells chiming, he realized that God was great enough to overcome the world’s strife. When you hear the words today, you can’t help but wonder if they were written with our current-day mayhem in mind. Over the years this beautiful carol has been recorded by such notable voices as Elvis Presley, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Ed Ames, Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra, Sarah McLachlan, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, the Carpenters, Bing Crosby, and Bette Midler.

Read the words and marvel at their truth and wisdom as they apply to the world of today. Better yet, try to listen to an actual recording of this classic to enjoy the haunting melody as the words reveal a harsh reality which may very well live forever. This memorable carol combines lyrics and music powerful enough to bring a tear to any eye, a lump to any throat, and warmth to any heart.

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.

I 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 world 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!

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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