I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, the Song and the Story

Composer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Writes I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

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Over the years, listeners and singers alike have noted that I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is at once both joyful and mournful. The words to the song were written in just such a setting.

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On Christmas day, 1864, the beloved poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received word that his son, a soldier in the Civil War, had been wounded. Just two years before, Henry had lost his wife in a fire. As this devout Christian man sat alone with his grief, on the most joyful of Holy Days, he penned words of hope to challenge his own despair. He called his composition Christmas Bells. Little did he know that those words would someday be set to music and become a blessing to millions of people around the world.

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I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was set to music by composer John Baptiste Calkin in 1872. An updated arrangement was written in 1950 by Johnny Marks who also wrote Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

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I Heard The 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.

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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Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen