Saturday, December 11, 2010

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

This is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. It is musically arranged a few different ways, and the lyrics reflect a man's (Henry Longfellow) realistic response to Christmas. After Longfellow observes the Christmas-time desire for peace and good will as reflected in "old familiar carols" and the songs of the belfries (belltowers), the third verse depicts his sorrowful response to the actual state of the world. However, the fourth verse triumphantly responds to that sorrow with hope for the future.

Here we live, between the Incarnation of Christ and his return, in a time filled with great sadness for the state of the fallen world alongside hope for future restoration.


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.

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.”

Henry W. Longfellow, 1864