poetry

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Longfellow

‘Santa Claus in Camp.’ Santa Claus visiting a camp of Civil War soldiers. Engraving by Thomas Nast, 1863.

On hearing of a serious injury to his son, the abolitionist, Longfellow wrote this poem.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863.

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!

Guerrilla Warfare, Civil War, Oil on Panel, The Century Association, New York, NY, Albert Bierstadt, 1862.

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.”

Home, Sweet Home, Oil on Canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1997.72.1 Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, Winslow Homer, 1863.

Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 2010.

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