The carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" comes directly from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem called "Christmas Bells". Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863. It was during the American Civil War, which is why he wrote the despairing verse: 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!"

Yet Longfellow ended his poem on an optimistic note: "The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!" He was an abolitionist after all.

Longfellow's seven verse poem was shortened to the five verse carol that's sung today. It was put to a tune by John Baptiste Calkin in 1872.

Below you'll find the full poem. The 4th and 5th verses of the poem were omitted when it was made into a carol so I italicized those verses.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day  - American Children's Songs - The USA - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

*In the poem this word is "And" instead of "I".

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day  - American Children's Songs - The USA - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Comment After Song Image
Listen

In the recording below you can hear the whole poem sung as a carol.

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1st MP3: Sung by Amelia Chesley.

In the recording below, you can hear the poem recited, followed by a singing rendition by the same performer.

The singing rendition is in this order: 1st two verses, last two verses, then the 3rd verse.

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2nd MP3: Recited and then sung by Kristin Hughes.

Following rendition in this order: 1st two verses, last two verses, then the 3rd verse.

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3rd MP3: Sung by Tricia G.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

1st Image: A husband and wife separated by the war (Thomas Nast, 1862).
2nd Image: Santa Claus distributes gifts to Union troops in Thomas Nast's first Santa Claus cartoon, (1863).

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