Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with an MP3 and YouTube Video

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote Christmas Bells during the Civil War on Christmas Day 1863. It was a seven verse poem that later was shortened to the five verse carol that’s sung today. The tune was written by John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905) in 1872. Below you can read the full poem and hear it sung and recited. I put brackets around the verses that are omitted from the carol.

MP3 of Christmas Bells Sung

MP3 of Christmas Bells Recited

Christmas Bells

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!

[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!

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!”

Below you can hear the carol sung. The singer is Renegade the Singing Baker. He wrote, “I sing when I bake. The reason is twofold: First, I like singing, but second and more importantly it keeps my mouth occupied so I’m not eating what I’m supposed to be baking… There are two traditional musical settings of the poem. I don’t like either of them, so when I sing it I set it to the tune of ‘I Saw Three Ships’ instead…”

I like the renegade singing baker’s idea… to sing while cooking to eat just a little less this holiday season. I think I’ll try that!

Whatever you celebrate, let’s all hope for peace on earth this holiday season and try to have more good-will to men and women around us!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 10:36 pm and is filed under Christmas, Christmas Bells, Christmas Poems, Christmas Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Languages, Mama Lisa, Poetry, Poets, Recordings, Recordings of Poems, USA, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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