The Bells of Christmas

I know I’m late.  If you want to give me an art or drawing challenge to make up for it, I’ll do it–within reason.  

There’s a Christmas carol that I think many of us have heard, but may not have thought much about.  We know it as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  If you don’t know what song I’m talking about, you can watch a performance of my favorite version of it here.

I like to know the stories of how things came to be, so let me tell you the story of this carol.

December, 1863.  The Civil War doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, but it’s been ending many lives.  It nearly ended the life of one Charles Appleton Longfellow, Union soldier and son of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  A bullet nicked his spine and passed through both his shoulders.

The poet Longfellow has brought his wounded son home, though, and while Charley will not be allowed to return to the battlefield even after his long healing, he will survive.

It is at this time, this Christmas season surrounded by war, when Longfellow first pens a poem he calls “Christmas Bells.”

The bells of Christmas are ringing, playing songs about all the things Christmas is about:  peace, love, hope, joy.  But those songs don’t match the times.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered from the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned

Of peace on Earth, goodwill to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on Earth, goodwill to men!

Through the narrator of the poem, Longfellow takes readers and listeners through hope, despair, and back to hope again–because while terrible things are happening around him, God is watching, and good can triumph despite opposition.  Someday there will indeed be the peace on Earth that he wishes for.

That is a feeling that is as applicable today as it was in 1863.

I hope you all enjoy your holidays.  Merry Christmas, happy Festivus, and good wishes to all.

For more information on the song, check out this blog.


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