Sapphire Sky

December 24, 2011

Peace On Earth

Filed under: encouragement, Poem, video — Steve Knaus @ 1:40 pm

“ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

We expect Christmas season to be a time of happiness and celebration. Sadly, it is also a time of grief and disappointment to many.  We mourn the loss of loved ones, and the tragedy of “what might have been”.

Thankfully, we have hope.  Our pain and grief will have an end.  God has not forgotten us.

One of the popular Christmas carols was born out of great tragedy.  The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, lived in Massachusetts during the time of the American Civil War.  Longfellow’s personal tragedy was combined with the national tragedy during this war: his wife was killed during an accidental fire at their house, leaving Longfellow himself badly burned.  In addition to this, his oldest son had gone off to war and returned severely wounded.  Specific details are here.

The war was nearing its end on Christmas day 1864 when Longfellow was finally able to pen these words of hope: “God is not dead, nor does he sleep.”

The words of Longfellow’s poem have been revised for the popular Christmas carol, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”.  The stanzas regarding the Civil War are omitted from the carol and the third stanza regarding “night to day” is moved to the end.  Yet for any readers of American history, the original poem below illustrates the despair that birthed these words of hope:

“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!”

2 Comments »

  1. Thank you.

    Comment by john washam — December 26, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  2. I discovered this poem, for the first time, this Christmas and have greatly enjoyed this rendition of the song. Undoubtedly, the best version I’ve ever heard.

    Comment by Daryl — December 26, 2011 @ 11:22 am


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