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Harula’s GLADvent Calendar


December 23

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen. (Leonardo Da Vinci)

longfelloPeople often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think POETRY is the same way. ANYTHING can be a POEM. Words, a sunset, a child stomping in a puddle of water, a great-great grandmother holding a new baby… And Christmas is a time when POEMS abound. So many of our traditional Christmas carols began as simple — or sometimes complex — POEMS. I think my favorite Christmas POEM is called “Christmas Bells,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Though we know it by the name “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Longfellow had struggled terribly with the death of his second wife of 18 years. She had died in a fire in 1861. Then in March 1863 his son Charles — against his father’s wishes — left to join the Civil War. Charles was wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia, and while he recovered, it put an end to his military career.

church-bellsBereft, on Christmas day in 1863 Longfellow wrote “Christmas Bells.” The song tells of Longfellow’s despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, knowing that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” But the carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men.

It truly is a POEM for our time because it’s about war. But when it was set to music, the stanzas about the war were left out. Reading them in context in the POEM gives it far more impact.

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.”

It’s sad but true: the more some things change, the more they stay the same. We’re still waiting for that “peace on earth, good-will to men” all these years later. Let us not give up hope!



Picture Sources:
Stocking — Harula
ongfellow — pereskaz.com
Bells — Musicology for Everyone