Skip to main content

I Heard The Bells

It was Christmas 1864. Everywhere there was blood shed. It was brother against brother. The American Civil War was at its climax. The thought of peace weighed heavily upon the mind of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for in every single stanza he wrote, "Peace on earth, good will to men!"

"Peace on earth, good will to men."

Peace on earth, good will to men?

During the Civil War?

Those words - peace on earth and good will to men are definitely out of place.

Who could imagine Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as a hymn writer! Who would have thought it? With the mere mention of his name come thoughts of "the village smithy," "the chestnut tree," "three doors left unguarded," and the stair clock tirelesly ticking away, "Forever - never! Never - forever!" But at Chrimast time during the year 1864, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took out his pen and wrote...

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the chords 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.

The next two verses echo strongly what Longfellow must have been feeling...

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


But it is the final two verses that tells the tale. The verses are normally left out of hymnals.

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



What you may not know is.....

In 1861, Longfellow had an ideal home; a lovely wife and 5 children. When the Civil War started a sorrowful tragedy occured. Longfellow's wife had been cutting their youngest daughter's hair and wanted to save a lock of her curls. She was heating some sealing wax and a breeze blew some hot wax onto her dress, igniting it in flames. She ran to her husband's study where he tried to put out the flames with a rug, but it was too small, so he embraced her with his own arms and put the fire out. His hands, arms and face became severely burned. His wife had been so badly burned that she died the next morning and he was in the hospital for the burns he had suffered. For three years he wrote in his journal that he no longer had peace or happiness in his life. To make matters worse, his son, Charles, was wounded in battle with the bullet hitting his spine. In 1864, just as the war seemed to be coming to an end, Charles became healed of his wounds. Longfellow's faith was restored. That was the basis for I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, written during Christmas of 1864.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close atte…

Long Live The Goat Man

(This photo was made in the 1950's as the Goat Man passed through my town)
Charles McCartney was born on July 6, 1901. In 1915, at age 14, he ran away from his family's Iowa farm. He eventually wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Great Depression wiped them out. About the same time, he experienced a religious awakening. A man on a mission, he hitched up his team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road with his wife and son. His wife made goatskin clothes for him and his son to wear as a gimmick during their travels, but she quickly grew tired of the road and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her.

Charles McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too because he rarely took a bath. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before peop…