Many of us in the US grew up with some exposure to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – his poems “Song of Hiawatha” and “The Village Blacksmith” were taught in elementary school. Our exposure to his poetry was so consistent that I automatically consider Longfellow “my” poet.
Which is why (forgive the bad grammar) I am surprised that I didn’t know that the lyrics to the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” are actually the word of Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells.” As explained on the New England Historical Society’s web site, Longfellow had recently lost his wife in a fire, and the poet’s son Charley, a Union soldier, had been wounded in the Civil War. I’ve always been struck by the honesty and emotion in this carol; the sentiment is profoundly relevant today.
Merry Christmas, everyone; here is the poem, which you can also read on Public Domain Poetry:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And thought how, as the day had come,
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
Then from each black, accursed mouth
It was as if an earthquake rent
And in despair I bowed my head;
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: