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"I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day," My Favorite Christmas Carol

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," my favorite Christmas carol.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was appalled by the Civil War, and persistent news reports of the amount of blood and carnage.  He felt as though the whole world was consumed by hate.

But there was more.  In 1861 his wife, Fannie, dropped some wax from a candle on her dress, which immediately exploded into flames.  In panic she ran into Henry's office. 

He tried to put out the fire with a small throw rug, and then with his arms and body.  Unsuccessful, she died from her burns, in his arms.  Henry was so severely burned about the hands and arms and face he was unable to attend her funeral.  He grew a beard to hide his scars.

Henry was debilitated with despair.  "My heart is not within me and mine eye is consumed with grief."

Later his oldest son Charly, unknown to his father, boarded a train for Washington and joined the army.  He was severely injured in battle, and on 1 December 1863 Henry received a telegram that Charly was in a hospital and possibly paralyzed.

On Christmas morning 1863 Henry was contemplating flames in his fireplace, "musing" on the bloodshed and hate besieging the country, he heard church bells pealing in the distance, announcing Christmas morning.

Taking pencil to paper he composed the carol we know so well.  Today we do not sing the stanzas that have to do with the Civil War, but the rest say enough.  He called it "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, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill 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, goodwill to men!"

 

It seems that in our whole world today hate is raging everywhere and is as strong as ever.  Hate is here, hate is there, hate is everywhere.  Haters try to force their hate onto others.

I am a "Merry Christmas" guy.  I do not buy society's watered-down "Happy Holidays" greeting.  To me Christmas is more than a holiday, Christmas is a celebration.  But I do not force my feelings on anyone.

But it does not matter your salutation!  It does not matter what greeting you give this time of year, if any at all.  It does not matter your belief, or creed, or religion, or no religion.

What does matter is that we, as people,  can surely make the seasonal "peace on earth, goodwill to men" sentiment last all year and as a matter of habit.  We, as people,  can love.

Hate leads to bad.  Hate leads to evil acts.  Hate leads to war.  Hate leads to greater hate.

Love is the opposite.   Love would not exist without hate.  We understand love because we understand hate.  We feel love because we feel hate.  Greater hate defines its opposite - greater love.

Love leads to good.  Love leads to loving acts.  Love leads to peace.  Love leads to greater love.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3: 16

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 58 commentsJay Markanich • December 21 2015 02:50AM

Comments

I have heard this song , but I can't get the melody in my mind to sing it ?

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 3 years ago

The meter is "Thoughtful," Michael and 76-92.  You can hear it by clicking here.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

I love this song and thank you for the history lesson. 

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 3 years ago

Thanks Susan.  It's been  my favorite carol for a long time.

There are other favorites...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Amen and Amen! After all Longfellow had gone through he was still able to write the 7th verse...“God is not dead; nor doth He sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on Earth, goodwill to men!"

Posted by Raul Rodriguez, Looking out for the client's interest and not my p (Covenant Partners Realty) over 3 years ago

Jay- so much information in your post! This is a favorite carol of mine as well but it is made more so after learning about Longfellow's life.

There is so much hate in the world, we need to find some way to respect our differences, not hold them up as wrong. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 3 years ago

Raul - the poem is a testament to the man and to learning from sadness.

Kathy - we sung it yesterday at church.  I did not have to open the hymnal!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay Markanich ,

I love this Christmas song and now I know the history behind its author and will appreciate it even more. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Sometimes the reasons for a book or song are the true feelings of the person writing them and we have to read between the lines for "The Rest of the Story!"

Merry Christmas to you and you family.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 3 years ago

Thank you for this post. 7 years ago, when my father was in the final stages of kidney failure, I chose this Christmas carol to cross stitch as I was sad that I was losing my father, but knowing he was going to see his heavenly father. Every year I hang up the Cross stitch of the melody and music to this carol. This post meant a lot to me, as now I know "the rest of the story".

Posted by Carolyn Crispin, Crispin Team Sells Branson Homes Land & Commercial (Keller Williams Tri-Lakes) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay. Tis the season that should prevail all year long! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 3 years ago

Good morning, Jay Markanich I'm so happy this post was featured....it's so beautifully written.... and it's such a great reflection of the real Jay Markanich as I know him from his wonderful posts.... Merry Christmas to you and your family, Jay.....I hope it's a very special one.

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 3 years ago

Dorie - Longfellow is my wife's favorite poet and we collected some very antique books of his. 

Raymond - Longfellow said that sometimes a person's quiet is misconstrued as cold, when in fact it's sadness.

That is a MARVELOUS therapy Carolyn!  You can hear the melody by clicking the link in comment #2.  Not all of us use the term Heavenly Father.  I do.

Wayne - woulda, coulda.  But no, hate is very strong indeed.  And those who are pedantically offended by everything.

Thank you Barbara.  Sometimes my posts are not home inspection related.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Well said, Jay. I really enjoyed the history lesson, but the overall point is well taken and much needed.

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 3 years ago

Thank you for the story, and thank you for the commentary.  A great way to start the day for me.

Posted by Joan Dickie, Keller Williams Premier Realty (Keller Williams Premier Realty) over 3 years ago

Merry Christmas Jay, to you and your family!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay. OMG, what a story. It is hard to believe anyone could survive Longfellow's experience. Merry Christmas.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) over 3 years ago

It does seem like there's hate around every corner right now. This was a great story that I did not know before. Merry Christmas Jay. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) over 3 years ago

Well said Jay, and i hope this song is heard by everyone around the world and the message is clear. Merry Christmas to you and and all those dear to you.  

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 3 years ago

He died with his light on....

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 3 years ago

I have to admit that I had never heard this song before now. 

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, I love learning about History and really appreciate you sharing this today. Merry Christmas!

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) over 3 years ago

Jay, you are one remarkable man, with joy and love just emanating from you. What a glorious message today. I loved it. Hate is truly a four-letter word, but then there are GOOD four letter words, too. 

love YOU! 

So there. 

Posted by Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate, "Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905 (John L Scott Market Center) over 3 years ago

This is the best Christmas post I've read.  Inside the bells, toll these beatitudes, uttered by Jesus . . . 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-12

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this story, Jay, "I heard the bells on Christmas Day," also one of my favorite carols. I didn't know Mr. Longfellow wrote the lyrics. Merry Christmas, and "peace on earth, goodwill to men." I always have loved that sentiment. What is Christmas without that message? 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 3 years ago

What a wonderful post; I didn't know the history behind this song but the words are true today as you point out. There is hate and there is love, and depending on the day it seems as though a different one is winning. I think if we all make the choice to share love, it has to win in the end.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) over 3 years ago

Great post, thanks for sharing.  The ying and yang, too bad there needs to be opposite, a world without hate............nice.

Posted by David Alan Baker Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor, Your local Expert (Keller Williams Realty Phoenix) over 3 years ago

Thanks Mike.  The overall point is the overall point!

Very glad you enjoyed it, Joan!

Thanks Fred.  Bakatcha.

Sheila - very similar things happened in my family!  In addition, we lost a house.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Thanks Nicole.  One day love will be stronger.

It's been around for a long time, Scott.  Would that all could take it to heart.

Richie - to whom do you refer?

Click on comment #2, Jason.  It's been in our church hymnal for well over 100 years and we sing it every year at church.  We did on Sunday!  It could be that I put a bug in the music director's ear - selfish, selfish me.

Mike - I knew the history, but have never put it together.  My version is very shortened!

Thanks Gayle.  Aw, shucks...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

 I hope this song is heard by everyone around the world and that we will have peace on earth in the coming year. 

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 3 years ago

I love this post although it has always been my insistence that the opposite of love is fear.  love and hate are very closely related in their emotionality. 

Posted by 1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 3 years ago

Joan - hope springs eternal as they say, but I think we are in for a whale of a year.

Judi - in one context yes, and in another to fear means to love - as in fearing God!  Either way, great love would not exist without its opposite, and we do have the power to choose.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Merry Christmas to you and your family.  Thanks again for all the great stories throughout the year.

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 3 years ago

Never knew the backstory of this song. This really highlights the true spirit of the season rather than the gross over-commercialization that's so prevalent today. Merry Christmas!

Posted by John Novak, Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate (Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace) over 3 years ago

I had no idea of the tragedy of his life. I love this carol also, and now it will mean all the more. Thanks you...and Merry Christmas

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) over 3 years ago

Jay, I enjoyed reading this. Thank you!  And I agree about the Love vs. Hate perspective. Merry Christmas!

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 3 years ago

Jay Markanich thanks for sharing the message of love.

You are so right about hate --

"Hate leads to bad.  Hate leads to evil acts.  Hate leads to war.  Hate leads to greater hate."

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 3 years ago

Thank you Stephen.  Same back at you.  I intend to stick around also!

John - I am not sucked in by the commercialization.  But I participate in it!

Karen - some of the best literature and music is based on personal experience.

Margaret - I am happy you are pleased!  Learning the "back story" of things is interesting to me.

Praful - and so, I suggest we focus on the love side!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

 

           Thank you Jay Markanich for my ah - ha moment. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 3 years ago

Thank you Kathy!  Glad you enjoyed it so much!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you Jay for sharing this. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas and hope you enjoy the remainder of the Holidays.  

Posted by Joyce Marsh, Million Dollar Guild, Luxury, CLHMS, CNE, SRES (JOYCE MARSH REAL ESTATE COMPANY ) over 3 years ago

Thank you Joyce for your compliment and wish!  And I hope the same for you.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

What a sad story, I had no idea. The poem's sentiments are definitely still current. I don't necessarily believe that we need hate to feel love. 

Posted by Olga Simoncelli, CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management (Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate) over 3 years ago

Jay I'm so glad Kathy featured you!   What a sad yet beautiful story that I have never heard before. Love is answer all year long. 

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886, Arizona's Top Banana! (Phoenix Property Shoppe) over 3 years ago

I'm so glad your post is featured and I'm so glad Kathy shared it. Beautiful!

Love leads to good.  Love leads to loving acts.  Love leads to peace.  Love leads to greater love.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 3 years ago

Opposites define each other Olga!  Left defines right.  Up defines down.  Etc.  One cannot be understood without an understanding of the other.

Fer sher AB.  Glad you enjoyed it!

And thank you Sharon.  We try, we really try.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Hey, Jay!

I included this post in today's "Last Week's Favorites" Oh, and Happy New Year!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 3 years ago

Love always wins!

Visiting your post again, Jay Markanich - and read the message of love!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 3 years ago

Great post Jay Markanich thanks for sharing the whole story of Longfellow.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor (Ward County Notary Services) over 3 years ago

Jay - you have said it all.  Merry Christmas to all of my Active Rain friends.  I did not know that story about Longfellow but what a great story of Christian love and compassion.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) over 3 years ago

Very interesting history on Longfellow that I didn't know! Today I went to mass and during the sermon the priest talked about being human. He went on to say that there are some people who have happy childhood and adult memories but the majority live with pain all their lives. 

In sum and in my opinion, love conquers all and people need to be loved their entire life.

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) over 3 years ago

Jay, we often applaud a favorite song without knowing the emotion that birthed the music. Thanks for sharing such a great message of hope that sprang from such tragedy.

 

Posted by John Wiley, Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA (Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty) over 3 years ago

Thanks Pat!  Fun is as fun does.

Praful - the Greeks had it right, they had different words for love in different contexts.  I think the love advocated here would be agape.

Bob - I edited it quite a bit!  Consider this the Reader's Digest version!

Grant - the curtain surely parted for him and he saw behind the madness.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Patricia - without a personal understanding of pain it is hard to recognize, and indeed feel, the love of a Heavenly Father.

John - music is quite the indicator of emotion, of all stripes.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

This is "what I learned" this week on AR. I knew he was a famous poet but did not know the history of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Posted by Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty, 601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell (Front Gate Real Estate) over 3 years ago

And you know a little more now, Pat!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Beautiful Blog Jay markanich....Amen....AND Women......

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 3 years ago

Thank you S&D!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

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