Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

The poem that inspired that phrase was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) He wrote it on Christmas Day 1864, during the civil war. His wife Fanny had died just two years earlier and his son Charles, a lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, had been wounded And yet, he wrote a beautiful and hopeful poem. The stanzas were slightly rearranged in 1872 by John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905) who also added the tune and gave us the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

Here are the original words to the poem. You can hear them spoken in this touching video.

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.”

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