Category Archives: Poetry

Christmas Bells

henry w. longfellow

Light into Darkness – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

December 25th, 1864 dawned bleak and cold. Not only had the tragedy of civil war gripped the nation, but Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was grieving over the wounds of war and death in his immediate family. His son, Lieutenant Charles Longfellow, had been grievously wounded in the recent battle of New Hope Church– resulting in partial paralysis. He had lost his lovely wife Fanny after she had been burned in a horrible accident three years previous. Christmas cheer was not something to be found in the Longfellow household. His journal entry for the previous Christmas reads, “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Then, on this Christmas morning, Longfellow heard a clear, ringing note. Cutting through the cold, despair and seemingly hopeless grief rang the clear sound of church bells playing Christmas carols. In an instant, hope came rushing in through the window, warming Longfellow’s heart. Sitting down, he penned this poem that was later put to song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

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.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) 

Click HERE to read the story of this poem on the Washington Times

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

written by GK Chesterton (1874–1936)

The following text was written by Mike Piff (MPiff@pa.shef.ac.uk, and taken from http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/index.html).

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of May, 1874. Though he considered himself a mere “rollicking journalist,” he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people—such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells—with whom he vehemently disagreed.

Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922 Eugenics and Other Evils attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself.

In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once “reactionary” views. During the dark days of 1940, when Britain stood virtually alone against the armed might of Nazi Germany, these lines from his 1911 Ballad of the White Horse were often quoted:

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Chesterton died on the 14th of June, 1936 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. During his life he published 69 books and at least another ten have been published after his death. Many of those books are still in print.

Mystery of Advent

Why would you place the hope of the world

Into the womb of a peasant girl,

To nurse and teach, to tuck in bed

Our only hope, the sacred head?

 

What if she fails and spoils your plan

Of saving the world and the souls of man,

Why would you trust her with a will that’s free

And take a chance with one of the three?

 

Why would you risk your only son

To be adopted by a father of none,

A man without riches and limited skill

Why trust him to do your will?

 

And what about David with his pedigree

His sins were many, but I’ll name just three –

He murdered and lied and stole a wife

Still you choose this man for the lineage of life?

 

And why entrust this broken man

With a part to play in your master plan,

Why give a convict the keys to the store

Or showcase with honor, the faith of a whore?

 

Why trust the telling of news so good

To men who still nail you on a cross of wood,

Who warm their hands in the fiery glow

And swear that it’s you, it’s you they don’t know?

 

Why were you born as a babe so weak

Into our brokenness and a world so bleak,

Why use a pallet of sin and shame

To paint the glory of the God who came?

 

The Answer is here with a scandalous love

A gift wrapped in poverty, a gift from above;

The way to receive Him, such an improbable plan

Is to open your heart and empty your hands.

 

© Copyright 2012  Roger C. Patterson / Used with gracious permission of the author