12.19.2007

Sibling Assignment # 48: Sixth Grade, The Carpenters, and Christmas Bells

Silver Valley Girl gave us our sibling assignment this week.

"One of my favorite Christmas carols is “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Read or sing the words and write some reflections on the words of this poem/carol." You will find Raymond Pert's here soon and Silver Valley Girl's here soon.
In sixth grade each month our teacher had us copy a poem, illustrate it, memorize it, then present it to the class. They were then hung up on the bulletin board. These were the type of assignments this sixth grade student liked. The poem she assigned for December was " I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". When I memorized the words and illustrated it I don't think I understood the meaning.
When I sang this carol in church what is vivid in my mind is the last line of each stanza "Peace on Earth Good Will to Men" . It had a traditional melody that stayed with me long after it had been sung. If my memory serves me right we have an old Christmas album at home that has this song on it. I remember hearing it often. I will have to check that out on Christmas Eve.

I didn't remember that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words. The original poem was called " Christmas Bells". Here are the words with the two extra stanzas that were dropped when John Calkin rearranged the words into the carol.
"Christmas Bells"
(The original poem, complete with all seven stanzas)
"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!"

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned these words on Christmas, 1864. I thought it was another carol that had pulled the Christmas story from the one of the four gospels. He had used some New Testament verses, but he composed this while the Civil War was being fought. He had lost his wife in a tragic accident and his son was wounded in the war. After knowing the true reasons for his stanzas the words " Peace on earth, good-will to men" took on a different meaning. Longfellow through all his suffering saw hope.
One of the first albums I bought when I left home was a Carpenter's Christmas album. They do a beautiful arrangement of this song. The man that put together this video showed images he felt belonged with the lyrics while Karen Carpenter's unmistakable voice carries the melody.

2 comments :

  1. Very nice. That Carpenters album is one of my favorite Christmas albums!

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  2. Thank you for sharing the extra stanzas. I don't think I'd ever read the original poem - or I've forgotten it now, if I ever did, so it's new to me. Sometimes these midlife mental pauses have their benefits - everything's new all over again, lol.

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