Christmas - 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although describing a specific Christmas during the Civil War, Longfellow stresses in this poem a theme that applies to every era: Even though life is full of hardship, the goodness of God will always prevail.

I hear the bells on Christmas day

The old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet,

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South;

And with that sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearthstones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The household 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) was hugely popular during the nineteenth century, particularly for his narrative poetry. These story poems, describing characters and events from America’s history, include “The Song of Hiawatha” and “Evangeline” (about a young couple who were torn apart during the expulsion of Acadian settlers from eastern Canada).

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