Tuesday, December 12, 2006
heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,
It is a very beautiful and reflective Christmas song, especially if you've taken the time to listen to the words. And the lyrics themselves were written by someone you of which you might be familiar...
It was the injury of his son in battle which inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) to draft the words to this original song entitled "Christmas Bells," from which this modern day carol is taken. The lyrics have been adapted to several melodies, among them the folk tune "Perseverance" and the hymns "Waltham" and "Illsley," by English composers J. Baptiste Calkin and John Bishop.The most widely recognized version of the song and lyrics today, however, is the one by composer Johnny Marks ("Rudolph") written in 1956. It was recorded first by his friend Bing Crosby.
heard the bells on Christmas Day
thought how, as the day had come,
in despair, I bowed my head:
pealed the bells more loud and deep:
The lyrics themselves tell the tale of a man reflecting throughout the sounds of the city bells pealing through the Christmas morning air; reaffirming in himself the belief that there remains hope for peace in our time and good-will to all persons.
It is upon further reflection, he also acknowledges that for peace to exist, there remains the ever-present struggle with the hate that proliferates throughout mankind ("... for hate is strong and mocks the song...").
Finally, he comes to the personal commitment to remain steadfast in the belief that God is ever-present in our world and that wrong - although rampant in our time - will eventually fail and that good will triumph.
I enjoy the richness of this song as it could be a song that is sung after every major catastrophe, tragedy, war, epidemic, etc. throughout our history as a species on this planet. Perhaps it is a song that could be sung after the tragedies and misfortunes in our own life as well. It's such a human reaction to allow hatred and evil to overshadow that which is good. And it's also such a human action to rise above it and persevere and believe.
When one thinks of "peace on earth, good-will to men (persons)," one typically thinks of a gentle and helpless and childlike existence; a world that is simply innocent and naive. Truth be know, my friend, for there to be peace in our time and prosperity/good will to all persons, calls for the greatest strength that we can collectively muster. It doesn't call for s simple tolerance to just "get along," but it's forged from a force of true understanding and compassion for one another. It is a compassion that is not gentle or helpless; one that is not willing to allow hatred or wrong to gain one inch or one heart throughout humankind.
Destruction - physical, spiritual, emotional - is so much easier than building. It is the basic removal of what was once present. But to construct and build and design - this is where the true power and strength and glory lies in our existence. And it is peace on earth and good-will to all persons that must continue and be further constructed, built and designed... because the destruction continues to happen - one person, one evil act at a time...
This holiday season and beyond, reaffirm in yourself, my friend, the belief that all is not lost at all. That God is not dead nor is He unattentive. The bells of every church throughout every day of the year remind us that wrong will always and eventually fail and good will prevail. We are called together by the bells each Sunday, for weddings and funerals to remind us of this very fact. The song will remain forever unbroken and there will be peace on earth and good-will to all persons.
Let the bells peal in your heart this joyous Christmas season... and beyond...
Post Note: A humorous side to the development of this song came prior to the release of Johnny Mark's version in 1956. Prior to its release, Marks' office received a call from Decca Records seeking information for the record label: they wanted to know who this lyricist "Longfellow" was.
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