Christmas Clanmother Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I Heard the Bells

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1868 (Public Domain)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was acquainted with grief.

Longfellow’s first wife, Mary Storer Potter, died after several weeks of illness at the age of 22 on November 29, 1835.

In 1861, the year that marked the beginning of the American Civil War, Longfellow lost his second wife of 18 years when she was fatally burned in an accidental fire.

In early 1863, with the war escalating, Longfellow’s oldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, left his home in Cambridge Massachusetts to join the Union Army without his father’s blessing or knowledge. Longfellow received a letter from his son dated March 14, 1863 advising of this decision.

Charles Longfellow was a 2nd lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry when a bullet entered his left shoulder and passed close to his spine. His wound was severe, and although he made a full recovery, there had been a chance that he would be paralyzed.

December 1863, Longfellow travelled to Washington to meet his son due to arrive on the 5th of December. I can only imagine the relief that he felt when he saw his son alive and on his way to health.

On December 25, 1863, home in Cambridge, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poignant and meaningful poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” These words continue be with us to comfort and cheer, in times of uncertainty or when facing what seems like insurmountable circumstances.

As we celebrate this special season of peace and love, the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reach across the decades, “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”

From my house to yours, may you hear the bells of hope and love within your lives during this festive season and beyond.

Special thanks to my brother, Brian, who performed I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day. Please sing along with Brian and me – we would love to hear your voice through the WIFI!

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!

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!

Peace on earth, good-will to men!

By Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

57 replies on “I Heard the Bells”

How well said, my friend. Our lives are enriched by the kindness of others, of the love that we receive and give in our turn. This Christmas has been a profound reminder to embrace courage, hope and cherish family and friends. Together, wherever we are, we can create compassionate communities. Merry Christmas!

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I have always believed in Santa. And now I know he is real because you have a special friendship with him. Your posts are full of stories that confirm that family and friends are the best gifts of all.

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Thank you for those marvelous beach walks, Frank. They are a from of meditation, which allow us to reflect on the beauty of friendship and of life. Brian sends his thanks along with mine. Merry Christmas!

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Thank you so much for your lovely and kind comments, Barbara. I am delighted that we have connected and look forward to the many conversations that await our arrival in 2021. Hugs and love coming back your way.

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Thank you, Peter for your visit and for you heartening and encouraging comments. Merry Christmas – may the joy of this season be with you and your family. Looking forward to entering 2021 together.

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The quote is so true. Thank you for this different Christmas post, Rebecca. For those of us with a life that is different from most of the people surrounding us (and I don’t mean race, religion, or orientation) it is a difficult time. And thank you for this truly beautiful serenade from your brother. Wow.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hugs on the wing!

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Thank you Teagan – I am thankful that we connected in 2020 and am looking forward to our many conversations that will be happening in 2021. Christmas has always been a time of reflection for me even in the midst of celebration. Today, of all days, reminds me that the greatest gift is friendship. Merry Christmas – hug and love coming across the miles on wings of hope and peace.

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Thank you, John! 2020 has been an extraordinary year that reminded me of the power of friendship and participating in a compassionate blogging community. I am delighted that we connected this past year. Here’s to the continuing the journey in 2021!

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Ah, my dearest Rebecca this is a most wonderful Christmas celebration. Thank you for everything you share with such kindness. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, my dearest friend.
With love and many hugs.

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Thank you for this encore, Brian and Rebecca! You are so blessed with family and friends, and your sharing yourselves with us is a gift indeed. This technology is put to good use by our community and those unsung technicians who make it possible 🙂 To be acquainted with grief and yet persist with faith in that ultimate victory of peace, Longfellow gave us his gift as well. Hugs across the wintry plains and mountains….XOXOXO

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Thank you, Mary Jo – you always make my day with your comments. As we become more integrated within a virtual network, we continue to learn how to connect without the benefit of face-to-face conversations. I believe that poetry, writing, music – the creative processes – will be an essential in transferring emotional nuances via technology. Sending many hugs your way!

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Your brother did quite a creditable rendition of Longfellow’s poem set to music. Thanks for sending it our way. A century and a half ago Longfellow was the most beloved poet in America, and now hardly anyone in this country knows about him.

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Thank you Steve. I remember our recent discussion about “I Heard the Bells” and the fact that it had been written after Longfellow’s son was severely injured. I have come late to poetry and am making up for many years of “lost time.” I have started to read poetry out loud, specifically the poetry in public domain, for as you said to eloquently, there are so many amazing poets that are lost in the folds of time. I am enjoying this treasure hunt into the past. Here is a poem by Josephine Heard writing in the late 1800’s.


It was a Christmas to remember, wasn’t it!!? I have been enjoying your #Bookreview posts and your December 1 Open Book Blog Hop – Storylines. I love the quote by Tolstoy – “All great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” If he wrote that quote in this time, I’m certain that he would include “a woman or man” goes on a journey. Stories continue to transition and I’m looking forward to many hours of reading in the coming winter months. Take care and see you in 2021!

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Thank you, Rebecca. South Africa is now in turmoil with this Covid second variant and thousands of new infections so our peaceful time is going to end and become another worrying lockdown. My, what a year. Enjoy your reading and I look forward to a terrific new year with you.

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“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.” What a wonderful promise this is and one that we can hold onto as the New Year approaches. I so enjoyed Brian’s rendition of this song and wish you and your family a really healthy and happy 2021 filled with many joyous memories in the making. xxx

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Thank you Sylvia and Chris for your friendship and connection in 2020. You added so much energy and love in a time of great uncertainty. Let’s make the best memories and remain ever focused on gratitude for the days that have been given. Sending many hugs and lots of love your way.

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Thank you Liz. I have passed along your message to Brian who sends his thanks. Brian’s son gave him a set of harmonicas for Christmas. I did not know that harmonicas came in different keys. I was amazed by what I found out about Christmas during the Civil War years. I did not know that Christmas was celebrated by the Confederate States of America (the South) but not in the North. The Northern states considered Christmas as a day of fasting, which came from the influence of Puritans and Lutherans. I understand that Massachusetts fined people who celebrated Christmas. It wasn’t until 1870 that President Grant made it an official Federal holiday. Looking back is going on a treasure hunt…

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You are not late for Christmas, Resa. We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, which I just discovered myself this past month when I was looking up the history of Christmas Carols. The first day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, (also known as Twelvetide), is December 25, “Christmas Day” The Twelve Days are 25 December through 5 January, inclusive. So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Sending hugs!

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