I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This is a new setting of a Longfellow poem that I thought needed a second look and a fresh tune. Written during the Civil War soon after his son was killed in battle, the poem captured my affection with its acknowledgment of present trouble and confident hope for a peaceful future. This setting is for mixed choir and handbells; there is also a version accompanied by piano three hands.

Published by: 

Fresh Ayre Music
Item Voicing Perusal scores/Recordings Price
FAM-0068-01A SATB (div), handbell choir

FAM-0068-01B SATB (div), piano, 3 hands


Christmas Bells

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!

[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!]
* these stanzas are not used in this musical setting.

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."

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!