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Christmas Bells

Early American Poetry - Poem analysis of "Christmas Bells", by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jes C

on 14 November 2012

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Transcript of 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! Christmas Bells by Jessica Chan Background Info Background Info (cont.) Figurative Language About the Poem 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 blank, 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." A Poem Analysis Poem and Interpretation Setting/Speaker Tribute to Christmas
Written during American Civil War in 1864
Adds commentary regarding the war
Poem was set to music and became a popular Christmas carol
Speaker is anonymous soldier during Civil War Henry wrote this poem after he mourned the death of his wife, Fanny Appleton Longfellow, who died in a fire during Civil War.
His son, Charles Appleton, joined the Union cause as a soldier. He was wounded in the Army of Potomac.
Henry was inspired to write this poem as he listened to the church bells pealing on Christmas morning in 1883. An anti-slavery poem
Written six months after battle of Gettysburg
Henry is the 1st American to be included in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London.
Henry taught at Harvard University (1836-1854) Meter-Rhyme Seven stanzas
Five lines = one cinquain
Eight syllables per line
AABBC form Speaker hears church bells, the singing
of carols in celebration of Christ's birth.
Last line is repeated at end of each stanza,
and serves as a hymn; poem is like a chant. The bells and carol reminds the speaker
of the "unbroken song" of Christ's birth,
and is celebrated in the "belfries of all
Christendom." Speaker describes the "ringing, singing" sounds and
the "chime" as heavenly and that they represent
the beauty of "peace on earth, good-will to men!" The speaker's enjoyment of the beauty of the bells and singing is suddenly interrupted by loud, explosive cannons. War is happening; the carols heard before are now faint or indistinct to the speaker. The intrusion of war was like an "earthquake"
and the "households" seem to be suddenly
stripped of the serenity that offers "peace
on earth, good-will to men!" The speaker looks down "in despair" and in
hopelessness, in doubt of any peace on earth.
The world is full of strong hatred, and
the "song is mocked" by the contrast with
the brutality of war. There is no "peace on earth, good-will to men!" But the speaker's mind is uplifted hearing
"the bells more loud and deep." He realizes
"God is not dead...The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail." The speaker still has
deep faith and proclaims the truth that
God still fills the world's faithful
"With peace on earth, good-will to men." The End Repetition: "Of Peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Personification: "The carols drowned"..."The households born"..."For hate is strong, And Mocks the song"
Imagery: "Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet"..."The cannon thundered in the South"
Full transcript