Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership


CreationEarth Nature Photos


craig cornish's Blog

About craig cornish
(Show Details...)
Bloggers Photo

x


Longfellow plus more


Blog Posted:12/11/2013 1:29:00 PM

  I didn't write this but it is good to be reminded that faith in the time of trouble can lift us.


— Many musicians and writers of poetry will admit that some of their finest work comes when they have experienced a death or a tragedy of some kind, that the writing of poetry has an almost cathartic effect on the writer.

Such is the case of one of the best known and most beloved  carols associated with Christmas, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which came from the pen of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  (1807-1882) and was written on Christmas Day, 1864.

His had been a tortured life in last few years before that day. On July 11, 1861, his wife Fanny had clipped some long curls from the head of her seven-year-old daughter, Edith, and wanting to save them in an envelope, melted a bar of sealing wax with a candle to seal the envelope. 

Fanny Longfellow and two of her sons

Somehow the thin fabric of her clothing caught fire, and she quickly ran to Longfellow’s nearby study for help.  He immediately tried to extinguish the flames with a small rug, and when that failed, he threw his arms around Fanny to smother the flames, causing him to sustain serious burns on his face, arms, and hands. His heroic act did not suffice, and Fanny died the next morning of her injuries. Longfellow was unable to even attend the funeral.

Photographs of Longfellow taken or made after the fire usually show him with a full beard, since he was no longer able to shave properly due to the burns and scarring.

The coming of the holiday season in the Longfellow house became a time of grieving for his wife while trying to provide a happy time for the children left at home. It was during Christmas 1862 that he wrote in his journal, “A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” 

He had also suffered another disappointment when his oldest son, Charles Appleton “Charley” Longfellow, quietly left their Cambridge, Mass. home, and enlisted in the Union Army much against the wishes of his father. 

In mid-March, Longfellow had received word from Charles, saying, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave, but I cannot any longer.”  The determined young man continued, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”

He was 17 years old and went to Capt. W. H. McCartney, who was in charge of Battery A of the 1st Mass. Artillery, asking to be allowed to enlist. McCartney knew the boy and knew he did not have his father’s permission, so he contacted the senior Longfellow to see if he could obtain it on his behalf.  Longfellow conceded and acceded to the request.

Charles Longfellow

It was only a few months later that Charley came down with typhoid fever and malaria and was sent home to recover, not rejoining his unit until August 15, 1863.

Following the Gettysburg battle, which Charley had fortunately missed, the conflict made its way into Virginia, and it was at the Battle of New Hope Church, in Orange, VA., part of the Mine Run Campaign, that the young Lt. Longfellow sustained injuries, which seriously disabled him. He was hit in the shoulder and the ricocheting bullet took out some portions of several vertebrae. It was reported that he missed being paralyzed by less than one inch.  Longfellow traveled to where his injured son was hospitalized and brought him home to Cambridge to recover.

The war for Charley was over.

And so at Christmas of 1864, a reflective and sad poet sat down and began to write the beautiful words that we sing each Christmas:

 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.

 

I 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.”

 

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!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Remembering that this was written during the Civil War, even though not published until 1872, we see the concerns of the War were much on Longfellow’s mind and heart. Thus there were two other verses that appeared in the original as verses four and five and are not song today, since they emphasize his feelings surrounding the War:

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!

Longfellow’s heartfelt words of loss and hope were published and well received. John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905), an English composer, was similarly affected by the poem, and it was he who penned the music that we know and sing today, slightly rearranging the verses or stanzas as he did.

While he was an organist and a music teacher, Calkin probably is best known as the composer of the music for Longfellow’s poem.


Actually the more contemporary arrangement of the song was done in 1956 by a man named Johnny Marks whose version was sung by many including Bing & Sinatra.  In 1958 that same Johnny marks wrote Run Rudolph Run performed by Chuck Berry, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, and a couple years later Rockin Around the Christmas Tree sung by Brenda Lee--Among others, he also wrote A Holly Jolly Christmas which most remember Burl Ives singing--pretty amazing!




Please Login
 
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 11:14:00 PM
    i needed this break after reading a few blogs that made me watch some scenes from the zoo.. thanks, craig... longfellow is my kinda guy!... huggs

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 9:28:00 PM
    Kathryn, treat yourself to a weekend and go to his home just outside of Boston where this all happened. One of the first poems I ever committed to heart was the first verse of Paul Revere's Ride.

    Login to Reply
    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 12/11/2013 9:50:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    and I still know it!
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 9:13:00 PM
    How fortunate I came to soup blog today. I believe Longfellow is my favorite poet. I did not know the story behind his beard only that in pictures before his second wife's death he was clean shaven. Lines from the Children' Hour come to me every now and again. I read it to my mother when she was sick before her death. It was a lifelong favorite of hers. I may know that and Psalm of Life by heart.

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 4:42:00 PM
    I went to his childhood home in Portland last Christmas season---really awesome. We were told it is was one of the only historical homes in the US with all the original furniture primarily because no one else has ever lived there and it was donated by a member of the Longfellow family with the stipulation that it would stay as it was. Very many homes we see have period furniture but not the original furniture. BTW Most of his poems were written in his Massachusetts home and that is where this incident takes place.

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 4:25:00 PM
    sooooooo interesting! THANK YOU!!

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 4:23:00 PM
    One of my favourite songs..Thanks for sharing the story behind it.. I love 'war is over' ,as well as this beauty Always wishing an impossible wish..that the wars in the world end.. lovely blog..Wish you can post more of these.

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 3:09:00 PM
    Good thing to blog about before Xmas and I love that song!!

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 2:43:00 PM
    What a sad, yet heartfelt story of a courageous survival through difficult times. It puts so much more meaning to the words of a Christmas carol, which we might otherwise, take for granted. Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 2:34:00 PM
    A very interesting read, Craig. I enjoyed it...

    Login to Reply
  1. Date: 12/11/2013 2:20:00 PM
    Craig, thank you for sharing this. It is beautiful indeed to know the background of this carol. I've always gleaned comfort from the thought that some of the best work in the fields of art, music, and literature come from those who have suffered the most, be it a tragic event or a mental illness. There is beauty in brokenness. It comforts me because I battle depression. Some days....I just want to crawl up in bed and shut the world out and just....BE. Other times, I can be the life of the party. It's a difficult existence, but I know that even from my broken state, beauty can come- a very comforting thought, indeed. Thanks for sharing. It has touched my heart.

    Login to Reply

My Past Blog Posts

 
Direct TV and At&T
Date Posted: 2/8/2016 6:51:00 PM
Lovely Snow
Date Posted: 1/28/2016 8:24:00 AM
Corkscrew Hill Poem, You'll Love This!
Date Posted: 1/24/2016 1:52:00 PM
A Guest Visit to the Poet's Pub
Date Posted: 1/18/2016 3:49:00 PM
Enemies
Date Posted: 1/5/2016 5:00:00 PM
Contests
Date Posted: 12/20/2015 10:29:00 AM
Name that Tune
Date Posted: 12/19/2015 4:27:00 PM
Cornish Sonnet
Date Posted: 12/19/2015 6:54:00 AM
Old Christmas Toys
Date Posted: 12/11/2015 8:28:00 AM
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
Date Posted: 12/10/2015 7:33:00 AM
On A Lighter Note
Date Posted: 12/9/2015 10:58:00 AM
Hear the Bells
Date Posted: 12/8/2015 8:26:00 AM
Have We Changed
Date Posted: 12/6/2015 8:44:00 PM
LOVE
Date Posted: 12/3/2015 6:33:00 PM
The Recipe Book
Date Posted: 11/22/2015 11:48:00 AM
Homeward Bound Judged and New One
Date Posted: 11/20/2015 11:33:00 AM
Away for a few days
Date Posted: 10/29/2015 5:14:00 PM
Homeward Bound Lyrics
Date Posted: 10/28/2015 10:55:00 AM
Song Lyric Contest Homeward Bound
Date Posted: 10/19/2015 4:04:00 PM
New Contest
Date Posted: 10/16/2015 3:02:00 PM
Sonnets and Martinis
Date Posted: 10/13/2015 9:00:00 AM
Another Can't Miss story By Chan
Date Posted: 10/10/2015 7:55:00 AM
Chan
Date Posted: 10/9/2015 5:46:00 PM
Chan Hurst
Date Posted: 10/7/2015 3:45:00 PM
Waiting Contest
Date Posted: 9/20/2015 11:17:00 AM

My Recent Poems

Date PostedPoemTitleFormCategories
2/2/2016 Like Always Free verselife,
1/31/2016 Life's Shores Free verselife,
1/28/2016 my superman kite Shapefunny,
1/25/2016 Lonely Libraries Sonnetlife,
1/23/2016 Waiting Free verselife,
1/21/2016 A Valentine's Lament Villanellelost love,love hurts,
1/18/2016 Sammy Coupletcat,pets,
1/18/2016 Response to Potpourri Versedeath,
1/15/2016 Inhaling The Sea Free verseloss,
1/14/2016 The Picnic Ekphrasislife,
1/14/2016 The Lagoon Ekphrasislife,
1/12/2016 Memory Born Ekphrasismemory,
1/11/2016 Chaste Ekphrasisfaith,love,
1/11/2016 The Theater Ekphrasislife,
1/10/2016 Champlain Ekphrasisstorm,
1/9/2016 John Magee Free versewar,
1/8/2016 The Perpetual Pessimist Ekphrasislife,
1/8/2016 A Note to My Niece Ekphrasischild,life,
1/8/2016 Infinity Ekphrasiscolor,sound,space,
1/6/2016 the gift of the Magi Free verselove,marriage,
1/4/2016 Tapestry Acrosticlife,
1/1/2016 Smokey's Christmas Turkey Rhymechristmas,funny,
12/27/2015 Crepuscular Rays Coupletsunset,
12/26/2015 Lost and Found Free verselife,
12/24/2015 Trusted With a Smile Collaboration Sonnetlost love,
12/22/2015 Love Garden Rhymegarden,
12/22/2015 Not New Years Free verselife,
12/21/2015 Continuum Free verselife,
12/18/2015 Stardust Blanket Rhymechildren,love,
12/17/2015 Sweet Remembrance of You Rhymesong,
12/15/2015 Veronique Free verselost love,
12/14/2015 Should I Free verselove,
12/12/2015 Snow Globe Magic Rhymechristmas,
12/12/2015 Toy Tree Shapechristmas,
12/10/2015 Do Echoes Hide Free verseinspirational,
12/9/2015 Forever Free verselove,marriage,
12/9/2015 Yoda, An Ode to the Force Free versefaith,love,
12/8/2015 Snowflakes Sonnetsnow,
12/6/2015 Nighttime Musings Free versesensual,
12/6/2015 Silent Night Kyriellechristmas,
12/3/2015 Butterflies Free versenature,
12/3/2015 Where It's Safe For Them Terzanelleloss,
11/25/2015 The Dreamer Coupletfunny,
11/24/2015 Am I Blessed Rhymewriting,
11/23/2015 Never Really Gone Rhymelove,
11/21/2015 Suspicion Always Haunts the Guilty Mind Free verseinspiration,
11/19/2015 In the Meadow Sonnetwar,
11/18/2015 Candy Free verseemotions,
11/12/2015 Mirror of Memories Trioletage,
11/11/2015 Darkness to Light Sonnetfaith,
11/10/2015 A Winter Night Quintain (English)winter,
11/9/2015 Thanksgiving Quatrainthanksgiving,
11/9/2015 The Barbs of Life Sonnetlife,
11/7/2015 Wrongs Sonnetlife,
11/5/2015 Winter Dodoitsuwinter,
11/5/2015 Dungeons of the Soul Villanellelife,
11/3/2015 Birthday Girl Sonnetbirthday,life,
10/29/2015 Distant Thoughts Sonnetlife,love,
10/29/2015 Stay Sonnetself,
10/29/2015 Summer Days Free verselife,seasons,youth,
10/28/2015 The Bard of Avon Sonnetart,poetry,
10/28/2015 My Love Sonnetlove,
10/26/2015 I Wonder Free verselife,
10/26/2015 The Moon is My Muse Sonnetmoon,
10/25/2015 The Stage Free versefear,life,
10/25/2015 New England Conversation Rhymelanguage,
10/23/2015 December Personificationdecember,
10/22/2015 cotton candy trees Haikuautumn,
10/22/2015 A Funny Sonnet for Kids Sonnetfunny,inspirational,
10/20/2015 Black and White Sonnetlife,
10/19/2015 Homeward Bound Rhymefaith,love,war,
10/19/2015 Homeless Terzanellelife,sad,
10/18/2015 Pyrrhic Victory Blank versewar,
10/18/2015 Eden Sonnetinspirational,
10/18/2015 Vespa Swarm Sonnetwar,
10/17/2015 The Night Stalker Rhymehalloween,
10/16/2015 Born A Smile Sonnetlife,
10/13/2015 Juliet Italian Sonnetlove,
10/13/2015 In The Meadow Sonnetwar,
10/13/2015 Years of our Youth Free verselife,
10/12/2015 Escape Sonnetbereavement,
10/12/2015 Within a Storm Sonnetinspirational,
10/11/2015 The Zombies of Halloween Sonnethalloween,
10/11/2015 Happy Tears Rhymeeulogy,
10/7/2015 Await The Breeze Sonnetage,life,
10/6/2015 The Rose Rhymelove,
10/3/2015 Ambrosia Narrativefood,
10/3/2015 Tumbling Home Rhymehalloween,
10/2/2015 Making Music Free versenostalgia,old,
10/2/2015 My Sister's Collage Free verseremember,
10/1/2015 Period Personificationfunny,
9/30/2015 My Sleeping Child Free versechild,mother daughter,
9/29/2015 Culinary Sonnet Sonnetfood,
9/27/2015 Twilight Zone Free verselife,
9/25/2015 If I Was the Rain Free verselife,
9/25/2015 Mystic Castle Free verselife,
9/24/2015 Jane Eyre Crown of Sonnetslife,love,
9/19/2015 D Day Italian Sonnetwar,
9/19/2015 A Daydream Sonnetlove,
9/19/2015 Two Bits Free verselife,

My Photos


Fav Poems

PoemTitleFormCategories
Violin Personificationdeath,love,rose,
Evening Walk Free verseintrospection,life,nature
The Sowing Free versedevotion,
Why I Weep Italian Sonnetnatureme,
LONG DISTANT DREAM Rhymenature,
An Invitation to Dance Sonnetmusic,nature,
Secrets of the Stream Free verseintrospection,nature
Grandpa Coupletchildhood,loss,sadold,chi
Double Phantasy Free versebaby,loss,mystery,sad,
Something of a Dreamer Free verselife,
Silver Strands Biolove,mother,me,silver,
Montage Poetry Lyrichappiness,history,uplifti
A Mutual passion Blank verseromance,longing,longing,l
Spring Returned Rondeauhappiness,love,people,sou
Her Name Is January Personificationimagination,nature,new ye
Wind Power Rhymenature,
Gold Star Narrativechildhood,war,war,star,bl
Circle of Life Rhymedeath,introspection,life,
If Ever Sonnetfaith,hope,inspirational,
EULOGY FOR THE ELDON GALLERY, WATERLOO Free verseart,grandmother,life,plac
Conquering Rainbows Free versefantasy,for children,me,r
The Missing Sonnetdeath,loss,
AT THE BUS DEPOT Verseallegory,
Immersion Free verseintrospection,life,me,
The Jaded Eye Sonnetdeath,love,heart,heart,
Amongst the Dross Sonnetdepression,introspection,
Closer Free versehope,life,love,peace,blue
A Solstice Free versedeath,faith,religion,
Sunlit Ambrosia Free versedaughter,father,happiness
Tanglaw -- Light Free versededication,life,love,moth
One More Time Curtal Sonnetfamily,
Black Diamond Night Free verseintrospection,life,nature
Haste Quintain (Sicilian)faith,fear,introspection,
Cornflower Blue Free versehope,life,love,mystery,dr
Bastard Sun Personificationnature,parody,
Ballet is Poetry Free verseart,music,
SHADOWLANDS Free versedeath,faith,grief,history
SO Many Questions Quatrainromance,moon,
KINETIC VISUALS Free verseadventure,art,
FIRST CHERUBIC CHANCE Lyricmystery,uplifting
Cinder Girl Rhyme 
In Strangler's Wood Rhymedeath,
THE OLD OAK TREE Free verseautumn,life,spring,summer
Bewitched Villanellelove,passion
Wait Raven,I am coming Free versedeath
Grandpa's Study Free versefamily,life,loss,peace,
Love Poem - 29 Free verselife,love,passion,peace,w
Passing Trains in Winter Rain Rhymedepression,
A Tale of Fire and Ice Rhymedream,fire,love,lust,
LONELY Free verselife,lonely,me,people,swe
POETRY IS AN ECHO Rispettoon writing and words,me,
Poe and I Rispettolonely,lost love,
Spring's Sweet Reality Free versedream,nature,spring,dream
The Angel Inside Rhymeallegory,angel,art,beauti
Back to Lost Rhymehistory,
Kiss the Rain Quatraingirl,people,rain,romantic
Sepia Recollections Free versefamily,grandfather,
The Old Wooden Bench Sonnetimagination,old,old,
Every now and then Lyriclove,miss you,
SYLVIA Crown of Sonnetslife,poets,writing,
Her Requiem Rhymedeath,faith,mother,
O' Middle Child Free versei love you,love,son,
And Luke Williams Has Gone Celibate Free verselove,
BOTH ACHE AND JOY Free versefarewell,how i feel,life,
Verses for Vivian Lyricdepression,
The Pooka Sonnetanimal,horror,mythology,
The Swan Free versebeautiful,romantic,wife,
Una and the Lion Monorhymeanimal,girl,happiness,inn
Sleepless Night Dramatic Verseanger,death,farewell,memo
AS FATHER IS TO HIS DAUGHTER Free versefather,introspection,word
Midsummer dance on parchment paper Free verseabsence,allegory,
The Soup Reich Free versesatire,slam,
Into the Gloaming Sonnetpeace,
THE OTHER-WISE Free verseart,introspection,
-----night train------ -reverse poem- Rhymegoodbye,lost love,sad lov
Doorways to Yesterday Free versememory,
Mother and Child Narrativeangel,baby,beautiful,birt
Mending life Free verseanalogy,
You Caught The Wind Free versedeath of a friend,nostalg
Sheol Dramatic Verseabuse,dark,evil,fantasy,f
Aftermath Free versebaby,loss,winter,
Waterloo Bridge ekphrasisart,beauty,
Facets Of Loneliness Free verseloneliness,
Love never fades Rhymelonging,love,
Recalling Her Free versegrandmother,memory,
Small Gifts Quilted with Love Ghazal 
just like juliet Free verselove,
Christmas Magic Rhymeangel,child,christmas,god
Somber Days Free verseday,november,tree,
IN THE MOOD Light Poetryadventure,woman,
Footfalls Versechildhood,farewell,
M Free versecelebration,hope,life,lov
Edinburgh Free versededication,hope,life,love
As the dust settles Free verselife,people,
In the Snowy Brightness of that Moonless Night Quintain (English)moon,new year,snow,
Queen Eileen Remembers Rhymefriendship,remember,thank
Hands Across Time Narrativeintrospection,
shades of life Free versecolor,life,
Like Zephyr Breeze Free verseabsence,
Color of Sun Free versechildhood,children,nostal

Fav Poets

PoetCountry 
Team PoetrySoup United States Flag United States Read