Updated: Dec 27, 2020
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! AND THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST AND SUPPORT!
Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Tune: John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905)
1. 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.
2. I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along th'unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men.
3. 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."
4. 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."
5. 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.
KLING NO KLOKKA
Text: Elias Blix (1836-1902). Tune: Folktune from Oppdal
1. Bells are calling, Ringing, tolling, Ringing, tolling From steeple spires Sound of salvation, Kind salutations, Kind salutations, from angel choirs.
Bells are calling, Ringing, tolling, Ringing, tolling from steeple spires.
2. Songs are ringing, Angels singing, Angels singing with glorious sounds! Hear it resounding Over the bound'ries, Over the bound'ries and all around. Songs are ringing, Angels singing, Angels singing, with glorious sounds.
3. Angels voicing, Song rejoicing Songs rejoicing That Christ is born.
See light is streaming: Christ has redeemed us, Christ has redeemed us this glorious morn. Angels voicing, Songs rejoicing, Songs rejoicing that Christ is born.
4. Dawn is breaking As we awaken As we waken to all things new. Let bells be ringing, Joyfully singing, Joyfully singing for all that’s true. Dawn is breaking As we waken As we waken to all things new. Tr. Gracia Grindal
The bells of Christmas Day are the theme for many carols and poems. I cannot think of Christmas bells without thinking of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s "Ring out Wild Bells" from In Memoriam, his great elegy for his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. It must have influenced this hymn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow was, for all intents and purposes, the Poet Laureate of the United States. He had spent four years in Europe learning its languages and literature so he could teach them at Bowdoin College in Maine. He soon became Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard, but retired in 1854 to devote himself to his writing.
He loved the diversity of America and wrote the great American epics, Evangeline and The Song of Hiawatha, plus the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” His poetry appealed to the common people who memorized his poetry and named their schools for him. Although he was successful, he suffered great sadness. His second wife died when her dress caught fire and he suffered severe burns himself trying to save her. His son, unbeknownst to him, enlisted in the Army to fight in the Civil War and was grievously wounded. These were the things in his life at the time that made his soul cast down, especially when he heard the Christmas bells ringing. In the same way the bells of Christmas made Tennyson sad, so these made Longfellow unhappy.
Once I planned a Christmas service using the Tennyson poem and this hymn. People were edified to know they were not the only ones who felt grief during the season. Reading or singing these pieces, they learned how the others had worked through their sorrow into joy. Longfellow knew well the hatred between the two sides of the Civil War and prayed that it would end. “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men." That is the hope we have this Christmas in all our divisions. Naming the problem straight on may help working through it.
In Norway, at 5:00 on Christmas Eve, it has been the custom to ring the church bells throughout the county and broadcast the ringing bells on national radio. A wonderful custom. They are telling the birth of Jesus for all to hear. In any case, like the bells whose music can be heard in the land, we are to tell the good news of the birth of Jesus, as Blix tells it in his hymn. Christ is born! Listen to the bells!
(This would also be a good day to listen to the Messiah and/or Bach's Christmas oratorios.)
Bach's oratorios https://youtu.be/yHTqP5s12eg
HYMN INFO Longfellow wrote this hymn on Christmas Day 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. It was published in 1865.Longfellow was widely respected as the American poet around the world. Many people knew his work, partly because he had translated their national poetry into English. He was the first American to translate Dante into English. This hymn was set by Calkin, an English composer, who wrote the tune for this text. And it has remained the tune of choice until recently when the group Casting Crowns composed another tune. It rose to first place on the list of Christian songs. The hymn has become very popular with the contemporary worship crowd.
Elias Blix is Norway’s most well-regarded hymn writer in Nynorsk. Born in the north, he became an Old Testament Professor at the University and wrote the popular Norwegian hymn, The Leaves upon the Linden.
I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRiSTMAS DAY Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the story of Longfellow’s writing the hymn https://youtu.be/sXfzp296zhA
Doxology Vocal Ensemble/Not the same tune, https://youtu.be/WCzqXNbGqv4
The Carpenters https://youtu.be/JhsUhiiicLo
KLING NO KLOKKA
AVOCALE Oslo Gospel Choir https://youtu.be/gwTzYYa8N30
Avocale/spectacular singing https://youtu.be/1z8W7DJAjHE
Åsne Valland Nordli https://youtu.be/jeNviTriLUg