“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!

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 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!

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!”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Christmas Bells


  1. Bob says:

    Mercy Me, the comtempory Christian music group, who sang “I can only Imagine” also sing a version of this Christmas carole that is 2nd to none…an awesome, powerful song!!!

  2. Joe Harlow says:

    The “War for Southern Independence”? In case you missed it, The Wrong did fail, The Right prevailed in that conflict.

  3. LRittmueller says:

    The poet’s crisis over peace on earth RINGS through today. I particularly think of the violence in Iraq. In the Pakistan earthquake, thousands volunteered to help homeless people with shattered lives. Wadsworth concluded, “God is not dead;” He lives in the giving of human kindness, people face to face with the suffering. The Bells ring on.

  4. David C. Arledge says:

    Having read that Longfellow was walking the streets hearing the Christmas bells while at the same time not knowing if his sons were alive (during the War for Southern Independence) I am deeply touched by his verse. His passion for life and peace comes accross to me when I consider what was behind his writing. Would that I knew more such details on his other works. To feel I can somehow share this moment with him 140 years later is a beatiful esperience.

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