From Tragedy to a Christmas Carol: The Story of Longfellow’s "Christmas Bells"

By Jen Simone ’18

In times of intense despair, it can seem impossible to have any hope. All of us get caught up in the tragedies occurring all around us and begin to believe that life is a constant struggle without any good in it. Christmas time, though often a time of mourning for people who have recently lost loved ones, also is a time of restored hope for many.

Christmas carolers may arrive at your door this season offering to sing the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The carol tells of a man who is troubled by the hateful world, but then has hope restored as he is reminded of God’s power. Though two stanzas concerning the Civil War were removed for the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was based on the poem “Christmas Bells” written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

HenryWLongFellow1868
Portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1868 with the beard he grew to cover his burn scars. Photography via Wikimedia Commons.

The poem begins with the peacefulness that characterizes 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!
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!

Continue reading “From Tragedy to a Christmas Carol: The Story of Longfellow’s "Christmas Bells"”

Ambivalent about Tragedy: David Blight on Bruce Catton

By Brianna Kirk ’15

November 19, 2013, marked a momentous day in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg – the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The 272 worded speech given four months after the Battle of Gettysburg assigned meaning to the intense fighting and death that had besieged the nation for two years. With the war’s end nowhere in sight, Lincoln directed the American people on how to fathom the tragedy that surrounded them, both figuratively and literally, at the dedication of the National Cemetery in 1863. 150 years after this speech, thousands gathered to celebrate and commemorate those few appropriate remarks Lincoln made at a time when the nation’s future was tragically uncertain.

Blight

Continue reading “Ambivalent about Tragedy: David Blight on Bruce Catton”