Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Peace, and Happy Christmas to all. "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!" The genesis of Longfellow's poem is easy to trace on the net. A simple search turned up many links on my browser. I had not known that Calkin tinkered a bit with a few words and the stanzas when he set this text to music in 1872, so I placed the 1864 original above, which gives more depth to the poet's expression of melancholy in the sixth stanza. This is not my favorite Christmas poem, but one of my top twenty. The sentiment of "despair" is very powerful. I cannot imagine living in a nation with hundreds of thousands of war dead. But I see the mockery of peace remains with us today, though safely and sanitarily beyond our borders for the most part. I also see such mockery in the petty small sins around me. And I have my part in these, of course. I find myself grateful for my three choirs who will sing today. We all had fine rehearsals earlier this week to prepare for this day's Masses, and I find myself hopeful and expectant of their part in good celebration and liturgy. May God continue to be with us. And of course, my Christmas prayer is that your singing this Christmas, be it in your church, in your home, or in your heart, will join with the depth of faith expressed these holidays and help banish the Wrong which seems all too prevalent in our times.