Longfellow’s “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”
Daniel Hester and Sally Williams, both from Hiram, write about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” , its history and message which I have copied sections of their message into this email:
Good morning to some of our Hiram Library Lovers.
This is not about budget problems, organizational planning, COVID19 management, events, fund-raising, or other persistent needs and issues.
This is about the significance of our heritage from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his relatives and our neighbors here in Hiram.
And this is about The Atlantic magazine. So what?
Well… The Atlantic has a unique connection to Soldiers Memorial Library and all of our Town. As you all know, Henry spent some pleasant times here in Hiram, and Sue Moulton and her family have preserved the room that he had at their home, Wadsworth Hall.
And, Henry was one of the founders of The Atlantic magazine in 1857.
As a founder of the magazine, he was in good company. And The Atlantic does honor the efforts of their founders.
A major part of the “ride” that The Atlantic is inviting you to join at the end of that article is political in nature. As the article explains, Henry wrote the poem only in part to honor the Revolutionary War founders, but also to stir reticent “Northerners” of 1861 to rise against the abominations of slavery. I think that we can agree, especially with the sad demise of George Floyd and other victims of unreasonable violence, that the work that Henry was inciting is still not accomplished.
But, let me divert back to something about Henry that is very timely at this moment.
On Christmas Eve, I spent the afternoon… in careful safety and good health… with three of my daughter’s family in Harrison. I timed my return to be back in Hiram before 6 PM. A few days earlier, Pam had suggested that it might be a welcomed gesture to ring the Arts Center bell at 6 PM. Pam had provided a short article describing how Henry W. Longfellow came to write the poem that has become known as “The Carol of the Bells.” (Of Christmas music, I find this to be the most inspirational. Please save me from “little drummer boys” and “Jingle Bells.”)
Pam said that several churches on the Standish area had planned to ring the bells on Christmas Eve at 6 PM. I do not know who may have heard and noticed, but I did ring the bell on Hancock Avenue at that time.
As we all know, The Carol of the Bells first dives into deep despair, then rises to reassured hope. As you see in that article, the despair goes even deeper than what we usually hear in the song; “The cannon thundered from the south” as we plunged into the war and hate of The Civil War.
I hope that this update of the Longfellow legacy in Hiram and beyond, bring to all of us some hope for the new year. These are difficult times, and the difficulties are far from over.
Thanks for your patience with me, and sincere Best Wishes for the New Year that is approaching.
Daniel Hester reminded us of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” (Thank you, Dan, see below) and we thought that hearing the background and seeing it would bring it to life. There are several on YoutTube but we like this one for the brief history and music without voices.
This one has more graphics of the Civil War and the carol is sung:
Extend the season a few more days and enjoy the connection to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in ways we hadn’t until now.
My hope is that you will enjoy this message of Christmas cheer from Dan and Sally and a bit of local Hiram history.