Over the past couple weeks I have encountered Henry Wadsworth Longfellow twice. I picked up a coffee table book at a home I was visiting. The book had beautiful photos, enticing recipes and quotes from famous writers. One of the quotes was from Longfellow and I wrote it down. I was touched by his words about gardens. (The quote will appear in a future post.)
Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel, Christmas Bells, gives vignettes of Longfellow’s life. He encountered tragedy and lived through the pain and turmoil of the Civil War. Towards the end of the Civil War he wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells”. You may have heard it sung. The first line is “I heard the bells on Christmas Day . . .”
The scenes from Longfellow’s life are paired with the story of a modern day family. It was a little challenging for me to grasp the structure of the story at first. This modern story was composed of one scene viewed from the perspective of about six people. Each sees the events that take place a little differently during a children’s choir rehearsal. They are singing “Christmas Bells” of course.
I was really pleased to read the history behind the poem, “Christmas Bells” and I am inspired to read more of Longfellow’s poetry. Personal tragedy and the war almost drove the poet to despair, but he finished his poem with this stanza.
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!”
Note: The photo of the bells and the engraving of Longfellow are via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain.