Wednesday, December 21, 2011

♬ Ring Christmas Bells ♬

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!

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!’
"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet (1807-1882), written on December 25, 1864

Longfellow's words struck a taut chord in my heart as I watch the events from my beloved Egypt. The assembly of women in Tahrir Square and the peaceful students sitting on the street in front of the army give me some hope of peace triumphant. Hope lights the darkness.

Bells became this post's theme because today I rang my bell for the last time this yuletide. Having completed my volunteer assignment with the Salvation Army's Christmas kettle campaign, I will now retire my bell and Santa hat. Bells lift the heart and bring a smile . . . perhaps they ring hope into our hearts.

Little did I know that this evening's Christmas carol would turn out to be three songs in one. I am not highlighting the beautiful carol penned by Longfellow, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". Instead, in honour of the cheery spirit of bells, I turned to "Carol of the Bells". In its original form, it is a pre-Christian Ukrainian folk chant that was re-worked as a New Year's carol in 1904 by Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) entitled "Shchedryk" (meaning 'bountiful'). Then in 1921, American composer Peter J. Wilhousky adapted Leontovych's work into "Carol of the Bells" and wrote the English lyrics that are, in fact, entirely unrelated to the original song. Two decades later, Minna Louise Hohman created alternative lyrics to emphasize the Nativity. The things you learn when you keep a blog! In any case, I enjoy all three songs.

Carol of the Bells
Lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky
Ring Christmas Bells
Lyrics by Minna Louise Hohman
Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away
Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold.
Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling.
One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air.
Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o'er hill and dale,
telling their tale.
Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here.
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas,
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas.
On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home.
Ding dong ding... dong!

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King
Loudly proclaim with one accord
The happy tale, welcome the Lord

Ring Christmas bells, sound far and near
The birthday of Jesus is here
Herald the news to old and young
Tell it to all in every tongue

Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring
Tell all the world, Jesus is King
Ring Christmas bells, toll loud and long
Your message sweet, peal and prolong

Come all ye people join in the singing
Repeat the story told by the ringing
Ring, ring, ring, ring
Ring, ring, ring, ring

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