Monday, December 22, 2008

Historical Revision

I found the original poem today for "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The words of this poem are the lyrics to the Christmas carol "I heard the bells on Christmas Day" least some of the words. I have long loved this particular carol, but was surprised to read the words in the poem that were left out of the carol. The left out lines explained why the author bowed his head in despair. I am going to write out the poem here for you to enjoy...
"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, swinging 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 by 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!"
Henry Longfellow wrote this poem on Christmas Day, 1864 before the end of the Civil War. His oldest son Charles had been severely wounded in the War the year before. Longfellow was a New England Yankee, born and raised in Maine and living in Massachusetts when he wrote this poem. It is a beautiful expression of ultimate hope in God's goodness. It was not politically correct to mention the Civil War after the war was over, or to place the blame on the South, so two stanzas were omitted when the poem was made into a carol. In 1872 the remaining 5 stanzas were slightly rearranged and John Baptiste Calkin set the poem to the tune we now know.
When the two stanzas were left out, the poem was changed to someone else's ideas of correctness, and that changed the original intent of the words...historical revisionism. I have seen too many examples lately of historical revisionism concerning the original words of our founding fathers, and original documents concerning our government and higher institutions of learning. It's astonishing at how things have been changed and wording left out of documents to fit someone else's ideas and agenda. Historical revisionism is not a new concept, but I am dismayed as I see the extent of it, and how our colleges teach revised history with God left out, and the students like sheep know no better. I was one of them.
We must learn to know the truth and graciously point out the difference and be ready to defend historical veracity. I'll start with showing the original words to this lovely poem.

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