Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good-will to Men.

The works of Longfellow have been referenced before on these pages.  In particular, the epic poem of Hiawatha from whence the Milwaukee Road named its passenger trains.

"Swift of foot was Hiawatha"

Passenger trains and holidays seem to share a special bond.  The winter paintings of Howard Fogg, or the enumerable Christmas cards of snowy nighttime scenes and disembarking travelers come to mind.   Some memories of the season seem as fresh and wonderful as though they were from just a day ago.  Others equally sharp, but melancholy.  Old stations like the one below embody both the happy thoughts of travelers arriving home amidst fresh snows as well as times that are slowly fading, ever losing to the growing span of years.  Time, it seems, is compressing and accelerating.

Christmas is a powerful time for memories and thoughtfulness: some seem sad, some wonderful.  Longfellow penned the poem below specific to the Christmas day, amidst war, sorrow, and the bells.  Wherever the day finds you, and however you got there, Merry Christmas.

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!" [1]


1)  Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1893.

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