“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” based on the poem “Christmas Bells”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow. Longfellow is pictured as a younger man without his famous long, white beard. He grew the beard because the facial injuries from the fire that killed Fanny prevented him from shaving. Photo source: https://civilwarbookofdays.org/2011/07/08/henry-wadsworth-longfellow-and-the-civil-war/

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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!”

Written Christmas Morning 1863

“Christmas Bells” is a minor, yet well known, poem written by a very melancholy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas morning in 1863 during the midst of the Civil War. It is an anti-slavery poem as well as a seasonal favorite.

Mourning the Death of His Wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow

The poem was written six months after the battle of Gettysburg where 40,000 soldiers lost their lives. In addition to despairing over the bloody war, Henry was also mourning the death of his beloved wife Fanny Appleton Longfellow. Fanny died in a tragic fire the same year that the Civil War broke out. In November of 1862, another personal tragedy added to his pain. His son, Union Lieutenant Charles Appleton, was wounded in the Army of the Potomac.

Written at Craigie House in Cambridge, Massachusetts

On Christmas morning in 1863, while sitting at his desk at the Craigie House in Cambridge, MA, Henry was inspired to write a poem as he listened to the church bells pealing. Their constancy and joyous ringing inspired him to write “Christmas Bells.” In spite of his sadness, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate optimism that indeed:

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep
The Wrong shall fail;
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!

Adapted into a Christmas Carol by John B. Caulkin

Sometime after 1872, Longfellow’s poem was adapted into a Christmas Carol. John B. Caulkin (1827-1905) was a famous English composer who set the lyrics to a gentle, melodic tune that is reminiscent of bells ringing. The carol is entitled “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Alternative tunes have been written for the lyrics but Caulkin’s melody remains predominant.

I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from February 1966 – the last day of April 1967. I was in the seventh and eighth grades. My father was in the United States Air Force at the time. As a student at Portsmouth Junior High School, I took field trips to both Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was a Bowdoin College graduate and was a faculty member before moving to Cambridge to teach at Harvard.

Classical Education with Understanding and Appreciation of the Arts

We placed great emphasis when I was in junior high school on classical education with understanding and appreciation of the arts including poetry. Only my university and seminary education had a greater impact on me than my short two years in New England public schools.

A Front Porch View

 

A Front Porch View

He sat on a rustic cabin’s front porch.
Mountain peaks in front for him to see.
Back and forth moved his old wooden rocker.
The view framed by pine and juniper trees.

Some dog’s bark echoed in the distance.
An engine wails, straining to climb the pass.
A western tanager lands on top of a telephone pole.
And a deer looks both ways before crossing at last.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
September 2, 2020
Written in Alto, New Mexico

Beach or Mountains?

Glimpsing Glory

Glimpsing Glory

With Glimpsing Glory: Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing, Catherine Lawton delivers luminous, Christian spiritual walk poetry that blends the daily journey with God and the beauty and glory of God’s created world. Broken in topical areas of relating, relating, communing, trusting, living, dying, praying and word-playing, we walk through experiencing “Water Under a Bridge,” seeing the sky above and the forest in “Nature,” and experience Maine “Together on an Island.”

We commune with God as nature, which He created sings back to God day and night in “The Stars Sing.” We hunger for the first taste of fresh strawberries in “Spring Time.” I particularly enjoyed how a backyard bird sees Christmas in “What Is Coming to Our World?”

You’ll find yourself drawn much closer to God and His mercy through poems like “In The Morning,” which remind you that his mercy comes. “High School Class Reunion” will have you climbing into the memories of your mind thinking back to your similar experiences. I love how many of the poems unapologetically point to and honor God, of which “Glory” is an example.

You’ll find your heartstring pulled in “Bedside Vigils,” where I was reminded of the birth of my three children, being with my parents, and later my wife at their passing into eternity and their entry into heaven. Memories reminded me of my experience of “stroking the pale cheek.”

So many of the poems provided moments of prayer for me. “Love Song of The King” spoke to me. The line “The Singer because he is Song” had me remember the late Calvin Miller’s Singer Trilogy. The section on prayer demonstrated a long, intimate walk with the Father by our author Catherine Lawton.

I also loved “Coulda, Woulda, and Shoulda,” as it reminds us that “God loves you all the time.” I loved the poem so much I read it at a recent open-mic night at my local bookstore.”

Catherine Lawton has written a stunning poetry collection that will have you returning time and time to dip into her mastery and the majesty of her word magic. You’ll again share time with God and His creation as you recall and navigate through life’s journey with the author as your guide.

You can purchase the book at Glimpsing Glory: Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing.

We Never Lived In the Now

We Never Lived In the Now

Your face shows your age,
though your countenance is still glowing.
Your age says grown-up,
but you’ve never decided where you’re going.

You’ve grown older.
Yes, I’m older too.
The remainder of our lives is before us,
oh, what’ll we do?

What were the dreams
you had so long ago?
What was your vision?
Where did it go?

You traveled your way.
I went mine.
A history so different,
yet lives intertwined.

The gray now shows in our locks,
showing how much we cared.
Your grin still lights my life,
my smile brightens yours when shared.

You lived for then.
I lived for when.
We never lived in the moment.
No, we never lived in the now.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Originally published in WORDS…RHYMES…POETRY & PROSE! in 2008
“We Never Lived In the Now” is included in the forthcoming book,
“Jimmie Aaron Kepler: Selected Poems 1967 – 2019” from Poetry and Prayer Press.

Photo Credit: Image by dietcheese from Pixabay

Your Best Friend


Your Best Friend

If ever you find yourself being broken apart,
Because the one you trusted has broken your heart,
And all the time you find yourself crying,
While on the inside you feel like you’re dying,

Call me if you feel lonely,
Come to me when your life needs to mend,
From time to time you need only,
Someone with love unconditional – your best friend.

One time life gave you a fright,
Existence was as black as a moonless midnight,
You were feeling so out-of-place,
With no one to hug or embrace,

Then you saw the light,
You came to me in the middle of the night,
And you ran to me to give your heart,
And that’s when your new life did start

Call me if you feel lonely,
Come to me when your life needs to mend,
From time to time you need only,
Someone with love unconditional – Jesus, your best friend.

Copyright © 2008 by Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Originally published in “WORDS…RHYMES…POETRY & PROSE!”
Also published on: “Writing After Fifty” and in the book “Gone Electric: A Poetry Collection.”


Photo Source: Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

Books

Books

Books take you places
You hope someday to go.
They transport you to times
In the future or long, long ago.

The words paint the pictures
The author’s canvas is your mind.
Surreal images greet you
Where people aren’t always kind.

You don’t have to dress up to read one.
They’ve got a special texture, smell, and feel.
Some tales make you laugh
While others make you squeal.

© 2009 Jimmie A. Kepler

Originally published in
WORDS…RHYMES…POETRY & PROSE!

Photo Source: Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

Going Out to Eat

Going Out to Eat

Sweetheart, do you have a preference on where we go out to eat?
…..No. Anywhere you want is ok with me, dear.
Great. There’s a McDonald’s. They have a senior coffee discount.
…..Oh, but look! There’s a Subway. I think that would be better.
OK. Subway it is. I’ll let you off at the door and then park the car.

Do you see anything on the menu you prefer?
…..No. Anything you want is OK with me, dear. We can share a foot-long sub.
Great. How about a foot-long Italian meatball sub?
…..Oh, but the Black Forest ham … I think that would be better.

OK. Make it a foot-long Black Forest ham on wheat bread, please.
…..Oh, get whatever you want, dear, but white bread …
Ma’am, can you change that to white bread, please. And American cheese.
…..Dear, pepper jack … I think that would be better.
OK, make it pepper jack cheese.

We’d like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos …
…..Anything you want, is OK with me, dear, but maybe not the tomatoes and pickles.
Ma’am, hold the tomatoes and pickles, please.
…..What if we skipped all the peppers and just got black olives?
OK. Make it black olives and mayonnaise instead of green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos.
…..Maybe you should go with light mayo. Remember your waistline.
Yes, dear. Ma’am, we’ll take light mayo instead, please.

“Sir, do you want to make that a combo with chips and drink?”
Sure, that sounds–
…..Dear, we’ve got water and apple slices in the car. No need to splurge, but …
OK. Just the sub, not the combo.

That was a very good lunch.
…..Yes. Thank you for taking me out to eat. Aren’t you glad I let you have whatever you wanted?

And I recalled the words of the Apostle Paul,
…..Love is patient, love is kind.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Written in Estes Park, Colorado
May 2013

“Going Out to Eat” was originally published in vox poetic in print and electronic form. The electronic version can be accessed at: Kepler, Jimmie A. “Going Out to Eat,” vox poetica, January 27, 2014, Retrieved January 27, 2014, from http://voxpoetica.com/eat/.


Photo Credit: Pixabay


When I read the first draft of this poem to my late wife, I was shocked at how visibly upset it made her.

“You’re making fun of me and telling the whole world!” she said.

I was taken aback by her comment.

“I don’t understand,” I said with honesty.

“That’s what I did at the Subway Resturant at Amarillo,” she said. She didn’t smile. She only lowered her head.

It was apparent the memory was fresh on her mind.

“It’s a composite of so many of the older couples we see at restaurants. It seems the wife frequently tells the husband to order what he wants. As he orders, she tweaks the order to what she wanted,” I said.

Again, she did not smile. She rolled her eyes.

“It’s not about you,” I said attempting to reassure her.

“It’s about me. Everyone will know it’s about me.”

“But it isn’t about you. Even if it were, who do you know that reads poetry?”

“So you admit you wrote it about me.”

“Sweetie, it’s a composite of so many of the older couples we see at restaurants,” I said trying to reassure her.

“And you’re going to submit it for publication?”

“Only with your permission. I don’t want it to upset you.”

“So it’s my fault if you don’t submit the poem?”

This time I rolled my eyes.

She glared at me for a minute and then sat silent for another five minutes. Finally, she started laughing and said, “I guess if I’m honest wives do that to their husbands. Go ahead and submit your silly poem.  No one publishes poetry these days.”

I submitted it. It was accepted for publication. And no, it wasn’t about Miss Benita. It really is a composite of so many of the older couples I’ve seen at restaurants. It seems the wife frequently tells the husband to order what he wants. As he orders, she tweaks the order to what she wanted and then hands him a coupon to use.

Winter Nights

Winter Nights

The frigid nights fall earlier
On these chilly winter days
And the moon-man mounts the sky
Veiled in Metropolis haze

The mornings all break later
So slow the new day’s dawn
The bitter blanket lingers
For the winter nights are so long

Stars spangle the satin sky
As the moon-man dips down low
Twinkling winks from a million worlds
And here we are, do they know?  

Oh I wish the night would never end
Yes, I wish the night would never end

February 2017

Photo Source: Pixaby