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I heard the bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow* (1807-1882). A version of this hymn, ‘Christmas Bells’, was written in 1863 during the Civil War, as a response to the news that his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had been wounded fighting for the Union side (Longfellow himself was a strong supporter of abolition). It was published in February 1865 in Our Young Folks, a magazine for young people published by Ticknor and Fields in Boston, and then in Longfellow’s Flower-de-Luce (also Ticknor and Fields, Boston, 1866). It is an unusual Christmas hymn, with a strong Unitarian ‘feel’ to it, celebrating the ultimate victory of good over evil, and with no mention of the...

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