The words are teeming with gloom. While the rarely-sung fourth and fifth stanzas refer to the Civil War, we can still use them as metaphors for all the tumult in the world today. The song's sadness crescendos with the following stanza:
And in despair I bowed my head:But it's the next verse that is the reason this song resonates so strongly with me. After all hope seemed lost, after the last flicker of goodness seemed extinguished, this is how Longfellow ends:
"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,To truly feel the despair and the hope conveyed in this song, I strongly recommend that you listen to the Harry Belafonte recording.
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!"