But the song is not purely ironic here: its lyrics were written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864, during the depths of the brutal Civil War, and only set to music eight years later by John B. Calkin. The singer is in fact near despair, and strongly disagrees with the hopeful message of the bells. As several verses which are rarely seen in hymnals and never heard from the mouths of carolers put it:
"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.' "