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Christmas Bells at Sea
Words by Charles Lamb Kenney.
Published by Novello & Co., 1875.


Music cover

The cover of this song bore the following note:

There is a legend amongst sailors, that when a vessel is out at sea on Christmas Eve, the usual peal which on land ushers in the great Christian Festival from every church steeple is sometimes heard, however far from land the ship may be, and is an assured sign of a prosperous voyage.
Sullivan's manuscript consists of three pages, the last of which is dated 21 October 1874 and signed by the composer. Sullivan also drafted a title page, headed with the words "Dedicated to" although the song bore no dedication when it was published.

Kenney was apparently impatient to see the work published, and receive payment, for there is a letter from Sullivan to Kenny dated 5th December 1874 in which he says: "...Novello is keeping it until that jovial & festive season of the year when it will electrify a vast audience at the Albert Hall. Will you write to Littleton and demand from him a sum of money which shall at the same time represent an author's modesty, a publisher's generosity & poetical worth." The song was published by Novello, Ewer & Co., the following year.

Karaoke File


Still the night and calm the ocean,
Dazzling bright each wintry star;
Scarcely felt the vessel's motion,
When we heard from out afar
Softly pealing,
Gently stealing,
Silv'ry bells in volleys ringing.
Ringing out in holy glee;
E'en to us glad tidings bringing,
E'en to us glad tidings bringing,
Christmas bells at sea.

Wrapt in awe around them gazing,
Mute the crew in wonder stand,
Whence could come those sounds amazing,
Far from sight or sound of land?
Rising, falling,
Home recalling,
Thoughts of home and heaven bringing,
Sure a silent mystery
'Twas to hear their silv'ry ringing,
'Twas to hear their silv'ry ringing,
Christmas Bells at sea.

Vain Thy ways, O Heaven, to measure:
Who thy secrets can divine?
In our hearts enough to treasure
Tokens of Thy love benign
Where no steeple
Calls its people
Tidings of a Saviour bringing,
Angel hands are set by Thee
From a cloud-built belfry ringing
From a cloud-built belfry ringing
Christmas Bells at sea.

Sullivan's Manuscript.
Click on image to enlarge.
Sullivan's Manuscript

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