Composer and songbook editor John R. Sweney (1837-1899) loved music all his life. He began teaching music in schools and leading Sunday School music as a teen, and a few years later began to study in earnest, taking lessons in piano and violin, while at the same time conducting a number of choral groups both sacred and secular.
It's estimated that he wrote tunes for more than a thousand gospel songs, and wrote texts for some of them as well. He edited many songbooks for the firm of John J. Hood in Philadelphia, as well as a few other publishers, and collaborated with most of the famous songwriters of his day, including, of course, Fanny Crosby. It appears that this Christmas song by Sweney and Crosby was first published in Bright Melodies for the Sunday School and Young People's Societies (1899), though copyrighted a year earlier - probably in time for Sweney's Christmas celebrations in 1898.
Come away, the bells are calling,
Merry bells of Christmas time;
Youthful hearts again are bounding
While we catch their tuneful chime.
Merry, merry bells, merry, merry bells,
Listen to their carol and the joy it tells;
Ringing far and near, ringing sweet and clear,
O the blessèd music of the old-time bells.
Come away, they still are calling,
While, to crown our festal scene,
Busy fingers now are twining
Wreaths of holly bright and green
Come away, our faith is calling,
And we look with loving eyes
On a lowly manger cradle
Where the infant Savior lies.
Fanny Crosby, 1898
Tune: BELLS ARE CALLING (126.96.36.199. with refrain)
John R. Sweney, 1898
Eight Years Ago: A year of precious blessings
Seven Years Ago: John Robson Sweney (with more Christmas Fanny Crosby)
Six Years Ago: William Orcutt Cushing
One Year Ago: The winter night was dark and still