Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Bells

Tricia of Richmond, Virginia, who writes The Miss Rumphius Effect, included part of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” in her blog yesterday.
I remember Mum – a great fan of poetry – saying these lines quite often when we heard Church bells.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Another favourite of Mum’s (and mine) was Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells”.


Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

During the summer holidays from school Mum used to make me learn poems. Not a great hardship because I loved poetry. So there was a time, many years ago when I could recite this whole poem. Even though I now have to use a crib sheet I still think it is a wonderful example of the poet’s art.


  1. Hello SS. I really wanted to say a big thanks for the recent visits to my blog during the past very difficult weeks. It is lovely to think of people out there, caring. I loved the bells poems, and also really enjoyed the pictures on your wildlife blog - specially the lovely Snowy Owl.
    A great visit, indeed!

  2. I memorized The Bells, too! I can even remember where in the classroom I was standing when I recited it in sixth grade, I believe (eleven and twelve year olds). And speaking of bells, you must have read The Nine Tailors by DL Sayers, right? I love that book. Brilliant plot and characters. And I've been meaning to mention one of the books on your book blog - The Diary of A Nobody - honestly one of my top ten books of all time. I bet I've read it three times, and loved it to pieces every reading. I was so pleased to see it on your list and I hope it draws people to read it. Amazing how fresh and new it is after all these years.

  3. Scriptor,

    Enjoyed the poems and the link to Rumphious Effect. I had visited her site some years back in my credential program. I shall visit it anew!

    I liked how Poe took the theme of bells and examined his experience for their many appearances.

    What would my bell poem contain?
    Egg-timer bell, school bells (several sorts), alarm clock bells, church bells, jingle bells, horse bells, cat collar bells, etc.

    And yours?


  4. Thanks, Nan. I recommended 'Diary of a Nobody' to my elder daughter and she now has it on her list of most disliked books! I'm glad someone has restored my faith in my own judgement but it goes to show that GB is right when he says he finds it difficult to 'recommend' anything because we are all so different.

  5. I think my bells would have to include fire alarm bells and telephone bells. Ugh!


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