Monday 31 December 2018

Wild Bells

It's more a case of fireworks than full-circle bell ringing these days, but the bells of imagination and memory still ring out every New Year's Eve. It's widely believed that Tennyson was inspired by the bells of the abbey church at Waltham Abbey when he wrote these lines, but I like to think he was remembering earlier New Years in the Lincolnshire Wolds, with the bells of Somersby and all the churches around – Bag Enderby, Harrington, Salmonby, Tetford, Ashby Puerorum – ringing out. Either way, as a New Year poem this surely can't be bettered... 

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.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


  1. Great post.thank you so much.

  2. Such a wonderful outburst, the Tennyson, isn’t it? It’s even more effective in its context in In Memoriam, where it occurs after pages of angst and gloom. When I read it, I always remember my grandfather telling me that when he was boy living in Rugeley , Staffs, on New Year’s Eve people would go up on to Cannock Chase to listen to the church bells ringing all along the Trent Valley. Whenever I read the Tennyson, that’s always the picture that comes into my mind.
    Thank you for your blog and a Happy New Year. I read it every day, even though I don’t reply as often as I should. I always open it up to revive my spirits when I’ve had as much as I can stand of the Today programme.

  3. Thanks very much Ingoldsby – always good to hear from you. It's a lovely thought – all those church bells ringing in the new year, so much more eloquent and beautiful than fireworks...

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