Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Bells

(Winter Scene with Horse and Sleigh, 1855 by Cornelius
Krieghoff, 1815-1872, Dutch-born Canadian landscape painter)

This verse is like many of Edgar Allan Poe’s other poems, pleasing to the ear, even musical, because of his use of figures of speech like onomatopoeia (words imitating sounds) and alliteration (the repeating of consonant sounds), and the many repetitions of certain words.


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.

~ Edgar Allan Poe (1801-1849), American poet, writer, and father of the detective story


GretchenJoanna said...

The first time I heard this poem it was not in a book, but on an audio recording, and the way the reader gave it made it seem that it would never end, so that as I look at it on your page I can't believe it is so short. Perhaps it was just his tone, but it also came across to me as mocking and eerie, as though some insane person were listening to bells ringing.
Would I be able to enjoy the poem if I'd only now read it on your page, with the lovely accompanying painting?

maria horvath said...

Dear GretchenJoanna,

You are right. The poem is much longer. I quoted only the first verse. That is why I wrote the title as "from THE BELLS."

Here is the rest of the poem:


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 all 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 clanging 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.


GretchenJoanna said...

Oh, I was too hasty!
But thank you for posting the rest of the poem. Now I see why I was initially dismayed.

Dan C. said...

Poe has been one of my favorite poets since I was young. This poem always reminded me of early morning church bells. But now that I'm older reading it, the poem reminds me the transition of seasons or the passing of life.