Friday, November 20, 2009

Poe Fridays: The Bells

Today's Poe Fridays poem is The Bells. You can read it here. I've copied the beginning of each part of it to represent the change of mood but you should definitely read the entire poem.

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;
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!
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,
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.

This poem was first published after Poe's death. It is a very thoughtful movement from birth to death and also an example of the many faces of a single symbol. This poem highlights the fact that we have different words for the same sounds based on the emotions of the moment -- bells "peal" when we are happy, "clang" when we are anxious and "toll" when they are rung in mourning. This is another of Poe's works that really comes to life when read out loud. There is musicality in the words and the rhythm that enhances the idea of the bells. This is one of my favorite Poe poems.

Because next week is Thanksgiving and I have family coming to visit, I'm going to take a break from Poe Fridays until the following week. The longish short story for December 4th will be The Purloined Letter -- another story featuring Poe's French detective, C. Auguste Dupin.

Still enjoying the bells of youth,


  1. Not my favourite Poe poem, but interesting never the less
    See you on the 4th ;0)

  2. "The Bells" is not an easy poem and it has the potential to be silly. I never liked it until I saw/heard it performed by a Poe impersonator - only then did I "get" it.

  3. Loved the selection this week! It really got me out of my Poe burnout.

  4. All - I love the diversity of responses to this poem! I'm glad we read it this week.