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The bells poem by Edgar Allan Poe

The bells poem by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

The Bells poem by Edgar Allan Poe is a onomatopoeic poem which was not published until after his death in 1849. Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television.

The Bells poem by Edgar Allan Poe has four parts to it; each part becomes darker and darker as the poem progresses from “the jingling and the tinkling” of the bells in part 1 to the “moaning and the groaning” of the bells in part 4.

The Bells poem

I

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 over sprinkle
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.

II

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!

III

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!

IV

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,
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.

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15 thoughts on “The bells poem by Edgar Allan Poe

  1. “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe shows the depths able to be reached by certain artists who are able to tap into their full potential. Unfortunately, many artists are plagued with pain and suffering — however, certain artists, like Poe, choose to channel their suffering into forms of art, touching the lives of people for generations to come.

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  2. Edgar Allen Poe also invented the detective genre, with Murders on the Rue Morgue being the first of the sort. The structure of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is very similar (and formulaic if one reads Rue Morgue). In addition, Rue Morgue, in a very subtle way, examines ideas of imperialism that were not generally discussed at the time it was written. Poe was a genius, but a tortured one, riddled by alcoholism, the liqueur of choice being Absinthe. The peculiar feel of absinthe (tastes nasty like Jaeger but gives the head a strange, bubbly feeling) both brought him down but may have enhanced his inspiration. Who knows? Either way, it didn’t help him financially.

  3. Fantastic poem. I especially like reading it aloud. A question that I used to ask my students who thought that it was depressing was, “Do you think it’s meant to be read in a straight line, or a circle?” It may not have been how Poe intended it, but I like to think of the poem as a circle. Rather than feeling disheartened at the end, I remember that life has seasons, and when one ends somewhere, a new one may be beginning elsewhere.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I read Poe often when I was young. Also I will share An Artist’s Path has interesting writing and a writing challenge if you would be interested..
    I will continue to follow your website.

  5. I love this one! I used to know it by heart but it’s really hard to recite because the cadence encourages you to speak faster and faster until all the words trip over themselves 😛

    1. Thank you for sharing this amazing poetry. My goodness, could this man write poetry!

      Totally dig what you’re saying, Becky, about the cadence. It’s a gripping rhythm ascending with a fierce determined speed like a climbing roller coaster evoking some uncertainty whether there might be a safe landing at the end of the ride or will it fly violently off its rails entirely, hurling the daring riders off into the trembling darkness.

      Amazing piece of poetry. Thank you again for sharing it. 🙂

      Blessings…
      Cap’n Toni…

  6. So cool to read him again. The pace, the meter … I love it. It’s brilliant and frantic all at once.

  7. Wow such poetry…

    A rhythmic rhyme for another time,

    O those bells bells bells could only
    tell…

    Thank you for the post, an i also see that you dropped by for a read..

    cheers in love,

    chris

  8. I’ve always liked this poem and Poe. I’ll have to try to work tintinnabulation into my writing. If you’re interested, the 1960s American songwriter and poet Phil Ochs put the Bells to music. It’s on youtube (what isn’t?), Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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