Treasure Island

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(1803 - 1882 / Boston / United States)

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The Bell


I love thy music, mellow bell,
I love thine iron chime,
To life or death, to heaven or hell,
Which calls the sons of Time.

Thy voice upon the deep
The home-bound sea-boy hails,
It charms his cares to sleep,
It cheers him as he sails.

To house of God and heavenly joys
Thy summons called our sires,
And good men thought thy sacred voice
Disarmed the thunder's fires.

And soon thy music, sad death-bell,
Shall lift its notes once more,
And mix my requiem with the wind
That sweeps my native shore.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Read poems about / on: music, sad, house, death, sleep, heaven, home, wind, sea, god, time, love, life, joy, fire, son

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/30/2014 3:45:00 PM)

    ...........this poem reminds me of those famous lines
    in john donne's poem...no man is an island
    ....~ for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee ~ (Report) Reply

  • Allison Helman (6/30/2012 10:26:00 AM)

    Maybe he just wanted the poem to ring out and resonate in two or more ways like it did for him. I think he accomplished that. (Report) Reply

  • Terence George Craddock (6/30/2012 5:23:00 AM)

    I agree with Juan Olivarez, this poem at no point within any stanza, expresses a specific religious doctrine.

    This is a personalized interaction with God which atheists have outlawed from the school system and all public buildings in too many places. This is a For whom the bell tolls a poem (No man is an island) by John Donne style poem, though more simply expressed. The poem contemplates death, I love thine iron chime, / To life or death, to heaven or hell, from the first stanza, And soon thy music, sad death-bell, / Shall lift its notes once more, / And mix my requiem with the wind to the last stanza; in contemplation of life and death.

    An intolerance of bells when others mourn the loss of loved ones in death is sad. Personally I love cultural diversity, which extended to the beauty of the call to prayer in beautiful mosques in Istanbul, especially those built in the Ottoman period. A little religious tolerance goes a long way, and the beauty of the lines within 'The Bell', demands more focus and analysis. Read the poem a few times, it is beautiful to reflect upon. (Report) Reply

  • Paul Brookes (6/30/2012 4:09:00 AM)

    The poem was written at a very precise point in time when religion was more important to most people than now. If you take it out of its historical context and rag it only because of its Christian virtue you lose the sense of the poem. Like all good poems it still has resonance today and is written damn well! ! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Juan Olivarez (6/30/2011 6:33:00 PM)

    Strangely, I agree with Michael. But only a bit. It is good to have things back to normal. Thank you Lord. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (6/30/2011 4:19:00 PM)

    OK, so there may be some religious symbolism, and avoiding mention of the poet's probable intent, as Olivarez does, only panders to the ravings of Straw who does go on about ANY poem with even a hint of a faith-based viewpoint. Run a really religious poem on this site by an ordained priest like Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (Society of Jesus!) , and the village atheist in readers like Straw will erupt in volcanic rage! There is a point at which one must defer to a poet's beliefs and shun the politically correct view that holds ALL mention of GOD an outrage against good common sense. For Christ's sake, relax and read the poem or don't, but please spare us the wagging finger and the diatribe against the divine. (Report) Reply

  • Juan Olivarez (6/30/2011 12:49:00 PM)

    I for one don't see this as a poem based on a particular religious view. I see it as the story of a bell, and all the endeavors it calls men to. After all each man writes about his own religion, that is a given. (Report) Reply

  • Mohammad Akmal Nazir (6/30/2011 11:44:00 AM)

    This was an extremely one-sided poem based on a particular religious view. So far as the artistic skill of Emerson was concerned, it was at its peak in the poem. After all he was a great poet. (Report) Reply

  • John Collins (6/30/2011 3:07:00 AM)

    This is a good poem, simple diction, easy to comprehend. It merits a supposing joy you experience after death, with words like 'charms his cares to sleep' 'heaven joys' but the end the poem, the poet introduces terror by the wind which will sweep him to his final destination, death (Report) Reply

  • Alek Lenth (6/30/2010 7:52:00 PM)

    So under your criterion, if a poem uses imagery it is not 'poetry at its best' because the blind will not appreciate it?

    And poets who write about the black condition are not good poets because most people are not black?

    As a side note Emerson's religious views are in the extreme minority of Christianity and that has not stopped generations of Christians and many others from recognizing the fundamental human experiences of death and mourning in this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (6/30/2010 5:40:00 AM)

    There is far too much religious poetry on this site. Emerson writes well, but what he writes about is not believed by everyone. Poetry like this is exclusive to people who believe its precepts. Poetry at its best is about the experience of the human race as a whole. If you believe this is wholly good poetry, then you must believe that poetry extolling the virtues of Nazism or rape is wholly good poetry provided that it is technically good. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (6/30/2010 2:00:00 AM)

    Bell sound both for heaven and hell in human life is forever! It is well expressed in this poem to muse over its significance! (Report) Reply

  • Joseph Poewhit (6/30/2010 1:23:00 AM)

    An eloquent flow of words. The bell, denoting time, like the beating of the heart. Only to remind man of his mortality, toward life and GOD. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Pruchnicki (6/30/2009 8:42:00 AM)

    The first stanza rimes ABAB - bell/hell chime/time!
    The pathetic fallacy of a WEARY AND PIOUS BELL (Psachos) does surpass even the WIND /THAT SWEEPS MY NATIVE SHORE (Emerson) . We understand the action referred to by Emerson as a natural reference and somehow not as jarring an allusion as WEARY AND PIOUS, which is sentimental and on its face an absurd metaphor!

    But then you may well argue that everyone to his taste! (Report) Reply

  • Dimitris(Jimmy) Psachos (6/30/2007 11:43:00 AM)

    Yes, the trip of a weary and pious bell through the eternities of human life...... Not one of Emerson's best, yet it's quite accurate and honest indeed! (Report) Reply

  • Yuri Panchenko (6/30/2006 7:50:00 AM)

    Very good. I really like this sad poem. The words, mixed with the wind, play smooth melody in my soul. (Report) Reply

  • Katie Berry (6/30/2006 6:22:00 AM)

    I like this. To me it's a kind of a story of the life of this bell. A story mixed with joy and sadness of the music played. Good poem. (Report) Reply

Read all 20 comments »

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