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(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849 / Boston)

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The Bells


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.


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!


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!


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.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Thursday, January 19, 2012

Read poems about / on: wedding, time, moon, fire, anger, people, night, despair, happiness, future, world, silver, woman, silence, happy, alone, dance, women, star

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Comments about this poem (Elizabeth by Edgar Allan Poe )

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  • Peyton Webb (10/6/2012 12:54:00 PM)

    Favorite Word of All Time: Tintinnabulation

    30 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • Makayla Johnson (9/22/2012 6:54:00 PM)

    Ah, one of my favourites. Poe had such an ear for rhythm, everything in this poem flows so easily with a beat and chime madder than the bells themselves. Beautiful.

  • David Vaughn (5/5/2012 8:55:00 AM)

    @Jon P,
    Boring? Really? ! ? You do know that his repetition of the word bells is representative of the telling of the bells themselves, right? It's not meant to be read in time. It's supposed to be arhythmic. As cadencial as Poe tends to be, we often assume that everything will be cadencial. Try reading it again this time reading the repeated bells section slowly and out of time.

  • iruuka Blackheart (12/19/2011 11:35:00 AM)

    When children were actual children they read shel silverstein....when i was a little child i was reading edgar allen poe

  • Ula Goss (5/2/2010 6:36:00 AM)

    THis poem has such a ring to it. He manipulated the rythm to dance across your tongue and ears, it is definitly one of his best works. in short The Bells is a masterpiece.

  • Frank James Ryan, Jr. (5/16/2009 5:37:00 PM)

    This is such an awesome, musical poem.Someone should write music to this poem, if they haven't already. I agree with James Sides's comment.Poe had a natural sense of rhythm.Hie poems are so smooth, and flow so easily. He is (imo) the best classic poet of all-time.

    Lauren Marie Elizabeth Ryan

  • Dr.subhendu Kar (2/7/2009 2:39:00 PM)

    simply wonderful, i am yet speechless to the cadence as eloquently flows, hats off to great work,

  • James Sides (8/7/2008 8:25:00 AM)

    Is there a poet in history with such a natural sense of rhythm as Poe? He has such cadence

  • Robert Howard (12/27/2007 10:39:00 PM)

    A student in Russia read this poem in translation and shyly recommended it anonymously to Sergei Rachmaninoff who was taken with it. He composed a grand setting of it for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra that it absolutely splendid. The composer made a successful search for the young women to personally thank her for the tip.

  • Shoaib Akhtar (10/14/2006 8:02:00 AM)

    You are right akara. The poem indeed is about the four stages of life. I just heard it yesteday, through a fabulous rendition by an english teacher named Wendy Dickson. I must admit it left all the listeners spellbound for the sheer beauty of the poem as well as the rendition. It was an honour to listen to it...

Read all 12 comments »

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