The Bells

by Edgar Allan Poe
(published 1849)


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               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 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 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 clamour and the clangour 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 meaning 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 pæan from the bells !
            And his merry bosom swells
                With the pæan of the bells !
            And he dances, and he yells ;
        Keeping time, time, time,
        In a sort of Runic rhyme,
                To the pæan 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.

The indentation of this poem was done purposely in an attempt to match the way Poe originally wrote it. It seems as though Poe had some idea in mind but no one is sure what it was.


An old spelling of "alarm". This is the way Shakespeare spelled it. Here, it provides 3 syllables instead of 2 for the rhythm of the verse.
Pleasing or sweet sound. The acoustic effect produced by words so formed or combined as to please the ear.
Reasoning earnestly with a person for purposes of talking them out of something.
An ode sung by one voice (as in a Greek tragedy). An elegy or dirge performed by one person.
Ecstasy. A state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion. A mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things.
Runes were characters of several alphabets used by the Germanic peoples until the 13th century. They were first used over 1500 years ago by the East Goths, and later appeared throughout England and Scandinavia. The word "rune" itself comes from an early Anglo-Saxon word meaning "secret" or "mystery", and they remain an enigma to the modern world.
The ringing or sounding of bells. A jingling or tinkling sound as if of bells.

[This word is frequently misspelled as "tintinabulation". In an 1849 printing of Poe's poem, it was spelled correctly. In an 1850 printing, it was misspelled. Poe was dead before either printing.]
Having or marked by great volume or bulk. Consisting of many folds, coils, or convolutions.