A Favourite Poem: ‘The Bells’ by Edgar Allan Poe

‘The Bells’ is a magnificent poem that is best read aloud.

Advertisements

‘The Bells’ is a poem that Poe wrote in the final year of his life, as he battled writer’s block that seemed to have developed with his grief for his wife, who died from tuberculosis. It is highly reflective of the way in which he perceived the changes that happen in one’s life – as one gets older, the ringing of the bells is less about happiness and increasingly about grief and fear. From courtship, to marriage, then grief and despair, and finally one’s own death, each stanza grows darker and longer than the one preceding it. The haunting tone of the final stanzas is powerful and chilling, leaving the reader with a strong sense of impending doom and terror.

For me, this poem also reflects how happy times seem to fly past quickly, while periods of darkness and sorrow seem to linger and to obscure the light of those happier memories and thoughts.

It’s a beautiful thing to quietly read and reflect on the poem, but it is possible to overlook some technical elements of the poetry if one reads it silently. Reading the poem aloud adds another dimension altogether to one’s understanding and experience of the poem.

In each stanza, the bells are made of particular metals that reflect the purpose and symbolism of the bells, but which also have different sounds when they ring in that verse of the poem.
The verbs used by Poe to describe the way in which the bells ring have been purposefully chosen to shape the meaning by controlling the speed and temperament of the reading. Short vowel sounds in “jingling” and “tinkling” are replaced with successively longer vowel sounds that slow the reading down and lower the register of the voice, so that the mood becomes more serious and sombre. By the end, the “moaning and the groaning of the bells” is oppressive and fearful, evoking horror and fear in the reader.

I really enjoy the onomatopoeia – words that sound like their meaning – of the poem as it grows progressively louder and heavier, emphasising and compounding the darkening tone and message of the poem. It is the sounds of the bells that tell us what is going on, as much as the other narrative provided by the poem.

the-bells-419677_960_720

THE BELLS

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 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.

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 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!

III
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!

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 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,
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.

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

If you enjoyed this post, please click “like” to increase its visibility to other readers.
Shares and comments are also appreciated.

Six 21st Century Poets You Should Be Reading.

Six 21st Century Poets and Why You Should Be Reading Them.

I’m the first to admit that I’m fussy about the poetry I read. I want to experience something moving and powerful in a unique style. I want imagery, colour and movement. I want depth, and I want to be able to feel and hear the poet’s soul. It may be considered “old-school” by some, but I still want to find the music of rhythm and rhyme among the various techniques that a poet uses to deliver their ideas.

So, when I tell you that these are the poets you should be reading, please understand that this is not just a nod to people I like or who have pretty book covers. These people don’t just write poetry— they are poets, and they take their craft seriously. These poets can really take a reader beyond themselves, open a reader’s mind, and influence them so that they see things in a completely new way.

These Six 21st Century Poets You Should Be Reading are not listed in any order of preference. If you want to explore their work further, simply click on the cover of each book.

Lyra Shanti

Author of ‘Sediments’.

Lyra Shanti Sediments

Shanti’s poetry is rich and sensory, full of imagery that draws the reader into the emotion and wellsprings of the poet’s mind.
Drawing on mythological themes and elements of Biblical allegory, although it is by no means religious poetry, Shanti explores her place in time, relationships, and the universe through themes of belonging, human vulnerability, equality, and home. She is a master of contrast and balance, weighing sensitivity against images of those things that overwhelm, and confidence in belonging despite her humility, framed within a very real sense of awareness of the immeasurable breadth and depth of the universe.

 

Patrick Williams
Author of ‘Lethal As Love’.

Patrick Williams Lethal As Love
Patrick Williams’ poems are beautiful in the simplicity and honesty of the feelings they convey, even though the feelings they communicate are at times complex and conflicted. There is no pretence or affectation in Williams’ writing, nor is there any strict observance of rhythm, rhyme or other particular poetic techniques. Instead, he uses language and form to evoke a strong sense of love and longing that is almost tangible as he leads the reader on a journey through the highs and lows of the love he so powerfully communicates in these poems.
Some of this poetry is quite erotic, so it’s definitely only for an adult audience, but there’s nothing gratuitous or tawdry about it. One could learn quite a lot about how to love deeply and sensuously from reading ‘Lethal as Love’, but there is also a more sombre lesson to be heeded: nothing lasts forever.  It is clear from ‘Lethal as Love’, though, that the pleasure and passion were definitely worth the pain.

 

Sarah Northwood
Author of ‘The Truths We Tell’.
Sarah Northwood The Truths We Tell
Sarah Northwood gives voice to thoughts and feelings commonly experienced, but often not so thoughtfully expressed, by people in all walks of life.
Northwood explores the ways in which we respond to the situations and feelings that challenge us and those things that fill and complete us. The reality of being haunted by regret and the “what ifs” of life is contrasted with the whimsy of fleeting happiness and the irresistible, transforming power of love.
Through all of this is the reminder that life is what it is: “Feeling the breeze on her cheek she knew, the wind can never be the sun.” (Unique)

 

Joseph Ferguson
Author of ‘Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard’

Joseph Ferguson Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard
Ferguson writes with a very strong sense of realism and a degree of world-weariness in his profound poems that work like snapshots of different events and memories. He has a gift for creating vivid images that transport the reader to another time and place, and making it seem absolutely real.
When Joseph Ferguson’s poetry is recognised as ‘classic’ and he is regaled world-wide as a master poet, it shall come as no surprise to me.

 

Shelby Leigh
Author of ‘It Starts Like This’
Shelby Leigh It Starts Like This

Leigh’s poetry is thoughtful and often intense in its exploration of love, loss, anger,   loneliness and grief, and is highly relatable for anyone who has experienced the breakdown of a relationship or been let down by someone they trusted.
Her poetry and expression are accessible and easily understood, and Leigh’s imagery is often quite stark and raw, but that is where her strengths as a poet lie.

 

 

Joanne Van Leerdam 
Author of ‘Leaf’, ‘Nova’, ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘The Passing Of The Night’. 

 

Yes, that’s me, and those are my own books. Obviously, I write the type of poetry I want to read. Don’t take my word for it, though – I have compiled this description with quotations from different Amazon reviewers. 

“Joanne Van Leerdam is a master poet who combines an old-worldly feel to her poetry with a modern flavor.”
“Joanne Van Leerdam’s poems are about the emotional fragility of human existence, about the brittleness of love and about living with love lost. She expresses both the sense of frailty and the strength of resilience in her reflections, as if a lonely survivor on a faraway island.”
“Many of her poems are conventional in structure, with a regular rhyme scheme, traditional yet so sensitive and vulnerable that they emerge as special, standing out like novae in the vast night sky.
Her poems don’t crash through the door, flourishing their creative uniqueness, but in a quiet voice Van Leerdam almost whispers to us to let her poems come in as she both exposes the emotional pains of life and provides comfort for them.”

I’d love to know if you are encouraged to try any of these poets’ works, and if you do, what you think of them. You’re always welcome to leave a comment on this, or any other, post. 

One Poet’s Approach to Writing Poetry

Today, I’d like to share with you my own approach to writing poetry.

If you’re not really a poetry reader, it may reassure you to know that it’s not always super-formal language and words that are hard to understand.  Sometimes it is- especially if you’re approaching poetry written a hundred  or more  years ago. In my mind, though, making it so elegant and clever that people are resistant to it or almost afraid of it really defeats the purpose. I want the reader to connect with what I’m saying, not feel like I’m some self-important hyper-intellectual with an overactive sense of rhyme.

 

npm_2018_poster-e1520635983486

It’s also helpful to understand that there are different types of poetry. Some types, like sonnets, are formal in structure and rhyme pattern, and a poet really has to stick to those rules.  Haiku is said to be one of the most popular types of poetry in the world at the moment, and while it seems quite simple, it still has formal rules that have to be followed. Other types, like free verse, is much more liberated and often easier to understand because those same rules don’t apply.

Some people these days insist that poems shouldn’t rhyme at all – to that, I say– possibly rather loudly and perhaps quite rudely – “Poppycock!”. There is nothing wrong with using rhyme, or any other tool in the poet’s toolbox, as long as meaning is not sacrificed for the sake of making that device work. I write poetry that rhymes, but I also write poetry that doesn’t.

I don’t aim for things to sound pretty and sing-song, or to rhyme neatly, but I do try to use language that sounds beautiful when its read. The important thing is to choose words, and language styles and poetic techniques that suit my subject and deliver the meaning the way I want it to be understood.

I aim for my ideas and feelings to be communicated in a way that makes someone stop and think, and maybe see something or someone in a new way.

Sometimes my writing helps me – and other people – make sense of what’s going on in my head or in my life. It’s the best therapy, because I get to explore and deal with my thoughts and feelings as I work with the ideas, and I always have an outlet to say what’s on my heart and mind.

And sometimes I write poems because it’s the only way I can find to say what other people are afraid to say. I’m happy to provide a voice for others, and I’m always keen to have my readers see situations or experiences from different perspectives.

Let me give you an example. One of my favourite poems among those I’ve written is the one titled ‘Nocturne’. Try reading it aloud, not worrying about the rhythm but just letting the language carry you along.

promo nova nocturne poem

When reading it, you’ll see that it rhymes,  and the lines are of similar length when read aloud. This enabled me to achieve a musical type of rhythm in the words, which suits the idea of a nocturne, given that that’s the name of a piece of music written to be played or listened to at night – which is also when the poem is also set at night, for which the idea of a nocturne is also really appropriate. Despite all of that, it’s still quite plain in its meaning.

I’d love to know what you think of it, so feel free to leave a comment below.

You’re also welcome to jump over to WordyNerdBird Writes and read some of my other poems and stories.

National Poetry Month.

Since 1996, April has been a month of celebration of poetry, which also means a celebration of great poets.

I’m all for that.

National Poetry Month 2Since 1996, April has been a month of celebration of poetry, which also means a celebration of great poets.

I’m all for that.

Many people haven’t read any poetry since they were in school. I’d really like to see that change.  There are some beautiful classic poems out there, but there are also some fabulous poets writing magnificent poetry these days, too.

The real power of poetry is the ability to read something and understand someone else’s perspective in a beautiful, profound way. I can read something someone has written from the depths of their heart, and relate to it and know that I’m not the only person who ever feels that way. I write in the hope that someone will read my poetry and have that same experience.

Who of us hasn’t been moved by the powerful words in a song? And what’s a song except poetry that has been given music?

I encourage you to pick up some poetry and read it today. There’s plenty to choose from on my WordyNerdBird Writes blog, which you can read for free.

Or you could pick up one of these great books by clicking on the title link. There’s nothing priced over $3 for the eBook among them. That’s less than a cup of coffee each… bargain!

promo nova cover                    leaf cover image

Nova                                                  Leaf

Promo Stained Glass Cover                         Lyra Shanti Sediments

Stained Glass                                   Sediments

Denise Dianaty The Dance Plays On                    Kevin Cowdall Assorted Bric-a-Brac

The Dance Plays On                  Assorted Bric-a-brac

Shelby Leigh It Starts Like This

It Starts Like This