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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "The Bells" (C), undated manuscript, about June 1848, printed in Sartain's Union Magazine, December 1849, 5:386-387

EDGAR A. POE. The singular poem of Mr. Poe's, called "The Bells," which we published in our last Number, has been very extensively copied. There is a curious piece of literary history connected with this poem, which we may as well give now as at any other time. It illustrates the gradual development of an idea in the mind of a man of original genius. This poem came into our possession about a year since. It then consisted of eighteen lines! They were as follows:

         THE BELLS. — A SONG.

    The bells! — hear the bells!
    The merry wedding bells!
    The little silver bells!
How fairy-like a melody there swells
    From the silver tinkling cells
    Of the bells, bells, bells!
        Of the bells!

    The bells! — ah, the bells!
    The heavy iron bells!
    Hear the tolling of the bells!
        Hear the knells!
How horrible a monody there floats
        From their throats —
        From their deep-toned throats!
How I shudder at the notes
        From the melancholy throats
    Of the bells, bells, bells —
        Of the bells —

    About six months after this, we received the poem enlarged and altered nearly to its present size and form, and about three months since the author sent another alteration and enlargement, in which condition the poem was left at the time of his death.

    We may remark in passing, that this is not Mr. Poe's last poem, as some of the papers have asserted. We have on hand one of his which probably is his last. It was received a short time before his decease. We shall give in in our January Number.


Although published a month after the final version of the poem, this is accepted as the first version. The manuscript upon which this text is based is presumed lost, although a similar manuscript, made by Poe about the same time, is now in the Koester collection of the University of Texas. The introductory and trailing notes are presumed to have been written by the editor, John S. Hart.

The poem noted here as "probably . . . his last" is "Annabel Lee," which appeared as promised in Sartain's for January of 1850, pp. 99-100, though by then it had already appeared in the New York Tribune and the Southern Literary Messenger.

[S:1 - Sartain's, 1849] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Bells (C)