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Text: Edgar Allan Poe, "The Bells" (E), undated manuscript, about April 1849

The Bells.

By Edgar A. Poe.


               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 tintinabulation [[sic]] that so musically wells
      From the bells, 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! 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; —
        Yes, the ear distinctly tells,
              In the jangling
              And the wrangling,
        How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the >>clamor<< <anger> of the bells —
              Of the bells —
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, >>bells<<
                     Bells, bells, bells —
   In the >>anger<< <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 >>meaning<< <menance> of their tone!
            For every sound that floats
            From >>out their ghostly<< <the rust within their> throats
                    Is a groan.
                And the people — ah, the people
                >>Who live<< <They that sleep> 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,
But are pestilential carcases disparted from their souls —
                    Called 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 : —
[[final 14 lines of stanza 4 are missing]]



This manuscript for the poem was in the possession of John Sartain, who published the full text in his magazine in November of 1849. The first and last pages of the manuscript were reproduced in facsimile in an auction catalog, The Library of Harold Pierce of Philadelphia, Stan V. Henkels, March 6-7, 1903, part III, item 957 (where the price is noted as $2,100). It is noted as being from the collection of William Nelson of Paterson, New Jersey, and described as ". . . written in the usual manner of Poe's long manuscripts, on slips of blue writing paper, pasted on, after another, so as to form a long roll. . . . It forms a continuous sheet, 8 inches wide and 37 1/2 inches long. " Another, more complete, facsimile appears in George E. Woodberry, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe: Personal and Literary, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909,  II, between pages 253 and 254. The first full reproduction appears in Heidi M. Schultz, "Edgar Allan Poe Submits 'The Bells' to Sartain's Magazine," Resources for American Literary Study, 1996, no. 2, 22:166-181 (with the facsimile appears on pages 174-176). The manuscript is generally a fair copy of the text, although there are a few last minor last minute changes and corrections. One change seems to have been changed and then changed back. (This line is the sixth line of stanza four, reading: "At the melancholy >>meaning<< <menance> of their tone!" In this line, "meaning" was crossed out, and "menace" written above it in ink, but itself crossed out in pencil and "meaning" written in the right margin, again in pencil. This change was apparently not read correctly by the typesetters, who used "menace.") What Poe gives in the manuscript as "tintinabulation" should be "tintinnabulation," as it was generally given in print.

The indentation of lines in this poem is highly idiosyncratic. It is clearly a carefully considered pattern, but for reasons that are uncertain. As a handwritten document, the spacing in the manuscript is difficult to judge. The final 14 lines are missing as the last leaf of the roll manuscript has become detached and is apparently lost.

[S:2 - MS, 1849 (photograph, RALS, 1996)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Bells (E)