Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Bells” (Text-J), ­The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe­ (1850), 2:23-26


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­ [page 23:]

THE BELLS.

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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 tintinabulation [[sic]] 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  ­[page 24:]

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 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 [[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 anger of the bells — ­[page 25:]

Of the bells —

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

Bells, bells, bells —

In the clamor and the clangor 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 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, 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 — ­[page 26:]

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.


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Notes:

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, and since Poe himself died without being able to confirm any typeset version, we will probably never know precisely what he intended. As much as possible the scheme has been set here to match that in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe. What Poe gives as “tintinabulation” should be “tintinnabulation.” The spelling error was corrected in the Sartain’s printing, showing that Griswold’s typesetters may have worked directly from the manuscript.


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[S:1 - Works, 1850] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Bells (Text-J)