Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Words and a Poem for the Next to Last Day of the Year

One of my favorite old school poets is Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who had a cool name and wrote some serious verse. Tennyson was Poet Laureate during Queen Victoria's reign in England and wrote such poems as "The Lady of Shalott," "Ulysses," the magnum opus In Memoriam A.H.H. (written for his sister's fiancé who died at the age of 22,) "The Charge of the Light Brigade," Idylls of the King, and "Crossing the Bar," a favorite of my mother's which we had read at her funeral. Unfortunately, Tennyson is quite out of fashion among academics so I never studied him in my coursework. I could have taken a class in Victorian verse but at my tender age didn't have the appreciation for that period in literature that I do now. So I skipped from the Romantics to the Realists, as did most of  my compères. (I know, we were a cheeky lot.) And so, here's to you, Alfred and all your mad verse! In "Ring Out, Wild Bells!" some of the wishes and conditions ring as true today as they were in 1850.
Ring Out Wild Bells
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
A happy and prosperous New Year, everyone. God bless you all.


  1. Wow! That is fantastic. I can't believe I've never seen this before.

  2. This applies to our time as well.

  3. @MGG: It's not taught a lot because it's considered to be too mainstream to be included in the canon. A Catch-22, n'est ce pas?
    @BT: That really struck me this year when I read it, Brad. Some of the same issues and problems are still with us, but then the solutions for those issues and problems are as clear today as they were in 1850 when the poem was written. When will we ever learn?

    Ah, well, each new year brings us hope that it will also bring new beginnings, peace, prosperity, love, justice and community. Maybe this will be the year!