April 12, 2016

Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetry Friday: Ringing in the New Year

Happy New Year's Eve from Chapel Hill! We're visiting my brother and his family -- enjoying all the comforts of a college town: great restaurants, great vintage shops (I scored a knee length leather jacket for $14), and a fun science center.

We are heading home in time to ring in the New Year tonight. Speaking of ringing, I just had a debate with another  poet over Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells."

Fernando Quijano III (AKA Baltimore's The Word Pimp) performed the poem for Poetry Out Loud when he was in high school. The "tinkle tinkle tinkles" didn't take him to the next round of competition.

Which made me realize, "The Bells" is one of those love it or hate it kind of poems. I admit to being a hater. Until I read Sharon Creech's middle grade NIV, Love That Dog. In Creech's book, elementary schooler Jack digs the pure sounds of Poe's bell ringing.

Does "The Bells" ring your bell or give you a headache?

The Bells
by Edgar Allan 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 tintinnabulation that so musically wells
    From the 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--
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
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!
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,
            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--
Reading this poem just after my middle schooler studied Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I can't help but see a connection. The speaker in the poem -- the character of Victor Frankenstein -- they both have that obsessive, gloom and doom or bright as the heavens personality. Interesting.

However you celebrate New Year's, may your heavens twinkle with a crystalline delight this evening.

Thanks for hosting the Poetry Friday party this week, Carol! Stop by Carol's Corner for some poetry fireworks.


Toby Speed said...

"The Bells" is such an immense old favorite of mine only because it brings me back to seventh grade and my true discovery of poetry. I bought the Poe collection from the Magna Bookmobile and still have it, with its yellowing pages, and well remember the hours I recited his poems aloud just to hear the music in them. It was a revelation at the time. So, I guess, certain poems hit us at just the right time to do some good. Happy new year to you, Laura.

Author Amok said...

Happy New Year, Toby. My parents gave me the Poe collection for the holidays when I was about that age. Like you, I've kept it and spent hours poring through. I'm surprised (shouldn't have been!) that this one has a Dark Side.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Poe and the bells sort of take me away -- though Sharon Creech's dogs and cats are really more to my taste. (I avoided Hate That Cat based on the title for some time, but like it as much as Love That Dog.)

Still, now you've got that chime going in my ear.

Happy new year!

Tara said...

You finish reading the poem and the sound of the bells keeps going! This is a fabulous mentor text for teaching the power of repetition and rhythm.
Happy New Year, Laura!

Unknown said...

I love it. It's no fun to read silently, that's for sure. But think about declaiming it from a treehouse. That's living.

Hey, do you know "Marriage" by Gregory Corso? I think you might like that one...

Author Amok said...

Hi, Jeannine. I preferred "Love that Dog" because Jack's discovery of poetry was portrayed so beautifully.

Tara -- I haven't tried teaching this one. Maybe grade 5-8? Do you have a lesson you use?

Happy New Year, Blythe. I'll check out that poem.

Julie said...

I've loved this since seeing/hearing it performed by a big group of middle schoolers - each one reading a line, and then individual voices saying each "bell" quickly, one right after another, as if really pealing - just as it should be: a real clamor and clangor! I think it requires a variety of voices to shine - and it's one of the few times you can really allow for excess - after all, it's Poe! Thanks for posting it.

Mary Lee said...

He does go on, doesn't he? But I notice that in those last few lines, he rings the word "bells" twelve times. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Julie and Mary Lee. Thanks for the New Year's wishes. Looks like we're all a group of "Bells" lovers.

The more I think about the poem, the more interesting it becomes. He's got the section for church bells, wedding bells, and ends with the funeral bells.

The Word Pimp said...

I thought it was more of a discussion than a debate. I grew up enthralled by the Vincent Price movies inspired by Poe's work, so a copy of Poe's work was one of the first things I grabbed as soon as I learned to read.

I always felt as if Poe just became more obsessive as the poem went on, going from cheerful to celebratory to ominous. By the end, he couldn't escape them. Of course, none of us can escape funeral bells, at least figuratively; but I think it was more literal for Poe. ¿Didn't he suffer from tinnitus?

The Word Pimp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.