Monday, December 28, 2020

Alfred Tennyson*

Alfred Tennyson (1809—1892) is well-celebrated as one of England’s greatest poets, although the poetics of the nineteenth century fell out of fashion in the twentieth. He served as Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland from 1850 until his death.

The following poem is from In Memoriam, A.H.H. (1850). Tennyson wrote the elegy as a tribute to his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam. It has been said that the image for this poem comes from when Tennyson was staying near Waltham Abbey and heard the church bells clanging in the wind on a stormy night.

Although it is technically addressed to the bells, the poem is like a New Year’s prayer, and acknowledges the one we need to turn to. I find the request in stanza four particularly fitting for our troubled times as we enter 2021.

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 my 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.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Alfred Tennyson: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.