Ring Out, Wild Bells
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|by Alfred, Lord Tennyson|
"Ring Out, Wild Bells" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson's elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister's fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two.
According to a story widely held in Waltham Abbey, and repeated on many websites (see two examples below), the 'wild bells' in question were the bells of the Abbey Church. According to the local story, Tennyson was staying at High Beach in the vicinity and heard the bells being rung. In some versions of the story it was a particularly stormy night and the bells were being swung by the wind rather than deliberately.
- 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.
Manchester Town Hall's hour bell, called 'Great Abel' after the Town Clerk, Abel Heywood, who oversaw the construction of the building - completed 1850, has the lines, 'Ring out the false, ring in the true' cast upon its surface.
A translation to Swedish by Edvard Fredin called 'Nyårsklockan' - 'the new year's bell' - is recited just before the stroke of midnight at the annual new year's eve festivities at Skansen in Stockholm, capital of Sweden. This tradition began in 1897 when the young Swedish actor Anders de Wahl was asked to recite the poem. de Wahl then performed the poem annually until his death in 1956. Since 1977 the Swedish national public TV broadcaster, SVT, airs the event live, and the first to read the poem on television was the actor Georg Rydeberg. The show turned out to be a major success, and watching it on new year's eve quickly became a nation-wide tradition. Rydeberg recited the poem until his death in 1983. After that many famous Swedish actors and/or singers have recited the poem, for example Jarl Kulle, Jan Malmsjö and Margaretha Krook. It should be noted that the Swedish translation differs significantly from the English original.
The first, second, third, fifth and seventh stanzas are set to music by Jonathon Dove for the final movement of his "Passing of the Year" song cycle written for Double Choir (SSAATTBB).
James Q Mullholland – set the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th stanzas to music in honour of Gary Schwartzhoff in a commissioned piece by members and friends at First Congregational Church, Eau Claire, WI. 2011. First sung by the UW Eau Claire Concert Choir on Sunday, 10 April 2011. Sung again by the Chancel Choir of First Congregational Church on Sunday, 22 May 2011.
Excerpts of the poem were also utilised by George Harrison in his song Ding Dong, Ding Dong ("Ring out the old – Ring in the new. Ring out the false – Ring in the true"). Harrison misattributed these passages to Sir Frank Crisp once they were all written and engraved on walls and other parts of Friar Park, the mansion bought by Harrison which once belonged to Sir Frank.
The final song of "Ballads for Christmas" by Andrew Downes for high voices and harp.
More recently, Jonathan Ward of Magdalen College School composed a setting.
- Benson, S. G. G., and Martin Crossley Evans, I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School (James & James, London, 2002, ISBN 0-907383-92-0), p. 58
- Manchester Town Hall Clock Tower, www.ManchesterConfidential.co.uk http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/Culture/Architecture/Manchester-Town-Hall-Tower-does-it-look-wrong
- Songs from the Published Writings of Alfred Tennyson. Set to Music by Various Composers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880
- Fletcher, Percy. Ring out, wild bells (Novello, 1914, 5020679505113)
- Jenkins, Karl. The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace (complete vocal score). 1999. London: Boosey & Hawkes, 2003.
- Godfrey Birtill's CD – Ring Out Wild Bells : Ring out Wild Bells by Godfrey Birtill was inspired by this poem
-  : three stanzas set to music
- Free MP3 download
-  : beautifully rendered by The Plain Healers.
-  : Waltham Abbey Town Council with reference to 'wild bells'
-  : Essex County Council (PDF) with reference to 'wild bells'
-  Guide to Waltham Abbey church.
- Ring Out, Wild Bells public domain audiobook at LibriVox