Ring Out, Wild Bells

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"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, 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.


The Gresham's School chapel bell is inscribed with the last line of the poem, plus an attribution to the donor: "Ring in the Christ that is to be, Donum Dedit J. R. E."[1]

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.[2]


A rather free translation of this poem is recited annually at the national New Year's Eve celebration in Sweden every year by actor and singer Jan Malmsjö, who has recited the poem since 31 December 2001. The Swedish tradition of reading 'Ring Out, Wild Bells' began in 1897 when the young Swedish actor Anders de Wahl was asked to perform the poem at the annual New Year's Eve Celebration at Skansen in Stockholm. Anders de Wahl performed 'Ring Out, Wild Bells' (which, in Swedish, is called 'Nyårsklockan') until his death in 1956. The television producers at Sweden's biggest channel SVT decided to broadcast the annual New Years Celebration from Skansen in Stockholm on television, and this was first broadcast on 31 December 1977 when actor Georg Rydeberg read the poem. This turned out to be a major success and Rydeberg recited the poem until his death in 1983. It should be clearly noted that the Swedish translation varies from the English original.

Musical Settings[edit]

Charles Gounod's setting for voice and piano, published in 1880, uses verses one, two, three, five, seven, and eight. [3]

Percy Fletcher's 1914 SATB setting uses all but the fifth stanza of the poem, using the second stanza as a recurring refrain[4]

The second, seventh and eighth stanza were set to music by Karl Jenkins in the finale ("Better is Peace") of The Armed Man.[5]

The first, second and last stanza were set to music by Crawford Gates, and it is included in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1985 hymnal (hymn number 215).[6]

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.


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Manchester Town Hall Clock Tower, www.ManchesterConfidential.co.uk http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/Culture/Architecture/Manchester-Town-Hall-Tower-does-it-look-wrong
  3. ^ Songs from the Published Writings of Alfred Tennyson. Set to Music by Various Composers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880
  4. ^ Fletcher, Percy. Ring out, wild bells (Novello, 1914, 5020679505113)
  5. ^ Jenkins, Karl. The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace (complete vocal score). 1999. London: Boosey & Hawkes, 2003.
  6. ^ https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns/ring-out-wild-bells?lang=eng

External links[edit]