Edgar Allan Poe

(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849 / Boston)

The Bells - Poem 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 an 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 a 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 clamor and the clangor 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 menace 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,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean 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-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Comments about The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe

  • (11/24/2017 10:29:00 AM)

    This poem was put to music by one of America's greatest 20 th century song writers, Phil Ochs. (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (8/10/2015 8:20:00 PM)

    ........fabulous write...in the 1800's, the use of bells was more common than today ★ (Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • Peyton Webb (10/6/2012 12:54:00 PM)

    Favorite Word of All Time: Tintinnabulation (Report)Reply

    (12/23/2014 10:00:00 PM)

    Interesting then that he made the word up. No joke, he invented the word to fit with the poem.

    44 person liked.
    18 person did not like.
  • (9/22/2012 6:54:00 PM)

    Ah, one of my favourites. Poe had such an ear for rhythm, everything in this poem flows so easily with a beat and chime madder than the bells themselves. Beautiful. (Report)Reply

    36 person liked.
    18 person did not like.
  • (5/5/2012 8:55:00 AM)

    @Jon P,
    Boring? Really? ! ? You do know that his repetition of the word bells is representative of the telling of the bells themselves, right? It's not meant to be read in time. It's supposed to be arhythmic. As cadencial as Poe tends to be, we often assume that everything will be cadencial. Try reading it again this time reading the repeated bells section slowly and out of time.

    24 person liked.
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  • (12/19/2011 11:35:00 AM)

    When children were actual children they read shel silverstein....when i was a little child i was reading edgar allen poe (Report)Reply

    35 person liked.
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  • (5/2/2010 6:36:00 AM)

    THis poem has such a ring to it. He manipulated the rythm to dance across your tongue and ears, it is definitly one of his best works. in short The Bells is a masterpiece. (Report)Reply

    38 person liked.
    13 person did not like.
  • (5/16/2009 5:37:00 PM)

    This is such an awesome, musical poem.Someone should write music to this poem, if they haven't already. I agree with James Sides's comment.Poe had a natural sense of rhythm.Hie poems are so smooth, and flow so easily. He is (imo) the best classic poet of all-time.

    Lauren Marie Elizabeth Ryan

    27 person liked.
    16 person did not like.
  • Dr.subhendu Kar (2/7/2009 2:39:00 PM)

    simply wonderful, i am yet speechless to the cadence as eloquently flows, hats off to great work, (Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
    14 person did not like.
  • (8/7/2008 8:25:00 AM)

    Is there a poet in history with such a natural sense of rhythm as Poe? He has such cadence (Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
    15 person did not like.
  • (12/27/2007 10:39:00 PM)

    A student in Russia read this poem in translation and shyly recommended it anonymously to Sergei Rachmaninoff who was taken with it. He composed a grand setting of it for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra that it absolutely splendid. The composer made a successful search for the young women to personally thank her for the tip. (Report)Reply

    21 person liked.
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  • (10/14/2006 8:02:00 AM)

    You are right akara. The poem indeed is about the four stages of life. I just heard it yesteday, through a fabulous rendition by an english teacher named Wendy Dickson. I must admit it left all the listeners spellbound for the sheer beauty of the poem as well as the rendition. It was an honour to listen to it... (Report)Reply

    (8/9/2018 1:23:00 PM)

    In reality, it is a re-presentation of Plato's classification of Four Types of Soul, not stages of life.

    18 person liked.
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  • (8/27/2006 6:10:00 PM)

    I love this poem! It's definitely one of my favorite poems by Poe. The first time I read it was out of the literature book in my English class in 9th grade, and I immediately became obsessed with it, I was going around to all my friends saying 'Read this! ' and they were like, 'Why? I don't get it...' Heh... But like Shen Roseman said, the words just seem to flow so well. I don't know if the stanzas of this poem are supposed to symbolize Poe's various moods, as Jon P said, but I think they represent the stages of life (although I may be wrong) . Carefree, merry childhood, as represented by the silver sleigh bells, and then the wedding bells, as in marriage, the alarm bells, as in the hardships of life and adulthood, then the death bells. It's a very unique way to symbolize life. :) (Report)Reply

    15 person liked.
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  • (3/6/2005 1:27:00 PM)

    Poetry Criticism

    Title: The Bells
    Author: Edgar Allen Poe
    Date Of Publication: 1849
    In the poem, “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe there are many different poetic elements. The poem contains spectacular imagery not only of the littoral brass bells but also of the setting that the bells are played or the circumstances. Poe paints a “picture” of the different types of bells and creates a mood to that piece of the poem. There are four different subsections to this poem. Each subsection creates a completely different kind of mood from the previous section.

    The first section of this poem creates the sensation of a perfect snowy day where the snow lays on the ground as if it was laden with crystals. It is so cold that ice has formed on the trees and the clouds twinkle with frosty mist. The heavens, including the stars, even seem to have this icy look much as if they were diamonds. The bells in the second section have a very charming tune and they entice listeners by the pacifying sound that soothes the soul. All aspects of life, at the current time, seem to move in musical time with the bells. The allusion Poe created of a songlike melody appeals to musicians as well as people who like music. The music of the bells creates a feeling of freedom and overwhelming joy that fills the soul and charms the heavy hearted.
    The second section of the poem “The Bells” is a change of tune from the icy tinkling to the echoing of wedding bells at night. The author tries to create another scene of joyous gala. The bells in the second section foretell of the occasion that is about to happen, a wedding. The deep tones of the bells delight all that listen, whether human or animal by the euphony that emanates so that even the moon listens to the fluid flow of the song. It seems as the night is made perfect and all is well with the universe.
    MLA Citation:
    Maverick. Poetry Analysis. 9 April 2002. Center For Written And Oral
    Communication. 5 March 2005

    Criticism 2:
    In stanza three there are sounds and descriptions of alarm bells. He uses the words
    clanging, clashing, and roaring to give a sense of alarm. He describes how the bells clamor and clangor out of tune in order to send the message of alarm to those around it.
    In the forth stanza there are bells that are rung for the diseased. He says that the noises
    they make are mainly moans, and groans, from their rusty iron throats. This gives the feeling of sadness and sorrow. He also makes it seem like the bells are alive, and they want to be rung making more people dead. Which means that they are glad when death comes around. I think that Poe repeated everything so that people get a sense of what really is happening. But I think, when he says things over, and over like the word Bells, it starts to get boring and annoying to me. Poe probably wrote about these different bells for all the moods he has had in his life. This poem was hard to understand, but good. The words he used were pretty good. His choice of words went well with his poem.
    MLA Citation:
    The Bells. (n.d.) Midtermpapers.com. 5 March 2005.

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Robert Frost

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Read poems about / on: wedding, time, moon, fire, anger, people, night, despair, happiness, future, world, silver, woman, silence, happy, alone, dance, women, star

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Poem Edited: Thursday, January 19, 2012

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