Taken from his long elegy In Memoriam, published in 1850, this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) virtually concludes the cycle of poems as a whole. In Memoriam A. H. H. is an elegy, comprising a whopping 133 cantos, for Tennyson’s friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who had died suddenly in 1833. ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’ shows Tennyson regaining his faith and overcoming his grief when hearing the bells ringing in Christmas Day.
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.
If you enjoyed ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’, you might also enjoy our pick of Tennyson’s greatest poems.