Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry Friday: Ring out the old, Ring in the new

In the bitter cold of this week and the sense that our nation is entering a new era, a poem from the 1850s is spinning round my memory. People think of this as a Christmas carol (because of the bells, I suppose) but it’s more accurately a New Year’s carol. The verses are part of a longer work Tennyson wrote when he was struggling with the untimely death of a friend who was engaged to marry his sister.

Harboring no delusions that any transformation will be easy or that any human politician is the anointed savior, I offer this poem because it expresses my fervent hope for a society that embraces the notion of commonweal.

from In Memoriam
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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 week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being held at Karen Edmisten's Blog. Stop by!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A nice selection, Sally. Not many people realize that's part of a bigger work -- I think it has something like 132 stanzas. It took Tennyson about seventeen years to write it!