Edgar Allan Poe's poem 'The Bells' stands as a masterpiece of sonic and thematic complexity.

Written in 1849, this lyrical journey delves into the deep and varied resonances of bells, capturing their beauty and terror through a haunting and rhythmic narrative. Poe masterfully uses the bell as a symbol, weaving through stages of life from the jingling of sleigh bells to the mournful tolling of funeral bells.

This poem not only showcases Poe’s exceptional command of language and rhythm but also reflects his fascination with the macabre and the transient nature of human experience. Plus any writing that uses the word “tintinabulation” should be taken seriously.

The Bells 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 tintinabulation 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 all 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!


Read the rest of the poem here.

For those who like folk singers, Phil Ochs set the poem to music.