Ringing in the New Year


Tennyson shows us how

In 1833 Tennyson’s friend, Arthur Hallam, died, aged 22. The poem ‘In Memoriam’ is Tennyson’s tribute to him. I often think of the section of the poem printed below on New Year’s Eve. I imagine the poet standing at the window, listening to the bells proclaiming the new year, and imagining them ringing in the good and ringing out the bad.

The year had been one of reform: in August, slavery had finally been abolished, and, in the same month, the Factory Act was passed, improving working conditions. Yet there was still widespread poverty and disease.

Nearly two hundred years later, there are still deep concerns about the state of our nation, and many of the ills Tennyson describes are still with us.

So what can we learn from this poem as writers? That expressing hope and despair through the metaphor of bell ringing presents abstract ideas through a physical act. It’s always best to convey the theoretical through the specific and concrete. Then ideas stop being hypothetical and become grounded and believable.

I hope 2019 brings us all writing success.

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.

StyleGill ThompsonComment