Ringing in The New Year

bellsOn New Years Eve a group of us will gather in the mediaeval Bell Tower of St. Edward’s church in Cambridge to pray, and reflect, and to ring in the new year. We will be participating in a long tradition. George Herbert imagined Prayer itself as ‘Church Bells beyond the stars heard’ and the great turning point in In Memoriam, Tennyson’s great exploration of time and eternity, mortality and resurrection, doubt and faith, comes with the ringing of bells for the new year and his famous and beautiful lines beginning ‘Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,’ and concluding:

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. (For more of this passage and my talks on Tennyson click Here)

I love to hear our bells, the oldest of which has chimed in our tower since the fifteenth century, and so I have made my own small contribution to the poetry and meaning of bell ringing in the following sonnet, which is taken from my collection ‘Sounding the Seasons’

Sounding the Seasons and my new book The singing bowl are both available from Amazon or on order from your local bookstore

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the title or pressing the ‘play’ button.

New Year’s Day: Church Bells

 Not the bleak speak of mobile messages,

The soft chime of synthesised reminders,

Not texts, not pagers, data packages,

Not satnav or locators ever find us

As surely, soundly, deeply as these bells

That sound and find and call us all at once

‘Ears of my ears’ can hear, my body feels

This call to prayer that is itself a dance.

So ring  them out in joy and jubilation,

Sound them in sorrow tolling for the lost,

O let them wake the church and rouse the nation,.

A sleeping lion stirred to life at last

Begin again they sing, again begin,

A ring and rhythm answered from within.

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge

The Bell Tower at St. Edward King and Martyr Cambridge


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems, St. Edward's

3 responses to “Ringing in The New Year

  1. Dear Malcolm

    Intentionally stopping by as the year turns to say thank you so very much for the way in which you so generously share your work (spoken and written), thoughts and the rhythm of your life. I relish the links you make between life, literature and spirituality – they inspire and nourish me. The way in which you honour and enable us to grow through tradition yet speak to the present is powerful and gives me a thread of encouragement upon which to weave my work.

    As a student I was never in Cambridge at New Year but I am able to see the tower in my mind’s eye and will be there in spirit. In fact I am more lately in the +Edward King Chapel at Cuddesdon!

    With every blessing as we journey on into 2014

  2. Reblogged this on New Beginnings and commented:
    For anyone not familiar with the wonderful Malcolm Guite and his wonderful poetry, check it out here. I love Tennyson’s “Ring out, wild bells” having encountered it set to music by the contemporary British composer Jonathan Dove. Malcolm’s sonnet on the theme of church bells is beautiful too.

  3. Gregory Morris

    I hope this blog has spurred Michael Ward to make a New Year’s resolution to get back into bellringing!

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