Ringing In The New Year

bellsOn New Year’s Eve groups of church bell ringers will gather all over the world to pray, and reflect, and to ring in the new year. They 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 church bells ring in the New Year 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 other poetry books are available from Amazon or on order from your local bookstore, or direct from the publisher here

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.


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

7 responses to “Ringing In The New Year

  1. Gregory Morris

    Thank you once again for your ministry. I am heading off to Liverpool Cathedral to ring out the old year later. We should remember the people of York whose Minster Bells are likely to remain silent. May they be heard soon. Many bellringers have been saddened by the events of the last 3 months at York. This poem reminds us of the joy that the bells bring even as we enjoy ringing the changes which drawon our gaze upwards and remind us of things which are of abiding value.

  2. Pingback: Ringing In The New Year – BothSidesNow

  3. Oh, to hear some true English bells this evening, instead of the random backyard fireworks of New Mexico! Ah, well, we do love this place. Reading Tennyson from Waiting on the Word this New Year’s Eve was very daunting with our Presidential Inauguration on the horizon. I did not like either choice; there would be darkness with both. But the poem seemed almost ironic in light of the seemingly specific darkness ahead! Thank you for your reminder in your essay of the Ultimate: ‘But ultimately…’ — that great and graceful ‘But/Yet/However’ of Jesus Christ. We’ll ring our little, tinkling string of bells here in our home and take courage!

  4. pokeyone

    Oh, beautiful Church Bells. Thank you, Malcolm.

  5. What a beautiful piece, Malcolm. Thank you.

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