‘Ring Out Wild Bells,’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is a poem that emphasizes his popular phrase, “Old order changeth, giving place to new.” This poem of eight quatrains, i.e., each stanza consisting of four lines, is a plea for transition, for good. A part of In Memoriam, A. H. H., the title of the poem, “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” itself suggests ringing out or bidding goodbye. On the other hand, ‘Bells’ also indicate welcoming something new. On analyzing the title, it is apparent that the poem is about bidding goodbye to the old and welcoming the new.
The phrases ‘flying cloud’ and ‘frosty light’ are symbolic of a cold and windy winter evening. ‘The year is dying in the night suggests it to be New Year’s Eve as the year is dissolving with the onset of night, and the poet tells us to let the night pass and bring an end to the year. The second stanza talks about bidding adieu to the old year by ringing bells and, at the same time, ringing those bells to salute the New Year, a new beginning. ‘Ring, happy bells, across the snow again indicates the cold winter month of January. The poet tells the reader to do away with falsehood and with the New Year, make a new beginning, and embrace the truth.
The third stanza is an entreaty to mankind, in general, to let go of all their pent-up sorrow for those who are no more with us, as they now rest in peace. Also, the prolonged bitter quarrel between the rich and the poor must be done away with, and all fellow human beings must together rectify their past mistakes and put an end to class differences.
In the fourth stanza, ‘Slowly dying cause’ refers to customs or reasons which are now futile and prove to be a hindrance to change. All old conflicts must be forgotten and replaced with more virtuous ways of living. Every person must be good to each other and be guided by fresh and ethical laws, which are harmful to none. We must turn our backs on materialistic objectives which make us indulge in immoral desires. Cynicism and suspicion must be bid farewell to, and melancholic tunes must be rung out. Instead, medieval melodies of minstrels must be rung in.
The final three stanzas tell us conceit, regionalism, spitefulness, and other human vanities must be banished and replaced with love for humanity and good for society. Honesty and righteousness must prevail. The desire for peace must overrule greed, lust, and wars. Darkness must be eradicated forever by the kindness and love in the human heart. All men will be free and gallant. These lines are an attestation to Tennyson’s belief that no man is inherently evil and that the ability to love resides in every human. ‘Ring in the Christ that is to be’ is suggestive of never losing Faith, as the ultimate redemption lies in God, as He is the Almighty and heals all. This highlights the poet’s attachment to his Faith and demonstrates his conviction that salvation is achievable only by surrender to God.
You could also check out the summary of The Heart of The Tree.
Updated by Anjali Roongta on 16th April 2023.
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