A poem for the turn of the year.
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.
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.
This poem marks, of course, a significant point in the journey of grief for his dear friend which Tennyson’s In Memoriam as a whole anatomises. The desire to see the end of ‘the feud of rich and poor… And ancient forms of party strife… [of] ‘faithless coldness… [and] want and care and sin’; the longing instead for that which is ‘true… nobler… sweeter… purer… fuller’: these may perhaps be part of that strange gift we can sometimes glean from grief, when we arise sobered and purified, somehow, full of the desire to add no more pain to a world which is already so full of hurt and difficulty.
Who knows if that was what it was about for Tennyson? Wherever it came from, this poem feels full of readiness to let go, and hopes about what may be to come. Amen, you might say; or, if you’re Jean-Luc Picard, ‘Make it so’.