what do " The Bells" mean?greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread
What do the poem The Bells mean??? Why Did Edgar Allan Poe Wrote it???
-- Anonymous, February 03, 2002
Mrs. Caroline Kirkland in the Union Magazine issued a sort of challenge that a lively poem of twenty line uniting feeling and thought could be woth twenty books. Having "Ulalume" by her Poe seemed to be searching for a poem to rise to the occasion. Visiting Mary Louise Shew Houghton(widow) in NYC, 47 Bond Street, the exhausted Poe complained he couldn't get inspiration for a poem and the bells were bothering him. The lady offered to help by penning a start to a couple of stanzas of a poem called "The Bells". Poe wnet off and gratefully said the poem belonged to her- then he went to sleep for 12 hours. Subsequently he sold it to the Union Magazine under John Sartain, revising the poem gradually from 18 lines to its present form. For all this he received $45. Hooray. The bells, including one nearby called "The Silver Bell" of the churches could have been ringing together on a Sunday - or because of a fire as per custom. Bells were common poetic fare but Poe's treatment was unique and a great example of onomatopaeia.(Source for info is Thomas Mabbott's book on Poe's poems.
So sound comes before meaning and all else. See "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Devil in the Belfy" especially. Poe takes us on a epic of the seasons of life here. The first is youthful promise of happiness presaged by the tingling sledge bells moving through a crystalline night(stars are beacons of hope and happiness). Perhaps a courtship time. The n comes marriage and the church bells peel, still foretelling future bliss from winter to midummer night. harmony. Now horror and tragedy symbolized by a fire and the bells tuned to danger and the fire. The wrath of conflict becomes loud, brazen, discordant. The last stage(unpersonified but like the final tragedy of a life) af=gain at night as in the other three. Solemnity, fear. See "lenore" while the bell mourns the haunting King of Ghouls within moves in a Paean of joy. So from the discord of tragedy we have the funereal double mood of Poe to end the tragedy Man. He uses the less demonic ghouls for the inhabitants of the church bells perhaps because he sympathizes as much with their mood as with melancholy.
-- Anonymous, February 05, 2002