The Bells what is it about?greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread
I was wondering if anyone could help me out with "The Bells" I need to know what was the subject of his poem, and why he wrote it in laymans terms. I also would like to know what Poe's writing style was for the most part. Thanks!
-- Anonymous, May 27, 2003
Poe has a unique and intensely focussed style and select themes. When added to a story with an narrator mediating the presentation the casual reader can be thrown for a partial loss. Understanding how Poe wrote the bells is a simple first step to piercing this double veil.
In response to a magazine editor's cahllenge for a short 20 line poem containing great feeling and thought to rival "an epic of twenty books" Poe visited Marie Louise Shew Houghton at 47 Bond St. in New York City. Bothered by the noise of Church bells she started himoff on the poem "The Bells". After some back and forth Poe was off and away. Later he lengthened the poem strengthening the themes he was bringing to the initial combination of mood with their sound and that onomatopaeiac structure. If the bells were so loud there may have been a fire. Other occasions for general ringings might be more festive or the proximity more happy and intimate(sledges, wedding). Poe could have easily spun off on the theme due to his prior works "The Devil in the Belfry" and "The Masque of the Red Death"(progress of time to death marked off by the chiming clock). So putting all this matter together Poe comes up with this variety and relentless progress to death, like the stages of life rung in and out.
The first stanza portrait is an ingenious mirror of sparkling snow, twinkling stars and the ari filled with the corresponding tinkling of many little seldge bells. So this small, friendly bell sound is everywhere, runic rhyme(magic connections between all these forms). The merry sleighbell mood.
Second stanza: "balmy air of night" from winter silver to summer gold, a fuller happiness, a rapture that gushes full of promise and passion for the Future. This corresponds to Poe's young early hopes and roimance as the first perhaps to the magic enchanted child. Wedding bells, turtledove- married love.
Third: the fire alarm bells match the fire itself andf the bb and flow of danger. The mood is terror and despair.
Fourth: Funeral bells, the last act. Silence is the backdrop(see Poe's many works on the fearfully ominous silence). The bells themselves have throats of rust. The troll people are spirits of memory and mocking(the Raven). Moaning and groaning of despair and mourning next to the incessant ringing, bordering on madness. (See "The Haunted Palace" that goes through a similar sympathetic pattern of life and decay). The ghouls, etc. are indetrminate caretakers of haunting not hellish demons. And the mix of unities of sound, sight, human events and emotions is very rich and symbolic. More than a relentless clock or ewave, they sympathetically match each different time they are rung with special bells for special times, speaking and feeling the mood themselves it seems. And who is speaking? The poet himself relating all his reactions to various bells evoking finally those thems also most powerful in his life in order, no story characters clearly present, just the sound itself relaying the life- as the challenge originally asked.
-- Anonymous, May 28, 2003
A great interactive reading of this poem at knowingpoe/thinkport.org with variations you can choose.
-- Anonymous, May 28, 2003