Ring Out, Wild Bells

From Changeringing Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ring Out, Wild Bells is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson's elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister's fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two.

According to a story widely held in Waltham Abbey, and repeated on many websites (see two examples below), the 'wild bells' in question were the bells of the Abbey Church. According to the local story, Tennyson was staying at High Beach in the vicinity and heard the bells being rung. In some versions of the story it was a particularly stormy night and the bells were being swung by the wind rather than deliberately.

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 thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.


The Gresham's School chapel bell is inscribed with the last line of the poem, plus an attribution to the donor: "Ring in the Christ that is to be, Donum Dedit J. R. E."[1]

Manchester Town Hall's hour bell, called 'Great Abel' after the Town Clerk, Abel Heywood, who oversaw the construction of the building - completed 1850, has the lines, 'Ring out the false, ring in the true' cast upon its surface.

Musical Settings

Charles Gounod's setting for voice and piano, published in 1880, uses verses one, two, three, five, seven, and eight.[2]

Percy Fletcher's 1914 SATB setting uses all but the fifth stanza of the poem, using the second stanza as a recurring refrain[3]

The second, seventh and eighth stanza were set to music by Karl Jenkins in the finale ("Better is Peace") of The Armed Man.[4]

The first, second and last stanza were set to music by Crawford Gates, and it is included in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1985 hymnal (hymn number 215).[5]

The first, second, third, fifth and seventh stanzas are set to music by Jonathon Dove for the final movement of his "Passing of the Year" song cycle written for Double Choir (SSAATTBB).

James Q Mullholland – set the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th stanzas to music in honour of Gary Schwartzhoff in a commissioned piece by members and friends at First Congregational Church, Eau Claire, WI. 2011. First sung by the UW Eau Claire Concert Choir on Sunday, 10 April 2011. Sung again by the Chancel Choir of First Congregational Church on Sunday, 22 May 2011.

Excerpts of the poem were also utilised by George Harrison in his song Ding Dong ("Ring out the old – Ring in the new. Ring out the false – Ring in the true"). Harrison misattributed these passages to Sir Frank Crisp since they were all written and engraved on walls and other parts of Friar Park, the mansion bought by Harrison which once belonged to Sir Frank.

The final song of "Ballads for Christmas" by Andrew Downes for high voices and harp.

More recently, Jonathan Ward of Magdalen College School composed a setting.

External links


  1. Benson, S. G. G., and Martin Crossley Evans, I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School (James & James, London, 2002, ISBN 0-907383-92-0), p. 58
  2. Songs from the Published Writings of Alfred Tennyson. Set to Music by Various Composers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880
  3. Fletcher, Percy. Ring out, wild bells (Novello, 1914, 5020679505113)
  4. Jenkins, Karl. The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace (complete vocal score). 1999. London: Boosey & Hawkes, 2003.
  5. Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Ring Out, Wild Bells