Timaios Press

To the Bells (poem)

Andrew_CrosseAndrew Crosse (1784–1855) was an English scientist and romantic poet, well known in his days for his experiments with electricity. Among his intimate friends were Robert Southey and William Savage Landor. According to Cornelia Crosse in Memorials, Scientific and Literary, of Andrew Crosse, the Electrician (1857), he wrote the following poem around 1820. It must be noted that this was 30 years before Lord Tennyson wrote the very similar and very classic poem Ring Out, Wild Bells (1850). Is it possible that Tennyson (a devoted student of science and natural philosophy) read Crosse’s poem and simply plagiarised it?


By Andrew Crosse

YE wanton sounds, that dare invade
With reckless glee the midnight hour,
When all is wrapt in solemn shade,
And Sleep would fain assert her power:

Why burst ye on the stillness round
With flighty taunt and accents new,
Like idle jest careless to wound
When grief demands its homage due?

Is it that your triumphant strains
Laugh that another year is fled,
And that, alas! one less remains
Ere earth shall close upon its dead?

Is it to vaunt that time gone by
Has swept all wintry storms away,
That grief no more shall raise a sigh,
And phantom hopes no more betray

By strange though vain attempt to blind
Us, too well school’d in Nature’s lore?
To leave unwept all pain behind,
And view all pleasure placed before?

To tell — what every gale denies
Which strews the blossoms on the plain,
Or when, more wrath, the angry skies
Hurl fierce defiance o’er the main?

Would ye disturb the silent crowds
Whose dust forgotten sleeps below,
And wrench them from their mouldering shrouds
For this sad world of sin and woe?

Again to rouse the victor’s ire,
To wrap new towns in sheets of flame,
Again command the poet’s lyre
To hymn those deeds of blood and shame?

Would ye call back to mortal strife
The maniac’s scream, the felon’s gloom,
The unutterable woes of life,
Again to sink into the tomb?

The bird that wails from its lone dell,
The moon’s ray sleeping o’er the luke,
The rippling stream, all form a spell
That mortal music scarce may break.

And yet I still would hail your song,
Which those I loved once heard with glee;
And while its swell the winds prolong,
Would dream of pleasures ne’er to be!

Would dream — alas! poor human dreams,
Like your sweet tones, soon fade in air,
And spring’s green buds, and summer gleams,
Must sink in death, however fair!

Still, e’en on earth all is not lost,
Though roses droop, and joys depart;
For sharpest thorns, and fancies crossed
Shall cease alike to yield their smart:

And Happiness, though swift her wing,
Shall drag afar her sister Pain;
For neither shall a paean sing,
Nor boast a solitary reign.

Then sport, ye bells, in thoughtless peal;
For as your notes together blend,
Their echoes thrill with woe and weal,
Linked arm in arm till time shall end!

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