Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Bell Ringers

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne: 1572 -1631

From ancient towers
Generations of gnarled hands
Have rung the knell
To tell of life's decay.
Departed now, they
Rung the ‘dings’
And dirgeful ‘dongs.’
Sending soulful songs
Down lost Sundays
Of the dead,
Instilling dread.
The chilling figure’s
Keenly sharpened scythe
Nearer with each chime.
 Time takes his toll.
Each dying soul
Adding to the roll-call
Of the dead.
Inside my head
A beckoning bell
Begins to also ring,
Marking the ‘ding’
Of my short life
Against the scale
Of distant stars.

© James Rainsford 2012

Note to readers: Posted as my contribution to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. Your views are welcome and I'll respond to all who visit here and leave a comment.
Kind regards to all at dVerse Poets, James.


  1. lets hope your bell is a ways off james...smiles...where i grew up they had the sounding of the bells regularly...they have not for years, them coming under disrepair...though i know their meaning i often found comfort in their sounding...

  2. Oh, that sounds so ominous when said... our lives are so short on the scale of universal time. This is a truly lovely poem James.

  3. This is very good, James. I especially enjoyed the sound throughout the piece.

  4. Someone just walked over my grave! Goosebumps! This read, on the heels of the summer I am calling my own summer of death. Lost so many, young..old....and what it did to my head! How do you not turn to regard your own self...the lost times, the wasted much longer do we have to make it count...and, at the end of the day...does it even make a difference? Just a fantastic write, James...and can't wait to share you on Sunday! :)

  5. Yes, and it's a hard ringing to ignore. I lay in bed staring into the dark sometimes, trying to imagine that last darkness, how it will come, what it will be use the alliterative and other poetic arts well here to build a sing-song tension that replicates that sounding toll.

  6. last four lines really touched me James.

  7. "A beckoning bell
    Begins to also ring,
    Marking the ‘ding’
    Of my short life
    Against the scale
    Of distant stars"

    and yet we have that perspective within our tiny "ding" - amazing what our tiny souls seem to touch, i can only hope it's true we'll know so much more, eventually ;-)

  8. I can recall those times when bells rang often - marking out each Sunday and each Holy Day.

    They ring hardly ever now - but inside our bells still toll...(haven't heard mine yet and hopefully you haven't too.)

    Anna :o]


  9. I enjoyed your poem's bleak realism with no felt need to comfort.
    I enjoy the consonance and assonance too!
    I looked back at my chart to see where Donne was -- love the quote.
    I found the source here: it seems that in the same essay["Meditation"], he also coined, "No man is an island" where he speaks of our interconnectedness. "Yuan" in the title of my blog.

    Few questions:
    (1) Is "knarled" spelled wrong intentionally -- or is that dialect?
    (2) Isn't "knell" a verb?
    But those two lines both with "K" "mistakes" may work together!
    (3) "dirgeful" is a word you made up, correct? ("diferul", I know)

    All in all, a very fun read -- thanks!

  10. James,
    Here was your comment you put on my blog:
    Thanks for your comments on my poem 'The Bell Ringers.' Much appreciated.
    'knarled' was typing error, thanks. Should be 'gnarled,' now corrected.
    'knell' is usually a verb, but is also a noun, meaning the sound of a bell, especially when sounded to mark a death, or funeral. An example is the opening line of Thomas Gray's famous elergy: "The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,"
    'dirgeful' is not a made-up word. It's an adjective. Defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: 'full of lamentation, mournful.
    Finally, I'm perplexed as to why you described my poem as 'fun;' seems a very inaccurate description.
    Kind regards, James.

  11. Here is my reply to your comment (may I suggest you don't moderate comments to make the immediately visible):

    (1) I am glad I caught that gnarled typo for you! ;-)

    (2) Ah, thanks, didn't know knell could be a noun.

    (3) Thanx for helping me with "dirgeful" too. Probably "knarled" got me suspicious of words I did not recognize. Thanx for the education.

    As for why I wrote "Fun" -- I enjoy "bleak realism" -- I does not drag me into sadness, for I recognize what it is. In the beginning of the comment I said "enjoy" twice, so the "fun" aspect I think would have been obvious.

  12. Thanks for the comments Sabio and for the lesson in etiquette. Truly appreciated. ;-)


If you wish your views and opinions to be published here, please be polite and respectful. I welcome feedback on my work and will try to respond if you take the trouble to post a comment. Thanks for visiting 'The Sanctum of Sanity.' Hope you enjoyed the experience, James.