What changes in tone occur between the stanzas of "The Bells"?

The four stanzas of "The Bells" change in tone from merrily happy in stanza 1, to the richer joy that comes from wedding bells in stanza 2, to the "shriek" and anxiety of alarm bells in stanza 3. It finally ends on the "menace" of the death bells in stanza 4, which is dreaded by humans but delighted in by ghouls.

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In the first stanza, the bells are associated with silver and with emotions of merriment and pleasure. The tone is happy, and the bells jingle and tinkle. The scene is at night, perhaps describing a high-spirited journey in a sleigh, and the stars overhead appear to twinkle in time with the ringing of the bells.

In the second stanza, the bells are golden and associated with the "mellow," or richer and more permanent, happiness of marriage. Here the bells have "molten-golden notes" and "chime" rather than tinkle or jingle. Their tone—and the stanza's tone—is deeper and fuller, reflecting both the joy and solemnity of wedded bliss.

In the third stanza, the bells are brassy, or "brazen," as they "shriek" out an alarm. The tone here is raucous, anxious, and unsettled, due to the alarm that is being rung. Danger "sinks" and "swells" as the bells "clamor" and "clang." The bells' sound is harsh and unpleasant.

The fourth stanza is more complex. The bells are described as "iron," and they "toll" the news of death. The tone in this stanza is ominous: listeners to these bells "shiver with affright" and hear "menace" in their repetitive tolling. However, the "ghouls" who ring the bells find pleasure and delight in all the death and misery. The king of the ghouls is "merry;" he "dances" and "yells." This adds an unsettling, frightening quality to the stanza as the unnatural glee of the ghoul combines with the mourning sound of the bells.

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