In his poem “The Bells,” Edgar Allan Poe presents four distinct types of bells and indicates correspondingly distinct associations for each type. The poet uses a third-person narrator as the speaker, who comments on the setting in which the bells are used and on the corresponding actions and moods.
In stanza 1, the silver bells are featured. They are attached to “sledges” or sleighs, on which people are apparently riding on a cold winter night. Toward the end of the stanza, these are called “jingling” bells, which brings to mind Christmastime. The sounds of the silver bells, which Poe presents with a number of words that bring up their musical qualities, are closely associated with happiness.
The speaker exclaims about the “world of merriment their melody foretells!” The word “foretells” indicates that this joyful state will exist in the future as much as it does in the present. The idea that happiness extends into the larger world is suggested by the speaker’s personification of the stars, which experience “delight”:
The stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight.
In the first stanza, Poe utilizes onomatopoeia, a literary device in which the sound of a word strongly suggests its meaning. Regarding the silver bells, this device is used in his coined word, “tintinnabulation,” which expresses the music that wells from these “tinkling” bells.