"From The Bells, Bells, Bells, Bells"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Poe's "The Bells" is a tour de force, an exercise in onnamatopoeia, in which the poet attempts to imitate in his verse the sound of bells of various kinds: sleigh bells, wedding, alarm, and funeral bells. The intellectual content of the poem is slight; there is a progression from the silver bells of a sledge on a snowy winter night, to the golden bells rung at a wedding, and then to the brazen bells ringing an alarm, and finally to the iron bells of a funeral. The poem is an example of what the French have called "pure poetry"; that is, poetry in which the sense has been subordinated to the sound. It is meant to be enjoyed as music without regard to any "meaning." Unfortunately, the poem has, ever since its publication, been parodied as much as any in American literature. The first stanza (abridged) follows:

Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!
. . .
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells–
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.