On this, the last day of 2009 and the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I sought out the familiar phrase, “Ring out the old, ring in the new”, and found that it was originally written in a poem by Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of Britain during Queen Victoria’s reign.
Tennyson wrote a very long poem titled, “In Memoriam: A.H.H.”, after the death of his best friend and fellow poet, Arthur Henry Hallam, in 1833. Hallam, who had been engaged to Tennyson’s sister, suddenly died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of only 23. Tennyson never fully recovered from the loss. “Ring Out, Wild Bells” is one of 133 poems in the full work.
By the way, another segment of this poem-within-a-poem contains the very famous stanza, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”.
While major portions of this poem deal with the death of his dear friend, Tennyson also calls upon us to live up to our highest ideals of faith, courage, nobility and love for our fellow man. Although his words were written over 175 years ago, to me they ring as true now as ever.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkenss of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.