Saturday, 19 September 2015

Bells

Your Saturday blogger comes bouncing back like a sun-kissed Tigger from his Kefalonian sojourn, rejuvenated (lovely word) by a week of late-summer Mediterranean heat and raring to expatiate on the nominated theme of bells. [I hope you like the picture, by the way.]


According to my favourite encyclopaedia (a Greek-derived word): "a bell is a hollow vessel usually of metal, but sometimes of horn, wood, glass or clay, struck near the rim by an interior clapper or exterior hammer to produce a ringing sound. Bells may be categorised as idiophones, instruments sounding by the vibration of resonant solid material, and more broadly as percussion instruments."

I guess we all knew most of that already, except maybe for the part about the idiophone (another Greek-derived word). That discovery truly delighted me and proved the inspiration for this week's poem (yet another Greek-derived word), the humorous verse you can find below.

The history of bells is millennia old. Almost from the dawn of civilisation crude percussive objects have been crafted to sound warnings, to frighten away evil spirits, to mark festive occasions or generally signal with. Metal bells first appeared in the Bronze age, as casting skills became sophisticated enough, and their use was widespread throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe for every purpose from the sublime - summoning the faithful to religious observance in tones that were supposed to replicate the voices of angels or the sound of paradise, to the prosaic - hanging round the necks of livestock to let the herdsmen locate their beasts. They've been used as early warning systems in times of invasion or dense fog or rampant disease. They've also been used to tell the time, or at least to sound out 'watches' on ships (from first through to eight bells). We elected to put them on our emergency vehicles, in our telephones, at our front doors and round our cats' necks. There's even a happy breed of people who like to be referred to as campanologists (not a Greek-derived word) and whose great pleasure in life is to ring bells. (I'm told it's actually quite a skill and a very sociable activity.)

So you've got to love the bell both for its simplicity of concept, its purity of sound and its sheer ubiquity. Even Chuck Berry sang about it.... no, wait - that was something else.


Idiophone
My freshly-forged and newly-fangled
idiophone arrived today.
The postman only knocked twice.
I'm the first one in my street to have one.
Excited? I should say.
I can hardly wait to use it,
looks so sexy, smart and shiny.
Intuitive, they're supposed to be,
just assemble and away you go -
you'd think any fool could put it together.
Not me, apparently.

The waist is sound
and I've found the crown,
attached it as shown
but then I realised the yoke's not provided.
I'm not hugely impressed
that you have to supply your own bit of wood;
olive or gopher is best, so it's said,
but I've had to make do with freshly-hewn yew.

The really distressing part is the clapper.
How is it meant to attach to the cone?
The instructions don't say
and I can't find a bolt or a pin
to affix the damned thing,
so right now my idiophone
hasn't a ring tone
unless you apply the clapper
like a hammer to the sound rim
in a deft but measured blow.

I thought I'd be elated,
the envy of my neighbours,
that when they saw and heard mine
everyone would clamour
for an idiophone of their own,
falling for the glamour of the clangour -
but getting to grips
with this leading-edge technology
has taken a rather heavy - albeit silent - toll.


Thanks for reading. Have a resoundingly good week, S ;-)
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1 comments:

Adele said...

Very informative and truly entertaining as usual Steve.
Perhaps you should get a small hand bell and you can ring it when you need more Greek coffee.