Sunday, 20 September 2015

Bells



      It’s a pleasure to be asked to write this week’s Lancashire Dead Good Poets Blog, on the subject of Bells. Looking at previous weeks blogs these are big shoes to fill, so please join me on an Indian summer’s day meander through a printable selection of the 20,000 random thoughts I will have today.


       Poetry has been described, like the eyes, as a window to the soul. In his poem ‘for whom the bell tolls’ 16th century poet John Donne explores the interconnectedness of humanity. It is from this piece that we get the phrase ‘no man is an island’ made popular by Ernest Hemingway in a novel about the Spanish civil war and his 1943 screen play ‘for whom the bell tolls’, featuring the late (and very pretty) Ingrid Bergman. A timely reference as I look in horror at the plight and treatment of innocent families fleeing Syria. I’m sure I’m not an island on that topic. There is a stark and severe non-interconnectedness of humanity about that.


       I was fortunate to go to a local (Fylde Coast) private school. I got a free place because Mum was poor. Like all schools we moved by the bell. Thankfully there was a good sense of camaraderie, and some inspiring teachers, especially English. It was here I first became interested in poetry; Ted Hughes stood out against a backdrop of painful Taylor-Coleridge ramblings, as did Wilde and also the War Poets.  It’s topical to mention as we approach the centennial anniversary of Wilfred Owens enlistment to fight in World War One. His observational poetry of that time, in my opinion, remains unrivalled. Owens ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ captures the true internal turmoil of war, likening men to cattle, and almost certain death not followed by the ‘mockery’ of a church burial:

 What passing-bells for those who die like cattle?
     Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
     Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
     Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells;
     And bugles calling them from sad shires.


What candles may be held to speed them all?
     Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
     The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
     And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds
.

        On a lighter note, references to bells are prevalent amongst children’s nursery rhymes. You can get some vitamin C advice, and anticipate future wealth from ‘The Bells of St Clements.” I’m not one for wishing misfortune on any living thing, but Little Johnny Flynn (of “Ding Dong Bell” fame) can plop my neighbour’s cat down a well to stop it defecating all over my garden. I have children. It stinks.  My neighbour once said if I got a cat it would stop their cat doing it. I don’t want a cat. It’s like saying to a non-smoker who quite rightly hates the smell of cigarette smoke “start smoking then you won’t notice it.”

        Anyway back to ‘bells.’ Whilst most discount retail stores are laden with Halloween paraphernalia, some garden centres and card shops have just gone straight for Christmas themes (some since the summer).  Cue bell mania.  Edgar Allen Poe really goes for it in his prose/poem ‘The Bells’ where he covers Christmas, weddings, war, bell ringers and ancient Britons.  Poe’s appetite for reflective philosophy is awakened in the following final couplet from the two stanza dream within a dream:

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

        The sound of a church bell ringing out on a summers afternoon is quintessentially English. That with the crack of leather on willow, snug cottages overgrown with ivy, unnecessary politeness, babbling streams, grocers shops and shiny motor cars. But what’s this? Church bells are bad for your health, as ruled by North Hertfordshire District Council in 2013, silencing the bells at St Mary’s in Ashwell Hertfordshire on health grounds.  St Martin’s Church in Liskeard Cornwall was also silenced following complaints from someone who lived 300 metres away. Near enough, I would say, to spot a church upon viewing the house? It’s a bit like buying a house next to a pub and being surprised by rowdy people on the street around 11pm I guess.  The best ‘hells bells’ story must go to an unnamed pensioner from Sharow, near Ripon, North Yorkshire who locked some bell ringers in the bell tower when they refused to stop the ‘peal’ (some 5,040 individual rings). The team had travelled up from the home counties to practice. Eeeh its grim up north.

That’s the end of the bell blog. You could say it’s the bellen…. aah no lets keep it clean.


Muchos Amor



Ian Rusetear

Blackpool
Reactions:

1 comments:

Adele said...

Great to have you as a guest blogger Ian. The referencing to anthem for doomed youth is poignant for me. I have been working on a commissioned poem for Wyre Council who are rededicating the ICI War Dead Memorial in Thornton on 2nd October.

I was also fortunate to have a funded education and spent my two O'Level years learning about WW1 poetry. It has shone a wise light into my own writing.

Thanks for this timely mind-jog.