Take five minutes to teach a tiny literary lesson to your homeschool students tonight.
One of the most famous New Year’s Eve poems in English is “Ring out, wild bells” by Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892). It was first published in 1850 as part of Tennyson’s longer work In Memoriam, dedicated to his college friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who had died at the age of twenty-two. You can read more about Tennyson’s life at the Poetry Foundation website (poetryfoundation.org).
“Ring out, wild bells” takes the English tradition of church-bell ringing on New Year’s Eve, and the wish that the coming year will be better than the year departing, and enlarges it into a Christian wish for the coming of the heavenly kingdom that will do away with earthly suffering. Tennyson was one of the greatest English poets of the nineteenth century, and this is one of his best known and most accessible works. Spend a few minutes reading it with your homeschool students on this New Year’s Eve, as we all wish for peace, prosperity, health, and happiness in the New Year.
Ring out, wild bells
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 darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
❡ Count and map. When you introduce your students to a new poem, especially one in a traditional form, the first thing to have them do is count the syllables and map the rhyme scheme. How many syllables in each line in this poem? Eight throughout. (And that gives you a clue about how certain words should be pronounced: valiant is two syllables, not three.) The eight syllables follow an iambic pattern with the accent on the second syllable of each pair. That makes this poem iambic tetrameter. What about the rhyme scheme? The first two stanzas are sky–light–night–die and new–snow–go–true. That looks like ABBA, and if you read down, you’ll see that pattern is followed throughout. Uncovering these details of structure teaches your students that a poem of this kind is a carefully crafted piece of work that required a great deal of literary labor.
What literary discoveries have you made in your homeschool this week? 😊