Happy Christmas at the end of a Difficult Year….

A Christmas Poem

Ring Out Wild Bells by Alfred,  Lord Tennyson

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.


The poem is often seen as a New Year poem, but I have chosen to use it for Christmas, because it seems to sum up everything we have found difficult about 2020, and everything we hope for for 2021, and we don’t need to wait till New Year’s Eve for that.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was one of the great British poets: His life spanned the 19th century (1809-1892), and he was successful  in his own lifetime in a way not many poets are. He is sometimes viewed as a very Establishment, Victorian poet, but (in my important view) he is much better value than that, full of surprising moments and great poems. He also sounds as though he was good fun and good company.

The image is from the NYPL collection.


  1. It wa Philip Larkin - surprisingly, perhaps - who pointed out the importance of Mrs. Tennyson in Alfred's poetic life:

    Mrs. Alfred Tennyson

    begging letters
    admiring letters
    insulting letters
    enquiring letters
    business letters
    and publishers’ letters.
    She also
    looked after his clothes
    saw to his food and drink
    entertained visitors
    protected him from gossip and criticism
    And finally

    (apart from running the household)
    Brought up and educated the children.

    While all this was going on
    Mister Alfred Tennyson sat like a baby
    Doing his poetic business.

    1. That's hilarious, I've never come across that from Larkin. How surprisingly empathetic of him - perhaps he wished he had a wife like Mrs T...

    2. ... Also - your comment on St Lucy's Day seems to have disappeared, I have a notification that you left it but it doesn't seem to be on the site, I don't know why. Thanks for the comment and the info on the legends...

    3. Just in case it wasn't published there:
      My post either never made it or vanished, as you said. I think I said that being "grim and grumpy" goes alongside self-importance as a cause for humour and gave examples - Mr Pooter, Malvolio, Eeyore perhaps - and mentioned Herbert Read's The Green Child and Randolph Stow's The Girl Green as Elderflower a "green man" stories.

  2. I love this poem, Moira! What a lovely choice. Wishing you and those you love a Happy Christmas and all the very best in the new year! May 2021 be good to you.

    1. Thank you Margot, and all best wishes to you and yours.

  3. The perfect poem to end this year with, Moira. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Thank you Tracy, and a very happy Christmas to you and the family, and best wishes for 2021

  4. Lovely. Merry Christmas Moira! With attendance at church limited to 30 our local parish had 6 Masses over yesterday and today. To aid Father Nick I offered to give the reflection at some of them. I delivered a reflection at a Mass last night and one this morning. I spoke of our parish being a family at a time when we cannot get together with our families.

    1. The same in our parish here Bill. And I very strongly feel our parish family has stood in where we could and tried out best to help at this time, and I am proud of my part in those efforts.
      A very merry Christmas to you and all the family.

  5. How apt some of those verses are to our times!

    1. Yes, it's nice when something from a different era hits home... Happy Christmas to you Ann.

  6. A great poet, undoubtedly, and what a fine poem to end the year on. Don't really get the impression that he was much fun though and I did read a lot about him at one point.

    1. Oh I'm sure you know more than me! I just read some funny stories about him that made me like him. I went to the Watts Gallery twice in the few months before lockdown (sigh, sigh) did I mention? Somewhere you either know well, or else we really have to visit when times are back to normal. Massive statue of Tennyson there, the original of one that was cast in bronze for Lincoln Cathedral.

  7. What a wonderful blog. I love your posts. A while ago, I started to write about customs in my country (or those I lived in), one of my last one was about Christmas in Germany. I wish I would have seen this then but - it's never too late.

    Thanks for visiting my post about Nelson Mandela.

    1. Thanks, and a happy Christmas to you.

    2. Thank you, it was nice, even though we had to celebrate without our children who are both in different countries. But we had a lovely facetime session where we all unwrapped our gifts we had sent earlier.

    3. We all did the best we could, didn't we?

  8. Better late than never - hope you had a safe one!


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