In Memoriam: Section CV - Summary & Analysis

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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 noble 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 civics sander 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.

In Memoriam Section CV
In Memoriam Section 105


      This is Section CV (105) of In Memoriam. It is the third Christmas after the death of Hallam. The poet turns his back on the past and its grief and looks to the future with his hopes for mankind.

Critical Summary

      New Year of 1838; on this day the bells in the churches are ringing and sending their peals to the wild sky, moving cloud and frosty light. The old year is going away and the new one is being welcomed. Let all that is false go with the dying year, giving place to the true. The poet desires that the grief that weakness his mind should also pass away with the old year. Let differences between rich and poor disappear and all wrongs of mankind be remedied. Let's bid adieu to the effete systems and party quarrels and let better ways of life and more just and moral laws be ushered in. Let the want, the care, the sin and the faithless friendships of the times pass away; let his mournful rhymes cease, yielding place to rhymes of fuller joy and hope. Ring out the false pride of birth and position, the social slander and hatred, and bring in 'the love of truth and right' and good for all. Ring out the old diseases of the society, narrow lust for wealth and long wars, and introduce in their place a reign of lasting peace. The poet welcomes the free and spirited man with larger heart and kindlier hand; and last of all, he hopes for God Himself again upon earth.

Critical Appreciation and Analysis

      This brief lyric refers to many contemporary social ills which the poet wants to be rung out with the old year. Tennyson wrote at the time when Britain worshipped the millionaire as god and the society had been degraded by the worship of Mammon. The old order was passing away, and men's minds were troubled. Men were feeling lost as religious truths were being questioned because of scientific developments ('faithless coldness of the time'). Society was sharply divided into the rich and the poor. The rich took little interest in the lives of the poor. Dickens has drawn vivid pictures of the conditions of the working classes during the last century. The hungry and the naked, supported by Codden and Bright, Peel and Gladstone, were attempting to get their miseries alleviated ('the feud of rich and poor'). Their efforts produced the Poor Law of 1844, the Factory Law of 1833, the Reform Bill of 1832, and the Repeal of the Corn Law in 1846. But much remained to be done; hence Tennyson's prayer for 'the redress to all mankind'. Party politics were supported by Journals which were the mouth-pieces of one party or the other ('the civic slander and the spite').

      The Victorians cared more for outward forms of behaviour than for truth and frankness. Tennyson longs for 'nobler modes of life with sweeter manners' and, 'the common love of good.' Industrial progress and prosperity brought in their wake extreme administrative inefficiency; the administration of law greatly suffered. One side of West-minster Hall gave judgements, while the other side restrained the successful party from enforcing it. The bewildered litigant suffered. Hence, Tennyson's desire for 'purer laws'.

      The lyric has a firm ring of hope and confidence that with the coming years, the bad aspects will be removed and the good will be nourished.

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