I love being surprised by a hymn.
I opened the page and groaned a little at yet another hymn I don’t know – wild bells? Clouds? Frosty light? Oy vei. Here we go again, I thought. Another fairly fluffy lyric that doesn’t go anywhere. And oh, look, another tune I have never sung.
I decided to tackle the tune first, which I discovered is a remarkable little melody with graceful lines and a touch of melancholy. That in hand, I turned to sing.
And I discovered the fluffy lyrics don’t last long at all.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild, wild sky,
the flying cloud, the frosty light:
the year is dying in the night;
ring out, wild bells, and let it die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
ring, happy bells, across the snow:
the year is going, let it 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 humankind.
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.
In fact, holy cow, this hymn was written for today.
I did finally realize this is a setting of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, which I immediately looked up. There are a few more verses, all equally powerful statements against greed, abuse, hatred, and callousness – and ends with a plea for peace, kindness, compassion, and “the Christ that is to be.’
Wow. Why are we not singing this hymn every week? Are others using this hymn right now in this strange time in our history and I’m just late to the party? Are they waiting to use it in December? I’m thinking now about how this would fit in, because we need to ring out a lot of things right now to make room for “truth and right” and “the common love of good.”
It’s time to ring the bells.