by Carol Dixon
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.
Words: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Music: Percy Fletcher
The Healing Power of Music
This wonderful poem by Lord Tennyson is a great way to welcome in the new year, particularly after a year like last year! I first remember learning the poem as a song with our Girls’ Grammar school choir. We were taking part in the annual Schools’ choir competition in our area and this was one of our set pieces that we had to learn and be judged on. We didn’t win but I will never forget the finale when all the choirs sang it together in Newcastle City Hall on the stage that had been occupied by the Beatles the week before – enough to set teenage girls’ hearts fluttering anyway. At the end, were amazed as the lights went up on the auditorium to see the entire audience, including our proud parents, rising to their feet, clapping and cheering in a way that no-one did in England in those sedate days of the early 1960s. It was such an uplifting experience for everyone that we all travelled home in a golden glow of sheer joy at the wonderful power of music.
Many years later, I was to discover the healing power of music personally in my own life after many months of debilitating illness when I was laid aside from all my usual activities and had to give up all my church commitments, including leading & singing with our church folk group. Yet in this exile from normality, I ‘learned to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land’ when God gave me the gift of hymn writing. Listening to music stood me in good stead a couple of years ago too, in long nights while waiting months for a hip replacement. I listened to healing music on my handheld tablet and took these beautiful tunes with me into the operation which was done under local anaesthetic and listened to the uplifting songs as the sawing, hammering and grinding went on to remove my old diseased hip and replace it with a new plastic and metal one which works and is free from pain. One of my favourites was Aileen Gilchrist’s ‘I see Jesus’.
One of the reasons I love Tennyson’s poem is that for me it seems to take on a new life when set to music and the marriage of words and harmony seems to underline the message of hope and new life not only at the early part of a new year but for any new start. Hopefully this year will bring a new beginning for us as more vaccines become available to combat Covid and free us from the restrictions of the pandemic so we will be able to embrace loved ones again and rejoice together for the freshness each day brings, remembering with thankfulness the sacrifice of those who have worked so tirelessly to care for us and the light of God’s richest blessings in the dark days we leave behind.
In times of sorrow and joy, I find music a great comfort to me and one of the hymns God gave me as I recovered from my bout of illness I often pray in my morning devotions. I hope you enjoy singing it.
Every new morning God gives us freely
Hears that are thankful, strength for the task,
People who love us, joy in our service,
All we have need of if we but ask.
God will be with us in all our thinking,
in all our speaking, in all we do;
and as we praise him by all our actions,
God will be with us, seeing us through.
God in the morning, God in the noontide,
God in the evening, throughout the day;
God is within us, and all around us,
behind, before us all of the way. © Carol Dixon