|Carillon of bells at Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia|
On the future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
~ “The Bells,” by Edgar Allen Poe
Was watching some news show a while back, can’t really remember when, but it quite possibly was a Sunday morning.
In the background to the newscast, the reporter was having to raise her voice above ringing bells from a nearby church, and memories came flooding back.
I lost all interest in her news story, and instead just listened to the melodic singing of the bells.
Here in 2017, I don’t hear bells ringing and chiming like I used to. Maybe they still ring in places, even here in Garfield County, and I am just not in the right spot to hear them — or the right time of day.
I miss the ringing of the bells.
When I was growing up and about age 11, my maternal grandparents took me on my first road trip away from my parents.
They lived in El Reno, and I didn’t get to see them nearly as often as my Christy grandparents, who lived just blocks away in a town of then 516 people.
They knew from the age of 10 I had developed a passion for the American Civil War. It’s all I ever talked about.
So, the three of us first drove to El Dorado, Ark., for my first and only visit with my great-grandpa, who’s father had served as a lieutenant in a Pennsylvania regiment in the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
I was in heaven talking to him, on an old Southern covered portico, with cane-back chairs, slated shades that kept out the sun but allowed a cooling breeze across the veranda, and helped to cool his high-ceilinged house.
Anyway, they took me to Vicksburg, Miss., for a two-day tour of the great Civil War battlefield there. Again … heaven.
As we reached our motel, amidst the heat and humidity and Southern charm of a Mississippi town, I distinctly remember bells from three churches chiming in the distance, all at once with different tones and most-charming sound.
I had never heard that before. Must have been about 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening, I’m not sure.
But I am sure of that melodic ringing, seemingly at a time when I was most carefree in my young life, soon overlooking the history and ambiance standing aboard an old paddle-wheel steamer on the Mississippi River, gazing up at the heights above where the quiet town stood, imagining the blazing guns, the sights and sounds and smells of Union gunboats exchanging fire with Confederate cannon.
And, I soon discovered church bells had been melted down during the war across the South to make into cannon.
Such are memories made.
But it occurred to me just this week, I don’t hear bells ringing from churches much anymore.
Maybe they do, and I’m just not in the right place to hear them — ensconced at a computer terminal composing pages for this newspaper.
I remember Sunday mornings, when church bells infrequently would ring in my home town.
I’m sure the school bell rang out in days past in Waukomis. I don’t remember them from my younger years, but the old school bell was restored and sits in a bell tower above my old high school today — but rather quietly.
I miss hearing bells.
Oh, I know church bells still ring out in cities across America today, but I wonder if their number is ever dwindling.
This nation’s most famous bell, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, is relegated just to tourist view, due to its rather large crack — a story all its own.
I know bells still ring across the British Isles, at great and old churches. Bygone cities and ancient cathedrals of Europe like London, Vienna, Florence, Paris and Cologne I’m quite sure have their share of tolling bells at certain hours of every day.
At times I long for the past, if only for a few brief moments. I don’t want to return to the past, for that is fruitless. There can be no progress by going back to the past, as we have already been there, done our thing and moved on. That is life, that is change, and though many are loath to change, it is inevitable.
At the same time, we should never forget the past.
Historical movies with bells marking time on four-masted sailing ships still hold a deep fascination for me.
I still long to hear — every now and then — the swinging and the ringing of the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle.