James Nack

Jan 4, 1809 - 1879


The Bell Song

by James Nack

Partly From The Lied Von Der Glocke.

Above the scenes of earthly labor,
In heaven's clear vault, the blue, the bright,
She swings on high, the thunder's neighbor,
And borders on the world of light,
Where roll the stars in circling mazes,
Her voice responding to their song,
While they repeat their Maker's praises,
And lead the crowned year along.

Her iron tongue, in earnest measure,
Speaks of the solemn and sublime,
And hourly warns us of the treasure: --
We hourly waste, unvalued time!
To destiny a voice imparting,
She swings, its changes to proclaim,
And hither, thither, swiftly starting,
Keeps time to life's inconstant game.

Ring out! ring out a joyous greeting,
In welcome to the lovely child,
Whose little heart begins its beating
In slumber's arms, the undefiled!
His future lot of gloom or splendor
Is curtained from his vision tender;
A mother's love, her best adorning,
Keeps watch upon his golden morning.

Years speed like darts -- for scenes of strife
Proud youth from girlhood fiercely sunders,
Plunges into the storms of life,
And wanders through the world of wonders;
A stranger to his father's home
Returning, lo! in youthful splendor,
All-glorious as an angel come
From heaven, with bashful look and tender,
And blushing like the orient skies,
The maiden stands before his eyes!

His heart is seized with nameless yearning;
He turns aside; alone he strays;
His eyes with sudden tears are burning;
Again he turns to seek her gaze,
And blushingly her pathway traces
Until her greeting makes him blest;
He seeks the fairest flower, and places
Its beauty on her fairer breast!

Young love! what longing hopes unfoldeth
Thy golden time! what joys of price!
The eye an open heaven beholdeth,
And swells the heart in Paradise!
Young love! ah, couldst thou ever nourish
The golden dream! for ever flourish!

Let him, enthralled by passion strong,
Approve, before the lasting union,
If heart with heart is in communion;
The dream is short, repentance long!

Ring out! ring out! for triumph blesses
The youth who by the altar stands,
And lovely in the young bride's tresses
The nuptial wreath entwines its bands.
Alas! that life's enraptured fire
Should with the May of life decay,
The fairy dreams of young desire
With veil and girdle rent away!

Flits passion's hour;
Yet love remaineth,
A ripening flower
Which truth sustaineth.
Into hostile life
Man forth must enter;
In toil and strife
His thoughts must centre;
In planting and making,
Pursuing and taking,
Risking and daring,
Plotting and caring,
And running his race
In fortune's chase.

He prospers: -- fortune rolls a boundless tide;
His stores increase; expands his dwelling wide;
And therein ruleth
The matron chaste,
The children's mother,
With wisdom graced;
In her circle moving,
Smiling or reproving,
The little girl directing,
The little boy correcting,
She plies her busy fingers
With work that never lingers;
Her husband's gains increases
With toil that never ceases,
And fills the closets with fragrant stores,
And spins at the wheel that rolls and snores,
And piles the wardrobe's well-polished row
With the shining wool, and the flax of snow,
And joins with the showy the useful ever,
And resteth -- never!

The father with a glance of pride
Looks from his far-extended dwelling,
And counts his gains on every side,
And views his stores with treasures swelling;
Then boasting lift s his haughty hand --
Firm as the earth's foundations stand,
Against misfortune's rudest shock,
My house is founded on a rock!

Vain boast! who can resist an hour
To destiny's almighty power!

Ring out! a fearful peal ring out,
To second terror's frantic shout!
Hark! the crashing thunder
Rends the skies asunder!
Lightnings quiver, flash, and shiver,
And roll through heaven a blazing river;
Earth reflects the burning flood,
Glow the skies as red as blood,
But not with glow of day;
Yet the night is glaring bright
As the sun's meridian light:
The clamor of dismay
Higher swells and higher;
Loud and loud the bell is rung,
Flies the cry from tongue to tongue,
Fire! fire! fire!

Lo! a pyramid of flame
Fierce as if from hell it came,
Clouds of smoke around it curled,
Soars as if to show the world
Creation's funeral pyre!
Lo! unconquerably strong
Rolls the burning flood along,
While the air around its path
Glows as with an oven's wrath --
Fire! fire! fire!

Sinks the roof and totters wall,
Pillars shake and columns fall;
Treasure won by toil of years
In a moment disappears;
All are running, rushing, flying,
Shouting, shrieking, trembling, crying;
Beneath the smoking ruins crushed
The beast is moaning,
The child is groaning,
Till both in suffocation hushed.

But steady stand an active band --
The buckets fly from hand to hand,
And from the toiling engine rushes
A cataract in showery gushes:
In vain -- in vain --
The splashing rain
The mighty element devours
In scorn; -- then gathering up its powers
As if from laboring earth
A Titan struggled into birth,
Towers giant -- like on high;
And helpless, to its godlike strength
Man yields the hopeless strife at length,
And stands all idly by,
While the possessions, late his trust,
Melt like a shriveled scroll in dust.

One backward glance he calmly throws
Upon his fortune's grave,
Then turns away in stern repose,
His coming fate to brave.
Though destiny her power has proved,
She spares him still the best of blisses;
He counts the heads of his beloved,
And lo! not one clear head he misses!

Ring out! ring out!
Sad and slow
Tolls the bell
The dirge of woe,
In solemn train, a band of mourning friends
A wanderer to the home of all attends.
Alas! the wife! the fond, the cherished!
The faithful mother! she has perished!
From her husband's arms for ever
The Prince of Terrors bids her sever,
And bears her with his shadowy hand,
From amid the tender band,
Which she in blooming beauty bore
To him, whom she may bless no more;
And on her bosom nourishing,
Watched enraptured flourishing,
With the love, the pride, the pleasure,
Mother-hearts alone can measure.

Ah, tender ties of home! ye sever!
For she who was the house's mother
In bed of darkness sleeps for ever,
And now her place receives another!
Poor orphans! where her gentle guidance?
Her tender care all else above?
Ah! where she ruled a stranger ruleth,
Whose love is -- not a mother's love! *

Ring out! ring out! a peal of dread!
Sound trumpet! thunder drum!
Wake -- rise -- prepare for battle's bed!
The foe! they come! they come!
All start in a bewildered dream,
And woman's shriek, and childhood's scream
Half drown the bell's alarms;
While youth and manhood hasten out,
And rush, and run, and storm, and shout --
To arms! to arms! to arms!

A thousand torches scatter light
On scenes of fury or affright;
While women, with disheveled hair
And wringing hands, dart here and there,
And weep and clamor, loud and wild,
All helpless as the wondering child;
Or others with seraphic eye
Look up, and trust in GOD on high,
Pale, breathless, silent, and sublime,
Like statue of the Grecian time!
And others bowed in weeping prayer,
Invoke a heavenly Father's care.

Good GOD! who would not die for these --
The cherub child that clasps our knees,
The wife of angel charms,
The virgin, fresh in beauty's glow,
The home, our Paradise below --
To arms! to arms! to arms!

A thousand mingled weapons clash
And quiver in the torch's flash;
Some grasp the sword, the musket some,
The axe, the spade, whate'er may come
To the unfurnished hand:
Staff, club, or missile -- all may serve --
No weapon but the arm can nerve
To guard its native land.

Hark! the storm of battle!
Guns and cannons thunder
As earth would rend asunder;
Bullets whiz and rattle,
Showering death around;
Thousands press the ground,
And groan away their souls;
Every sword is ruddy,
Every hand is bloody,
And Carnage o'er the field her iron chariot rolls.

See the foe receding
From the victor's might;
See the hero leading
To pursue their flight;
See the warrior bleeding,
Struggling still to fight --
On the field disabled lying,
See he grasps his weapon dying,
Shouting, while from the battle storm,
The foes, confusedly flying,
Trample upon his mangled form,
Lightnings flashing from the eyes
Closed in death that soon shall be,

Away he springs
On conquest's wings,
And in the bright embrace of glory dies!

Ring out! ring out a solemn peal,
While to the King of kings we kneel,
Through whom our arms prevail!
Each soldier bends his laureled brow,
And bows the knee no foe could bow --
Hail! GOD of Armies! hail!

Around him kneel the wife, the mother,
The child, caressing each the other;
Their cheeks, but now so pale,
With triumph flushing, while their eyes
In rapture swimming seek the skies --
Hail! GOD of Glory! hail!

Ring out! a glorious peal ring out!
While like a rushing storm we rise,
And stand erect, and rend the skies
With one triumphant shout!
Ring out! ring out in tone sublime --
How awful swells the glorious chime!
While blending with its tones, we raise
To GOD one choral song of praise,
To GOD, the Father of the free,
Who giveth us the victory!

* Thus far I have done little more than paraphrase select passages from the German poem. What follows, I have added to complete the idea I had in view.


The Romance Of The Ring, And Other Poems.
Copyright 1859
Delisser & Procter, 508 Broadway, New York