Wednesday, October 31, 2007

P is for Poe

I think that if you were some sort of psychological archaeologist, and you could dig down through all the consciously scientific strata of my mind, and all the consciously religious strata, and all the weird deposits laid down by the vagaries of history and biology, you would find- a very little distance above the primeval bedrock of "There seems to be an I that is thinking"- these words, engraved in letters as deep as a spear as long:

I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II
Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
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!

III
Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now–now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV
Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people–ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

4 comments:

Marco said...

Beatles LyricsSemolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.
Goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob g'goo.


Explain this Edgar Allan Poe reference!

Dr. Clam said...

It's pretty straightforward.

The song keeps contrasting the conformist lawful world of 'Corporation T-shirt', 'Pretty policemen', 'Expert texpert Smoking chokers', where everything is commodified, with the chaotic yet holistic world of Walrus-thought. I would equate this with the world of Clamdom, as 'the eggmen' are clearly those who place a value on zygotes higher than that predicated by Marconomics.

It is unclear who the 'they' is who are kicking Edgar Allen Poe,but it does not matter:

Edgar Allen Poe is the archetype of the artist who is condemned and persecuted by both the conformist commodified world of modern capitalist culture ('they') and the theocentric world of traditional culture ('they'). He is neither commercial, nor life-affirming and hence, logically, draws the ire of both.

As the whole song builds up to the Edgar Allen Poe reference, it is obviously critical. The dialectic of the rest of the poem is asking the proponents of Walrus/Egg thought Gibreel's first question from the 'Satanic Verses', which can be expressed in this context as: Are you an idea that is strong enough to overcome the corrosive all-pervasive onslaught of a post-religious capitalist culture?

The final reference to Edgar Allen Poe is thus implicitly asking Gibreel's second question: If you win, how will you treat those who disagree with you?


Anything that can be believed is an image of truth.(William Blake) ;)

mum said...

I can still see you as a small child on Dad's lap as you two rocked in the rocking chair to the rhythm of the "bells, bells, bells."

Marco said...

It's funny - whenever I hear the name Edgar Allan Poe I remember the reference in the song and his face as one of the many on the Sgt Peppers album cover. I heard a theory that John Lennon was rather stoned when dreaming up these lyrics, and I presume the kicking of Edgar Allan Poe was a metaphorical rejection of writing prose that has actual meaning behind it being written. These lyrics were an attempt to confound those looking for purposeful meaning behind them.