Hear the sledges with the 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.
– From "The Bells," Edgar Allen Poe, 1849
Eight years ago, my boyfriend BG left Manhattan for a small studio apartment in the Bronx. Being a tad on the paranoid side, he does not like to keep all his windows wide open, and the apartment can get rather dark. However, the one room in the place with a great view is the bathroom, and the window is left unshaded for the entertainment of BG's cat, who can observe the pigeons who love to vex her from the safety of the outside windowsill. Here, the sun streams in all day, and looking out one can see some of the buildings of Fordham University in the distance – including, I believe, the spires of its church. Since most buildings here are no higher than six stories, I've often remarked to BG that looking out the window and seeing the low rooftops makes me feel like I might be in a garret in Paris.
Near BG's apartment lies Poe Park. Within it sits Poe Cottage, where Edgar Allen Poe lived from 1846-1849. Poe moved there with his ailing wife in an attempt to escape the crowded city for the then-bucolic atmosphere and fresh air of the Bronx.
During these years, one of the poems Poe composed was "The Bells." In 1845 the University Church — located within what is now known as Fordham University — was constructed. It is possible that the chiming of these church bells inspired this famous poem. At least, I like to think so.
I believe it was last Christmas when I first heard the bells that I assume were originating from Fordham's church – it seemed as if the University had decided to bring them back into play. In addition to chiming the hour, they pealed out the "Star Spangled Banner" and Christmas songs. I thought about the fact that in the days before everyone had a Rolex or even a humble Timex, the church bells might have been the only way for the common man to keep track of the hours.
So on this Christmas day, it seems appropriate to hear the chiming of the church bells through the window of BG's humble abode, and to feel the spirit of Poe still present, somehow, from his former humble cottage down the road.
Merry Christmas everyone!