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    painting of a bell tower in Kiev

    Poem: “Blessing the Bells”

    By Ned Balbo

    August 30, 2022
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    Bless the sounding bells—
    The foundry and the furnace,
    the partials and the pitch.

    The cool bronze of their surface
    cast out of molten metal—
    a tolling out of reach.

    The sheen of verdigris—
    its pale protective touch.
    The stony campanile

    above us standing watch,
    whose changes wake or warn us—
    The fading fundamental,

    like silence after speech,
    forgotten as it trails
    from each stroke over us—

    spectral, subliminal—
    waves breaking in the breach. …
    Whose promise and what purpose

    are carried by the bells
    cast out of fire and furnace?
    We bless each brazen pitch.


    Note: Plain Hunt Singles is a method of English full-circle ringing that requires three bells to be rung in a predetermined order (“ringing the changes”). Here, the rhymes are “rung” in the bell order of this method; the first and final stanzas’ rhymes correspond to the order followed during rounds (repeatedly ringing the bells in sequence from the highest to lowest note).

    painting of a bell tower in Kiev

    Yuriy Khymych, The Bell Tower of the Near and Far Caves (Kiev Lavra), 1993. Used by permission.

    Contributed By Portrait of Ned Balbo Ned Balbo

    Ned Balbo’s six books include The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots (New Criterion Poetry Prize) and 3 Nights of the Perseids (Richard Wilbur Award). He has received grants or fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (translation) and the Maryland Arts Council.

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