Summary of ‘Ring Out Your Bells’

Ring Out Your Bells” by Sir Sidney Philip is one of thirty-two sonnets and songs included in a random collection. This song is broken into four stanzas, each of which contains six verse lines and four choral refrain lines. The speaker’s opening appeal, addressed to his neighbourly audience, alludes to the historical practice of church bells tolling to indicate a local death. Additionally, it builds a shared funereal experience and the gloomy tone for this poetic discourse on love’s demise. By personifying love, the speaker disassociates himself from his own abstract emotion (giving love human attributes and treating it as if it were a real person). Thus, the concept of love, divorced from himself, becomes a fictional character whose demise serves as the catalyst for his first request. When love is perceived as a distinct entity, the speaker might lament bitterly about his frustration and sorrow, the reasons of love’s infection, disease, and death, and the abusive and capricious cruelty of his haughty mistress. Thus, this dramatic song features three characters: the speaker, his absent mistress, and love.

The concept of death, a universal occurrence, presents the circumstance and enables the speaker to elicit sympathetic responses from the reader. When he calls on his audience to action—to ring church bells, loudly exhibit sadness, scream sorrowful songs, and recite thirty requiem masses—the speaker dresses up another regular event, a romantic conflict and separation.

Themes and Analysis

Ring Out Your Bells” is a love poem. Sidney, on the other hand, analyses the secret driving force of desire that underpins the many forms of love through the lens of his own experiences and feelings. Sidney’s personal sphere encompassed the political arena at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. There, he and others pleaded for the monarch’s favour, which could result in government employment, money incentives, or honours attesting to their worldly value and goodness. Additionally, these courtiers courted noble patrons who could assist them in arranging aristocratic marriages and funding their political, military, and literary endeavours. Sidney had direct experience with disappointed desires during his attempts to obtain from Queen Elizabeth more than temporary administrative or military postings.

Petrarchan love sonnets’ charming praises intended to seek a lady’s favours are motivated by the same ambitious desires as the hyperboles (intentional exaggerations) used to court a queen or a noble. There are little distinctions between practises. Additionally, when the Platonic lover suffers and rages over his mistress’s ridicule and rejection of his worth and devotion, his anguish emphasises the need that motivates his egoistic self-love. Self-esteem, honour, and a sense of personal identity develop as a result of self-validation received through praise or reward for activities performed. Sidney, a human courtier, was similarly disillusioned and frustrated.

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