It’s inevitable, really, at this time of year – any year, in fact, that urge to look back and take stock. As 2021 staggers to its exhausted close, however, that need to review and reflect on another extraordinary year, to weigh up the highs and the lows and prepare to turn the page feels stronger than ever. A greater need, perhaps, to find some positives, or perhaps to find some understanding; or more simply just to be thankful that we have come through it all – again. But weary in mind and spirit after now two years Covid, I find myself unable to unravel the tangled mess of words and thoughts and feelings that still churn round inside my head and that refuse to coalesce into orderly sentences and paragraphs that are capable of making any sense of it all. So I close the year with the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson that I think hit the mark exactly.
In memoriam (Ring out, wild bells)
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ* that is to be.
* As a non-believer, I would prefer the word ‘year’ here, but leave it in place out of respect to Tennyson’s mighty words and the broader sentiment that they express so powerfully.
The image is of Montelupone’s 14th century Palazzetto del Podestà and Torre Civica complete with its impressive cast bronze bell. It was taken 36 minutes into 2020, before the tempest fell upon the world.