The bells of Malines (17 august 1914)

Henry van Dyke


AUGUST 17, 1914
The gabled roofs of old Malines
Are russet red and gray and green,
And o’er them in the sunset hour
Looms, dark and huge, St. Rombold’s tower.
High in that rugged nest concealed,
The sweetest bells that ever pealed,
The deepest bells that ever rung,
The lightest bells that ever sung,
Are waiting for the master’s hand
To fling their music o’er the land.

And shall they ring to-night, Malines?
In nineteen hundred and fourteen,
The frightful year, the year of woe,
When fire and blood and rapine flow
Across the land from lost Liége,
Storm-driven by the German rage?
The other carillons have ceased;
Fallen is Hasselt, fallen Diesl,
From Ghent and Bruges no voices come,
Antwerp is silent, Brussels dumb!

But in thy belfry, O Malines,
The master of the bells unseen
Has climbed to where the keyboard stands,–
To-night his heart is in his hands!
Once more, before invasion’s hell
Breaks round the tower he loves so well,
Once more he strikes the well-worn keys,
And sends aërial harmonies
Far-floating through the twilight dim
In patriot song and holy hymn.

O listen, burghers of Malines!
Soldier and workman, pale béguine.
And mother with a trembling flock
Of children clinging to thy frock,–
Look up and listen, listen all!
What tunes are these that gently fall
Around you like a benison?
“The Flemish Lion,” “Brabançonne,”
“O brave Liége,” and all the airs
That Belgium in her bosom bears.

Ring up, ye silvery octaves high,
Whose notes like circling swallows fly;
And ring, each old sonorous bell,–
“Jesu,” “Maria,” “Michaël!”
Weave in and out, and high and low,
The magic music that you know,
And let it float and flutter down
To cheer the heart of the troubled town.
Ring out, “Salvator,” lord of all,–
“Roland” in Ghent may hear thee call!

O brave bell-music of Malines,
In this dark hour how much you mean!
The dreadful night of blood and tears
Sweeps down on Belgium, but she hears
Deep in her heart the melody
Of songs she learned when she was free.
She will not falter, faint, nor fail,
But fight until her rights prevail
And all her ancient belfries ring
“The Flemish Lion,” “God Save the King!”

One thought on “The bells of Malines (17 august 1914)”

  1. (Forgive me that I post in English – I can sort of read Flemish but not wirte it)
    Thank you for posting this – I know the poem by Thomas Hardy, but didn’t know this one. Malines Bellmaster Jef Denyn was one of the Belgian refugees who spent WW1 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

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