Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poetry Thursday and Friday: Attack of the Liberty Bell

I'm all smiles in this photo at the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, but inside, I'm a sentimental, weepy mess.  

First it was running my fingers over the replica of the bell's inscription: “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the inhabitants thereof. Levit. XXV 10” . . . 

 Photo Credit: Peter West, National Science Foundation

Then it was hearing lines from the HBO John Adams mini-series in my head . . .

. . . and reading about the Abolitionists and the Civil Rights Movement's long fight to include "all inhabitants" in that proclamation of Liberty . . .

 . . . and thinking of my gender's shockingly recent battle for the vote. (Several of the suffrage movement's pioneers used the symbol of the Liberty Bell in their struggle and were imprisoned just miles from where I live now.) 

Or maybe it was having my husband beside me after spending 58 weeks in Afghanistan, a nation in dire need of Liberty.

Whatever it was, as I approached the cracked and silent bell itself, this sonnet thrummed me over the head and finished me off.  It says what my visit confirms: once you ring out a call to Liberty, you can't take back the echoes.  Group after group has heard it, and rallied to it, and fought to make its promise of Liberty real. 

The Liberty Bell
by H. R. H. Moore

Ring loud that hallowed Bell!
Ring it long, ring it long;
Through the wide world let it tell
That Freedom's strong:

That the whole world shall be free —
The mighty crowd, the mighty crowd —
That the proud shall bend the knee,
The haughty proud.

Ring, ring the mighty Bell,
In the storm, in the storm!
Brothers! It shall herald well
Fair Freedom's form.

Ring it Southward, till its voice
For slavery toll, for slavery toll;
And Freedom's wakening touch rejoice
Both limb and soul.

Ring it o'er the negro's grave!
Ring it deep, ring it deep;
Its tones are sacred to the slave,
In Freedom's sleep.

Ring it, till its startling tones
Thrill young and old, young and old;
Till despots tremble on their thrones,
And their blood run cold.

Ring it, till the slave be free,
Wherever chained, wherever chained;
Till Universal Liberty
For aye be gained.

Ring it, till the young arise
To Freedom's fight, to Freedom's fight;
Spring gladly toward the kindling skies,
All clothed in light.

Ring it, till the bonds of sect
Be torn away, be torn away;
Till every man, as God's elect,
Kneel down to pray.

Ring it, till the world have heard,
And felt, at length, and felt, at length;
Till every living soul be stirred,
And clothed with strength.


Poetry Friday is hosted today by author Susan Taylor Brown at SusanWrites


  1. Wow, this is an incredibly moving post, Sara. Thanks for sharing all these connections, insights, and poetry!

  2. Wonderful post, Sara. Thank you!

  3. I love this post so much! Thank you for your words, the great links and photos, and the killer poem.

  4. Wow - I see you and I should never go to historical monuments together, or the guys would be trailing behind us with the tissues all day. This is - wow. Lovely.

  5. Oh wow...I'm a little teary now myself! And I love that last photo with "liberty" in all the different languages.

  6. Wow this is a great post! I've been to the Liberty Bell so many times and never pulled up all these connections. Thank you!

    And next time you are in Philly let me know girlfriend!!

  7. Sounds like such a great visit, Sara! I loved the Liberty Bell when we went to Philly. It was just an amazing experience.

    Love the poem--those second lines repeated, like the tolling of a bell--gorgeous!

  8. Wow - so moving! I am from Canada, and often envy the passion for country and freedom I see in my neighbors to the south.

    I love the way you have connected all your experiences, emotions and words into a tour de force of a post!

  9. Sara,

    Thanks for this post. Glad you had such a great trip. You must be ecstatic to have your husband back home!

  10. It's amazing to me how much more palpable history has become to me as I've been able to visit more historical sites. There is something to being in the presence of a thing.

  11. "once you ring out a call to Liberty, you can't take back the echoes"

    Fabulous post.

    I think this is a poem I'd like my students to memorize. Me, too.

  12. Just beautiful, Sara. Brought back memories of some tears I shed last year in D.C. :) And of my great-grandmother, who marched for the right to vote. Thanks.

  13. I'm so glad I'm not the only weepy one. IMHO, they need a big ol' honking box of Kleenex right there next to the bell.

    We didn't even make it inside Independence Hall because you need a timed ticket and we couldn't wait that long. Me and my handkerchief will have to go back.

    I wish the website for the center had all the excellent history resources that the actual building does. I had to remember what I read and saw and go link from other sources. I don't think it would hurt them to have a whole multi-media presentation on the web, as if you were walking to the bell itself. But there's nothing like being there.

  14. When I was in first grade (1976), my family took a bicentennial trip to Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. My mission on the trip was to put my finger in the crack of the Liberty Bell--you used to be able to go up and touch it. I have a picture of my hand in the crack of the bell. Amazing.

  15. I waited 'til today to read this.

    Perfect. Thank you.

  16. That's one of my planned trips in the future, FOR SURE, Sarah!!! I just found out about "Operation YES" and count me in one of your impatient serial readers!!!


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