Ring Out Your Bells

Ring Out Your Bells Study Guide

Philip Sidney's "Ring Out Your Bells" first appeared under the title of "Dirge" (a song that laments the dead) in Sidney's 1598 volume Certaine Sonets. It may have been written after the marriage of Sidney's former fiancée Lady Penelope Devereux to Lord Rich, as its main topic is a man's rejection by his mistress. A "dirge," this musical poem reflects Sidney's interest in adapting new verse forms, including Italian verse forms and musical compositions, to meter in English. It features an AABCBCDDEE rhyme scheme and a variable iambic meter throughout, along with abundant alliteration and a four-line refrain.

In "Ring Out Your Bells," a male speaker complains that Love itself has been killed, largely as a result of women's folly and fickleness. As the poem progresses, he personifies Love, imagining him in his deathbed. However, eventually, the speaker admits that Love is not actually dead; he is just asleep in the speaker's ex-mistresses' heart. He reveals that he has been lying, and begins to praise his mistress. He admits that Love as much as his mistress has driven him into rage and lamentation.

While Sidney is better known for his long works, including Astrophil and Stella, Carol Rumens has recently noted the "fire and originality" of this poem, noting that it "[epitomizes] the 'all-or-nothing' moods of love" (Rumens).