The Bells are Ringing

Old bells, Yaroslavl Church

Last Wednesday, I announced that a Christian Christmas carol would be featured on One-Liner Wednesday for the five weeks leading up to the holiday. Week one was “Oh Night Divine,” and in week two, I am featuring a song that was suggested by Dan Antion of No Facilities. Sing the words to “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” then check out a little bit of its history and explanation of a few unusual words.

Ding dong merrily on high,

In heav’n the bells are ringing:
Ding dong! verily the sky
Is riv’n with angel singing.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

E’en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And “Io, io, io!”
By priest and people sungen.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis!

From Wikipedia:

Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a Christmas Carol. The tune first appeared as a secular dance tune known under the title “Branle de l’Official” in Orchésographie, a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519–1593). The lyrics are from English composer George Ratcliff Woodward (1848–1934), and the carol was first published in 1924 in his The Cambridge Carol-Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter, And Other Seasons. Woodward took an interest in church bell ringing, which no doubt aided him in writing it. The macaronic style is characteristic of Woodward’s delight in archaic poetry.

As for the meaning of the poetic, archaic words:

Riv’n – Riven (past participle). Riven is described as “torn apart.” So, heaven is torn apart with angels singing? I hope it’s happily so.

Swungen – Swung

Sungen – Sung

Matin – Early Morning

Rime – Frost

Lo, oi, oi – I think the composer made that up – too much coffee or sugar. (Actually, “oi” is the British version of hey! or hello.)

While Dan suggested a version of the song by Roger Whittaker, I can never pass up a boys’ choir and church organ. Enjoy and feel free to ding dong your way through today.


This post has been brought to you by archaic ding dongs and Linda Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday. If you are wondering what One-Liner Wednesday is all about, CLICK HERE.

Linda G. Hill is the Queen of One-Liners and rules over her kingdom of followers. Check out today’s post and commit yourself to join the Queen’s one-liner army because there’s no fighting or blood, only comradery and fun with words.

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14 responses to The Bells are Ringing

  1. Laurie says:

    Thanks for the beautiful Christmas carol and the background information. I can just picture the sky torn apart with angels singing!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Laurie! I did not know all of the words to this song, so it was fascinating to discover the meaning of the poetic words.

  2. Ally Bean says:

    This is lovely. I’ve always been able to hum this tune, but the words… well, I am little vague on. Thanks for the info.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I was also vague with the words, until Dan’s suggestion put them front and center. Then again, I’m not sure they are stored in my memory banks like many other Christmas carols, but I think I may remember the swungen and oi oi! 🙂

  3. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for the mention and for finding a very creative way to feature this song. I enjoyed learning about the history and those words. I’m listening to the Boy’s Choir as I write this comment – it’s a beautiful version. And, having grown up in a church where the very small choir shook the walls each week, I can imagine heaven being torn apart with singing.

    OK, the boys are done, off to Roger 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome Dan! When I first read the lyrics of the song, I thought, “What am I going to do with that?” Then my word nerd self took over and there you go! Thanks for reminding me of this carol as I had forgotten it and it’s not one I hear on the radio or in church. Have fun with Roger today and have a merry Wednesday. 😉

      • Dan Antion says:

        My wife has a CD of his Christmas carols that I just love to listen to. I am impressed that you were able to work with this carol. I hope you have a Merry Wednesday, too.

  4. JoAnna says:

    I had fun singing with the boys even though it was hard to keep up at first. Played it a second time and was better.

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