The Ringing of the Bell

We were blessed with permission to use excerpts from a couple of my favorite American history story books. I look forward to sharing them with you over the next few weeks and hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have! I thought it only fitting to start with a poem about the day our Declaration of Independence was signed, but first enjoy a little story behind the poem…

The Ringing of the Bell

“…It had been agreed that as soon as the Declaration was adopted the old bell-man should ring the big Liberty Bell that hung in the tower of the old State House, in order that the great throng of people might know it…

The old bell-man had taken his place up in the tower, and had told his little grandson to tell him when the time came to ring the bell.

Messengers were sent in every direction to tell the news in every village and town; the boys lit fires, the cannons blazed, and everywhere the people – men, women, and children, tried in every way to show their joy that they were now all to stand shoulder to shoulder, a free nation…

There was tumult in the city,
In the quaint old Quaker town,
And the streets were rife with people,
Pacing restless up and down; –
People gathering at the corners,
Where they whispered each to each,
And the sweat stood on their temples,
With the earnestness of speech.

“Will they do it?” “Dare they do it?”
“Who is speaking?” “What’s the news?”
“What of Adams?” “What of Sherman?”
“Oh, God grant they won’t refuse!”
“Make some way there!” “Let me nearer!”
“I am stifling!” “Stifle then!”
When a nation’s life’s at hazard,
We’ve no time to think of men!”

So they beat against the portal,
Man and woman, maid and child;
And the July sun in heaven
On the scene looked down and smiled,
The same sun that saw the Spartan
Shed his patriot blood in vain,
Now beheld the soul of freedom
All unconquer’d rise again.

See! See! The dense crowd quivers
Through all its lengthy line,
As the boy beside the portal
Looks forth to give the sign!
With his small hands upward lifted,
Breezes dallying with his hair,
Hark! with deep, clear intonation,
Breaks his young voice on the air.

Hushed the people’s swelling murmur,
List, the boy’s exultant cry!
“Ring!” he shouts, “Ring, Grandpa,
Ring, O, ring for Liberty!”
And straightway at the signal,
The old bellman lifts his hand,
And sends the good news, making
Iron music through the land.

How they shouted! What rejoicing!
How the old bell shook the air,
Till the clang of freedom ruffled
The calm, gliding Delaware!
How the bonfires and the torches
Illumed the night’s repose,
And from the flames like fabled Phoenix,
Our glorious Liberty arose!

That old bell now is silent,
And hushed its iron tongue,
But the spirit it awakened,
Still lives – forever young.
And when we greet the smiling sunlight,
On the fourth of each July,
We”ll ne’er forget the bellman,
Who, betwixt the earth and sky,
Rang out Our Independence,
Which, please God, shall never die!”

From “American History Stories…You Never Read in School…but should have Volume I”, by Mara L. Pratt, M.D. Used with permission. This wonderful book is available for sale at


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