Iris Ann Lewis: The Bells of Lübeck

lubeckSt Mary’s Church, Lübeck


Iris Ann Lewis: Poem

iris ann



I ring.


scatter the winds,
disperse the clouds,
break the thunder,
shatter lightening,
warn of fire,
drive out plague.

My voice is the slayer of demons

Vivos voco, mortuos plango

High up in the belfry
they swung free,
called the living,
mourned the dead.

A moonlit night,
the bells were still,
the town slept.

Out of darkness
bombers flew.
Fire blazed.

The bells rang out a warning
as they were falling,

They lie broken on the floor.

But though these iron tongues are mute,
still they hum a muffled tolling.

Plango mortuos plango mortuos plango mortuos plango…


What is the weight of peace?
This bell is freighted with it.
Three tons of bronze
to balance out war’s hate.
So heavy it can barely swing.

Its slow momentum gathers pace.
Its arc of movement lengthens
until, with golden voice, it sings.
Rejoice. Rejoice.

The sound of peace
across the town.

At last, in evening sun,
the peace bell comes to rest.


Remorse is stamped
upon this bell.
Coventry 1940
imprinted on its soul.

Like a prayer,
each note it strikes
implores for

Its voice cries out
across the sea
to that once enemy land.

The sound waves travel
and, trembling, touch
the cross of nails
of Coventry.

Metal speaks to metal.
Forgive, it pleads.
The answer comes, forgive.



Exalted in the belfry,
jubilant bells peal out.


Iron hammers bronze.
The bells out-trumpet angels.

Wild canticles fill the firmament.



xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx LAUDAMUS


On the chapel floor below
unending chimes of broken bells
join the shimmering sound
and hymn an echo of the past
in sombre ostinato.

Plango, plango, plango…

Iris Anne Lewis is published in a variety of print and online publications. History, prehistory and myth often feature in her work. She has been featured in the Silver Branch Series of Black Bough Poetry, won 1st prize in Gloucestershire Poetry Society competition and has been invited on several occasions to read her work at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. In 2018 she founded Wordbrew, a Cirencester-based group of poets. Twitter: @IrisAnneLewis

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2 thoughts on “Iris Ann Lewis: The Bells of Lübeck

  1. This is a lovely poem.   Wonderful story, passage of time, of war, of peace, with the bells ringing through.

    I am taking the liberty of attaching another poem connected with Lübeck about a time much longer ago.

    Yours sincerely     Sarianne Durie


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