Today the circus poster
is scabbing off the concrete wall
and the children have forgotten
if they knew at all.
Father, do you remember?
Only the sound remains,
the distant thump of the good elephants,
the voice of the ancient lions
and how the bells
trembled for the flying man.
I, laughing,
lifted to your high shoulder
or small at the rough legs of strangers,
was not afraid.
You held my hand
and were instant to explain
the three rings of danger.

Oh see the naughty clown
and the wild parade
while love love
love grew rings around me.
this was the sound where it began;
our breath pounding up to see
the flying man breast out
across the boarded sky
and climb the air.
I remember the color of music
and how forever
all the trembling bells of you
were mine.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem The Bells


  1. Emily says:

    I think that the bells have more of a positive connotation. The bells may symbolize danger, but she is not afraid, her father is able to carry her through the danger. Also, when bells ring it is a short period in time, much like the short period a daughter is able to bond with her father. We grow up and forget about the strong bond that we once had.

  2. ashley says:

    espan(sqiggly thing)ol: tu es un nin(squiggly thing)o gordo!!!!!! jajaja.

    francais: tu es hontusse!!!!!!! ca fait vraiment cloche!

  3. Julie says:

    the significance of The Bells–this is much more of a dark memory from her childhood. The bells are first seen trembling for the flying man–“the three rings of danger.”–the ringing takes you back to the bells. And is repeated in her next stanza with “love, love, love”–is it love or is another sign of danger? Is this a realization of where the danger begins at this circus? and the bells come back for the final sentence–“all the trembling bells of you were mine.” That memory may read full of love, but trembling bells in this poem equate to danger–it was a warning for Anne–probably about her dad.

  4. Kasey says:

    I think the point of this poem is that she is remembering a good time she once had with her father. I think the significance of the bells are that they are something she remembers hearing while she was with her dad, so bells remind her of the good times she had with her dad.

  5. Carissa says:

    I think that the bells are symbolizing her emotions. In the poem she is talking about how she feels very close to her father, and how they are connected at this moment of time. Her and her father (or whatever person she was thinking of) share their feelings. That is my insignificant opinion anyway.

  6. Jenny says:

    I really don’t understand it. What are the bells symbolizing?

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