Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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The Bells of Hell - (2007)


for medium voice and piano


The bells of hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me:
And the little devils how they sing-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.
O death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling,
O Grave, thy victor-ee?
The bells of hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling,
For you but not for me.

2 pages, circa 45"


From the Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, ed. John Brophy and Eric Partridge (London: Eric Partridge, 1930), first published between 1914 - 1918. This is noted as being written by anonymous with the dates given, 1900-1945. Given the First World War's grievous casualty figures,  certainly this anonymous author was prescient about his chances on the battlefield, but perhaps not for the Second World War. That a statement of faith might be turned towards humor is a side of the human psychology in which the greatest terrors might be made light of through humor. So be it.


A simple song form, the opening gesture reflects those "bells of hell," not so mighty as some would have it be, for the text makes a joke of them.