Monday 17 November 2014


November, so far, has been full of images of poppies, especially those symbolic ceramic poppies.  One Hundred Years.

However, my post today is about an earlier moment commemorating the dead.



All History Girls readers will surely know the children’s song “Oranges and Lemons”, listing the sounds of all the different church bells within the City of London, with the familiar opening line that echoes the ring changes of St Clements Danes church.  

Sometime, at the end of the First World War, the poet and writer Eleanor Farjeon chose those familiar bells as a subject for a poem, offering an explanatory foot-note which, for the purpose of this blog, is coming first.

“When the half-muffled City Bells rang out in Commemoration of the Bell-Ringers who fell in the war, the bells of St Clement Danes could not take part owing to a defect in the frame work.”

Finally, here is Farjeon's poem, commemorating a small moment of unwanted silence amid the aftermath of the Great War:


Where are your Oranges?
Where are your Lemons?
What, are you silent now,
Bells of St Clement’s?
You, of all bells that rang
Once in Old London,
You, of all bells that sang
Utterly undone?
You whom all children know
Ere they know letters,
Making Big Ben himself 
Call you his betters?
Where are your lovely tones
Fruitful and mellow,
Full- flavoured orange-gold,
Clear lemon yellow?
Ring again, sing again,
Bells of St Clement’s,
Call as you swing again,
“Oranges! Lemons!”
Fatherless children
Are listening near you –
Sing for the children,
The fathers will hear you.

The poem was chosen by Walter De la Mare’
for his 1923 “Come Hither” anthology, offered “for the Young of All Ages”.

Penny Dolan


Carol Drinkwater said...

How wonderful, Penny, to put this into context. I hadn't known about the defect in the bells' framework. How long since I have heard that song! Thank you.

Joan Lennon said...

So poignant.

adele said...

Coming late to this,but it's beautiful!thanks Penny!

Adele (signing because for some reason can only comment anonymously!)

adele said...

Ooh! This let me do a comment on Google! Amazing

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Carol, Adele and Joan. Glad you enjoyed the post.

The poem and foot-note made me wish I had time to research this story further. I assumed it was a WWII event when I first read the poem, but then I checked the publication dates, and the story was definitely post-WWI.