Monday, January 18, 2010

Iron Music

Forth he 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 echoed
From the belfries everywhere.

The old State House bell is silent,
Hushed is now its clamorous tongue,
But the spirit it awakened
Still is living, ever young.

~~Author unknown

We visited countless memorials, museums, battlegrounds, and places of historical moment during our last vacation, but the only time I was moved to tears was when I stood in front of the Liberty Bell. I tried to analyze my unexpected burst of emotion: what was it about this icon that touched me so deeply? Perhaps it was a respect for the incredible history this venerable bell has witnessed. Or was it the crack, the jagged gash that evokes memory of the scar our nation bears from her Civil War? Was my emotion tied to my deepening belief that there is an impending need for its iron music to sound anew?

I shelved my feelings for further examination at some more private and convenient time. That appointment with myself came due today as I was reading Bruce Feiler's book, America's Prophet. The 13 page chunk he devoted to the liberty bell and its history affirms that my experience is by no means unique.

One reason cited for its universal appeal is the fact that it is a flexible symbol, borrowed by the people for purposes beyond the Revolution. It was sent from state to state after the Civil War as a unifying symbol. It was borrowed as the symbol of hope for women suffragettes, civil rights activists, and others who deemed themselves oppressed. Even though the bell was created to be heard, it has become a visual object of hope. Its famous inscription only enhances its ringing purpose:

"Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants Therof." Leviticus 25:10

I love this quote from the book:

"Hearing is our most fundamental sense. Even a deaf person can feel vibration. And it's the same with this place. The bell is the most important part of this otherwise public building. It's the universal part. It sings the Declaration of Independence. The smallest part of the building turns out to have the biggest voice." ~~ Karie Diethorn

Singing the Declaration. Making iron music. The clamorous tongue hushed, but the spirit of liberty awakened. I love these phrases.

Our American icons are packed with meaning. They deserve a special place in our hearts and in our heritage.

1 comment:

Student Handouts, Inc. said...

Beautiful pictures! More?