"Ring Them Bells" as written by and J. Kander F. Ebb....
Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams
For they're deep and they're wide
And the world is on its side
And time is running backwards
And so is the bride

Ring them bells Saint Peter where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an iron hand
So the people will know
Oh it's rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down upon the sacred cow

Ring them bells Sweet Martha for the poor man's son
Ring them bells so the world will know that God is one
Oh the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled with lost sheep
Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
Ring them bells for all of us who are left
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through
Ring them bells for the time that flies
For the child that cries
When innocence dies

Ring them bells for Saint Catherine from the top of the room
Ring them bells from the fortress for the lilies that bloom
Oh the lines are long and the fighting is strong
And they're breaking down the distance between right and wrong


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"Ring Them Bells" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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Ring Them Bells song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI've always interpreted it that way also. The bride running backwards is the church. (bride of Christ in scripture) "who will judge the many when the game is through" The believers returning with Jesus when He returns in judgement. And He is going to return to judge this world.
    frankbooth7on November 08, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationYes, the song is certainly filled with Biblical imagery. It also contains other symbols of spirituality like "sacred cow." I interpret this song as an account of end times, our times, in which spirituality, art, and religion are all gasping their last great breath before the end (or beginning) of this world. I also like the way this song shows the predestined nature of all life, that we are all in a vast story, and that it is happening right now: we are players on a players stage.
    markosfunkon March 16, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOne of 'em protestsongs I guess, I like this song very much; yes sir.
    Two good pictures: "Time is running backwards, and so is the bride", and
    "Sun is going down, upon the sacred cow", very lively pictures indeed.
    But what does mean? I'm guilty in not knowing my Bible-history to well, but I see the references. The song is for me a sort-of-reminder of all who we need to pay more attention to. May it be the blind, the poor, or the awakening when you see your world is not innocent.
    Sufjan Stevens has a great cover-version of this song (from the I'm not there OST). Yes!
    Andy the Mandyon February 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"the city that dreams" honestly i didnt know where it was, so i googled it and i came across this website robert-fisk.com/…
    Iraq is considered by many to be modern day Babylon that is talked about in revelation.....
    "time is running backwords and so is the bride" i can't help but to think of the word bride as in biblical terms and not an actual woman. The bride, i believe, is the church or "body" of Christ. The "four winds" also mentioned in the bible. Later in the song he says that "the lines are long" and i would think he is talking of family lines, possible the most famous of all family lines, the line of David. "and they're breaking down the distance between right and wrong" So true. What used to be considered sin is now commonly excepted in the world today, which the bible predicted would happen in the "end times"....our morals are slipping further and further away with each generation.
    markrobion July 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI take this as Bob's comment on proselytization. In each stanza, he presents someone who takes it upon himself to preach some gospel to others-- ringin them bells. Whether you're heathen, a saint, or someone names Martha, the act is the same. Some see the need for an iron hand, some want to preach to all the lost sheep, some call out to the unfortunate, others rally good against evil. It's a song about righteousness as an attitude, rather than any particular message of salvation.

    To me, it's a similar sentiment to Serve Somebody. No matter who we are or how we think our message is special, we're all in the same boat. Contrast this with Slow Train, which sounds more like an invective against false prophets (propheteering?). Drifting boat versus train steaming forward forcefully in one direction. Ring Them Bells is less declarative, more observational.

    And by the way, it's just a beautiful song, simple and symmetrical and doesn't ask for much, especially the live version on Tell Tale Signs. Makes my hair stand on end.
    5thdayomayon August 01, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFrom Dylan's Jewish background, Christians are heathen. Their bells symbolize their activities for reminding the world of God's will. This is certainly an important job. Though the result is that "they're breaking down the distance / Between right and wrong". Perhaps due to their variety and dividedness.

    Yes, Christianity is Jesus' bride. But Dylan sees it is developing backwards. The "sacred cow" was not meant to be a God other than Jahwe but just a means of better control over Jahwe. The specific "beliefs" of all the different Christian demonimations can be seen as "sacred cows" and thereby as a reason for going backwards.
    Mikeschon July 07, 2013   Link

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