"The Voice of the Bell" by Folger McKinsey

Five days a week for over four decades, Folger McKinsey contributed his “Good Morning” column to The Baltimore Sun. From 1906 to 1948, he served as a columnist, writer, and poet under his pen name, the Bentztown Bard. Known for his thought-provoking and sentimental style, he was eulogized upon his death in 1950 as “the voice of veritable Maryland. Nobody ever knew the state better, every nook and cranny of it from mountains to sea, understood it more sensitively or loved it more than he.”

So well regarded and generally loved was he, that for the dedication of the Pocahontas Bell at the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, he was invited by the Pocahontas Bell Association to write a poem for the occasion. Unable to attend the event in person, he asked a Mrs. Grant from Denver, Colorado, to read the verses he composed for the gathered crowd, which included Governor Claude A. Swanson of Virginia. The “reading of the poem was an invocation, arousing much enthusiasm in the audience,” according to a contemporary witness.

The piece references many aspects of the bell’s casting, including the amalgamation of historical relics, donated from women across the North and South, that comprise the bell’s metal.

Photograph of Folger McKinsey, the Bentztown Bard, and his dog

Image: Folger McKinsey rests on the log of a fallen tree, hat in hand, with his dog. Courtesy: Cecil Whig.

The Voice of the Bell 

Folger McKinsey, the Bentztown Bard

I am the voice of the bell, named of her name and sweet
With metals fused by the glowing flame of love in the crucible's heat;
I am the voice of her heart, and her charm, and her virgin grace.
Who stood in the path of the savage blow with pity upon her face.
I am the voice of her soul, who was princess and woman, too,
A rose of the tawny bloom that bloomed under these skies of blue!

I am the voice of the bell in whose sweet throat they've spun
Metal of worth from Northern homes and homes of the Southern sun;
Blended and massed and fused, dim treasures of memory old,
Silver and copper, and bronze, and brass, and gold of the yellow gold;
Out of one speaks the tongue and the heart of the sovereign land,
A sisterhood of the sister States, neighborly, hand in hand!

I am the voice of the bell, Virginia's bell and time's;
Ringing the revel of golden years in revel of golden chimes;
Ringing the old days back, sweet as they were before,
With loveliness of the olden love and charm of the ancient lore;
Ringing the new and true, the tocsin of splendid days,
With hope and cheer for the onward years lighting the golden ways!

I am the voice of the bell, with a rose song in my mouth,
Ringing the faith of a woman's heart over the rosy South;
Ringing her fame afar and ringing her name on high —
A woman of worth when the young green earth bloomed under a tender sky!
I am Virginia's bell, and the glory of her is mine,
As the glory of her, O land we love, is ever and ever thine!

Ring me and ye shall hear the hammers that strike my rim
Echo the glory of deeds and days ages shall not make dim;
Trinkets were brought to me from masters and mansions great,
Relics were wrought in me of field and forum and State,
And in me they molded, too, the voice of the deeds that ring
Wherever the lips of the legions shout, the voices of freemen sing!

I am the voice of the bell, named of her name and sweet 
With melody of a woman's heart and dancing of woman's feet!
I am the voice of the past, and I am the voice that thrills 
Out of Virginia's heart of hearts, over her hill of hills;
Voice of the North and South, tender and strong and true,
Ringing the hope of the sister States under these skies of blue!

Cover image: Early morning mists rise along the Highland Scenic Highway in the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas County, southeast West Virginia.