The time draws near the birth of Christ;
The moon is hid, the night is still;
A single church below the hill
Is pealing, folded in the mist.
A single peal of bells below,
That wakens at this hour of rest
A single murmur in the breast,
That these are not the bells I know.
Like strangers’ voices here they sound,
In lands where not a memory strays,
Nor landmark breathes of other days,
But all is new unhallow’d ground.
The third Christmas of the poem is introduced in this cunning little canto which with the sound of a strange leal of bells, signals that Tennyson is in a new place, and that as we shall see, the newness is not merely geographical. The new unhallow’d ground may turn out to be fruitful.