That moment when the soldier's soul
slipped through his wounds, seeped
through the staunching fingers of his friend
then, like a shadow, slid across a field
to vanish, vanish, into textless air . . .
there would have been a bell in Perth,
Llandudno, Bradford, Winchester,
rung by a landlord in a sweating, singing pub
or by an altar-boy at Mass - in Stoke-on-Trent,
Leicester, Plymouth, Crewe, in Congresbury,
Littleworth - an ice-cream van jingling in a park;
a door pushed open to a jeweller's shop;
a songbird fluttering from a tinkling cat - in Ludlow,
Wolverhampton, Taunton, Hull - a parish church
chiming out the hour; the ringing end of school -
in Wigan, Caythorpe, Peterborough, Ipswich,
Inverness, King's Lynn, Malvern, Leeds -
a deskbell in a quiet, dark hotel; bellringers' practice
heard by Sunday cricketers; the first of midnight's bells
at Hogmanay - in Birkenhead, Motherwell, Rhyl -
there would have been a bell
in Chester, Fife, Bridgend, Wells, Somerton,
Newcastle, in city and in town and countryside -
the crowded late night bus; a child's bicycle;
the old, familiar, clanking cow-bells of the cattle.

This article first appeared in the 11 October 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Melvyn Bragg guest edit