In these and others of the Flemish Towns, the Carillon, or chimes which have a most fantastic and delicate music, are played almost continually. The custom is very ancient
The Carillon (Antwerp & Bruges)
At Antwerp, there is a low wall
Binding the city, and a moat
Beneath, that the wind keeps afloat.
You pass the gates in a slow drawl
Of wheels. If it is warm at all
The Carillon will give you thought.
I climbed the stair in Antwerp church,
What time the urgent weight of sound
At sunset seems to heave it round.
Far up, the Carillon did search
The wind; and the birds came to perch
Far under, where the gables wound.
In Antwerp harbour on the Scheldt
I stood along, a certain space
Of night. The mist was near my face:
Deep on, the flow was heard and felt.
The Carillon kept pause, and dwelt
In music through the silent place.
At Bruges, when you leave the train,
A singing numbness in your ears,—
The Carillon’s first sound appears
Only the inner moil. Again
A little minute though—your brain
Takes quiet, and the whole sense hears.
John Memmeling and John Van Eyck
Hold state at Bruges. In sore shame
I scanned the works that keep their name.
The Carillon, which then did strike
Mine ears, was heard of theirs alike:
30It set me closer unto them.
I climbed at Bruges all the flight
The Belfry has of ancient stone.
For leagues I saw the east wind blown:
The earth was grey, the sky was white.
I stood so near upon the height
That my flesh felt the Carillon.
This poem was published in The Germ in Issue no. 3, 31st March 1850. Although published anonymously, the poem was written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in October 1849.
This video is a lovely pictorial and musical introduction to The Memling Museum in Bruges, illustrating the types of works Rossetti and Holman Hunt would have seen during their trip together.