The Koran says that bells hang on the trees of Paradise, and are set in motion by wind from the throne of God, as often as the blessed wish for music. (Sale.)
Bells as musical As those that, on the golden-shafted trees Of Eden, shook by the eternal breeze.
“Do you there hear? Clean shirt and a shave for muster at five bells.” —Basil Hall.
I'll not hang all my bells on one horse. I'll not leave all my property to one son. The allusion is manifest. Give her the bells and let her fly. Don't throw good money after bad; make the best of the matter, but do not attempt to bolster it up. When a hawk was worthless, the bells were taken off, and the bird was suffered to escape, but the advice given above is to “leave the bells” and let the hawk go.
In olden times bells were rung backwards as a tocsin, or notice of danger.
“Beacons were lighted upon crags and eminences; the bells were rung
backwards in the churches; and the general summons to arm announced an
extremity of danger.” —
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh (Hamlet, iii. 1). A most exquisite metaphor for a deranged mind, such as that of Don Quixote.
Neither the king, nor he that loves him best, Dares stir a wing, if Warwick shakes his bells.
Shakespeare: 3 Henry VI., i. 1.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894