A Winter landscape by Barend Cornelis Koekkoek‘The Music of the Earth’ and Other Poetry by Martin Rizley The Society February 3, 2019 Beauty, Poetry 14 Comments The Music of the Earth In walking home from church one winter’s eve, I paused to hear the echoes down the street; The dead leaves rattled dryly on the branch And scraped along the sidewalk at my feet. But far beyond, another, sweeter sound Ran deeply, like a river through my heart, A sound that cannot ever be compared To music born of human skill and art. It echoed faintly in the evening wind, And in the cries of children down the lane: The mystic, minor music of the earth, So peaceful, yet so poignant in its strain. No other earthly blessing can compare, Nor words convey the joy I felt to hear The somber, searching voice of Father Earth Lamenting low the twilight of the year. A Winter’s Day Behold the vale of seamless white! Its virgin beauty bathed in light, As dazzling as a diamond field, Stretched out its maiden charms to yield. Above, a cloudless sky of blue Ascends to ever-deepening hue; Its richness beckons me to pass In thought, as through a looking glass. High overhead, the Prince of Day Climbs up the heaven’s steep gangway; His golden beams now cast a spell Of timelessness on all the dell. The pristine crispness of the day Awakes each sense along the way To hear, to feel, to smell, to taste Each detail of this wintry waste: The crunch of snow beneath my feet, The musty smell of rotting peat That mingles with the smokey trace Of ash from many a fire place, The numbness of my frozen toes, The warmth of wool against my nose, The dampening of my eyes with tears As icy winds bite cheeks and ears. Then, suddenly, I stand quite still And feel the penetrating chill Invade the marrow of my bones And touch my frame’s foundation stones. Gripped by the cold, I briefly quake As creaking houses sometimes shake In winter, rattling pane and door— So tremble I, from roof to floor. How wonderful to be alive! Though all around me, earth and hive Lie dormant now till spring returns, Within my heart, a fire burns. The buzz of life within my veins Will not be still while youth remains, These puffs of breath, this pumping heart From lifeless things set me apart. The heat and vigor of my frame Stand out against the icy sameness Of the landscape all about; I must seize life, so thrust me out! Thrust me forth into the cold, For I am young and strong and bold, For all too soon, I too must sleep— Till spring arrives—in nature’s keep. Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) 14 Responses Amy Foreman February 3, 2019 Descriptive and enjoyable reads, both of them, Martin! Reply Martin Rizley February 3, 2019 Thank you, Amy! I’m glad you enjoyed them. Reply The Chained Muse February 3, 2019 Martin, These poems demonstrate quite a fine talent, and joy. Your descriptions are great. Lines like these are very nice: But far beyond, another, sweeter sound Ran deeply, like a river through my heart, A sound that cannot ever be compared To music born of human skill and art. You can feel the music running through you when you read something like that. However these poems have many such fine descriptions. In light of that, though you do take a greater conceptual step in your second poem, which I also liked, I think you can go even further and be even bolder given your natural talent. I’ll give you an example of what I mean of course: Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Motivführung Principle in English Poetry https://archive.schillerinstitute.com/fid_91-96/963_P_B_Shelley.html This is written by the poet Daniel Leach, whose great poems were just recently published by the Society, http://classicalpoets.org/2019/01/31/it-and-other-poetry-by-daniel-leach/ This other article was written by myself, for The Chained Muse, which I edit: https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2018/10/29/John-Keats-and-the-Need-for-a-New-Renaissance-in-Poetry Lastly, one by another poet, Paul Gallagher, who has written much great stuff on the question of classical composition: https://archive.schillerinstitute.com/fidelio_archive/1997/fidv06n04-1997Wi/fidv06n04-1997Wi_037-the_reawakening_of_classical_met.pdf You can also see some of his poetry published by The Chained Muse, as proof that these are not people who merely talk the talk. https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2019/04/01/Songbirds I look forward to seeing more of your poetry. Best, David Gosselin Reply Martin Rizley February 3, 2019 Thank you for the encouragement and for the tips you have given me. I will certainly read the articles you cite. Reply Joseph S. Salemi February 3, 2019 Both poems are well structured and smooth. There are two small faults. In the fifth quatrain of “A Winter’s Day,” the proper spelling is /smoky/. The form “Smokey” is only used as the name of a forestry service cartoon figure of a bear, or as the nickname for highway patrolmen who wear the same type of headgear. In the same poem, in the penultimate quatrain, the meter is spoiled by the word /sameness/. Moreover, it doesn’t rhyme with “frame.” The word “sameness”is also a poor diction choice because it is a vague abstraction that jars with the mostly straightforward vocabulary of the rest of the poem. I’d suggest the following revision: The heat and vigor of my flesh Stand out against the icy mesh That grips the landscape in cold webs: I must seize life, before it ebbs! Reply Martin Rizley February 3, 2019 I was wondering about the very line you point out and was uncertain what to do with it. Thanks for your suggested revision. I have a question about the issue of meter in this regard. When a poem is written in iambic tetrameter, is it ever considered permissible in classical poetry, or simply clumsy, to write one line that ends in an unstressed syllable (four iambs plus an unstressed final syllable), if the following line begins with a stressed syllable? (Which is what I did in that quatrain). Reply James A. Tweedie February 3, 2019 I am hopeful that Dr. Salemi will offer his definitive view of the matter, I will only offer my opinion. If I had written the stanza I would have formatted it: The heat and vigor of my frame Stand out against the icy same- ness of the landscape all about; I must seize life, so thrust me out! It looks awkward to the eye but allows the reader to flow through the thought without stumbling over the strange appearance of a word that does not seem to belong there. Of course, it is better to avoid such things entirely (there is a word for this which I can’t recall). When I have done this, myself, it has been intentional and usually to underscore the humorous, lighthearted subject of the poem. Here is an example (note the intentional free-ness in the meter, which further emphasizes the cheeky subject of the poem): The photos of my grandson always turn out Blurred. He’s always on the go. Perpet- Ual motion personified. He seems all set To be on never-ending walkabout. I would not ordinarily recommend doing this in a poem that you intend to be taken “seriously.”–although, as poet, you are free to do whatever you want! As long as it is done intentionally, for effect. Otherwise, it may come across as hinting at a lack of effort to find a better solution. As I said, I hope Dr. Salemi will add his view since I have asked the same question myself. By the way, I agree with David in his description of that particular stanza as delightfully musical and descriptive. I enjoyed the poems very much, especially since tomorrow is forecast to be the coldest of the year in my neck of the woods! Joseph S. Salemi February 3, 2019 Dear Martin Rizley — Yes, an unaccented syllable at the end of an iambic pentameter line is a “feminine ending.” It’s acceptable, but not when rhyme-paired with a line that has a masculine ending (i.e. that ends with a stressed syllable). The rhyme can’t happen if you do it. As for Mr. Tweedie’s solution (a split word carried over to the next line), it’s considered bad form and should only be used in dire emergencies when nothing else will solve the problem. In my Gallery of Ethopaths, I did it only once in 5000 lines, and even there it was to be taken as somewhat tongue-in-cheek and comical — exactly as Mr. Tweedie mentions in his post. It should never happen in a poem that is serious or exalted in tone or subject. Besides, consider the spoiled symmetry. Anything that detracts from the expected symmetry, rhyme, and balance of a formal poem is like an infected wart on the face of an otherwise beautiful woman. Martin Rizley February 3, 2019 Thanks for your very helpful reply to my question. And hope you can stay warm tomorrow! I have been hearing about the brutally cold weather in parts of the U.S. Reply Mark Stone February 3, 2019 Martin, Both poems are well crafted. I especially like the second one. Stanza 11 of the second poem reads as follows: The heat and vigor of my frame Stand out against the icy sameness Of the landscape all about; I must seize life, so thrust me out! Here’s another alternative: The heat and vigor of my frame Stand in contrast with the same Icy landscape all about; I must seize life, so thrust me out! Reply Martin Rizley February 4, 2019 Thank you, Mark, for your suggested revision. In light of the feedback that you and others have given me, I have been considering a complete rewrite of stanza 11; perhaps the best solution, instead of trying to preserve the exact wording, would be to preserve the basic thought, but tie the stanza more closely to stanza 10, in which I have just mentioned a fire within–“within my heart, a fire burns.” Tied in with that, the next stanza could read: “The quickening power of this flame Makes me stand out against the frame Of icy whiteness all all about: I must seize life, so thrust me out!” That preserves the basic idea, I think, though in this revision, the word “frame” refers to the landscape itself, rather than my own body. Reply Martin Rizley February 4, 2019 Actually, the reference the “fire within” is in verse 9, not verse 10. I didn’t see that at first. So I’ll have to think through this some more! Dusty Grein February 3, 2019 Martin, I think you have received some great suggestions on tightening the metric flow, and smoothing the slight irregularities in your diction. My only thought on those subjects is to polish carefully. As classical style poets, we craft our poetry in much the same way that the master sculptors of old built their art. We start with a blank page, and we chisel our form and breathe life into it with our passion, and our talent. We then continue to polish and shine it (some of us do that polishing in many rounds and after a step away for perspective). In these two works you have captured a beautiful and heartfelt series of images and emotions. and if you polish too much, you run the risk of lessening the intrinsic beauty you have breathed into these simple quatrains and paired couplets. In curiosity, have you ever worked in any of the longer forms, or lesser used meters? With your vision and expression, you really should try something along the lines of the villanelle, the rondeau redoublé, or perhaps–if you are moved deeply and your tale longer–a chant royal. All in all, these two are very good writes, and both have the potential to really shine, if you are careful as you finish the sanding and polishing of the faces on them. Great write. Dusty Reply Martin Rizley February 4, 2019 Thanks, Dusty, for your feedback. Although I have used a variety of meters in my poems, until now, I have not yet written poems in any of the longer forms. My method in writing has been quite simple– write an opening couplet or quatrain, allowing that to establish the metrical scheme, then continue writing without know ahead of time how long the poem will turn out to be. In the future, however, I want to take on the challenge writing in some of the classical forms you mentioned. Beyond writing a few sonnets, however, I have not yet done that. My interaction with poets like yourself on this website is very stimulating and helpful and is moving me to work harder at “polishing the face” of what I write. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.