Now breaking through the crust of snow, pale messengers appear
To herald with celestial glow the springtime of the year;
With gentle boldness, bursting forth,
They beckon warming winds henceforth
To melt cold winter’s mantle, blowing over moor and mere.

For months, the earth, to cold’s embrace a captive, has been bound,
While winter, like a wolf, has paced voraciously around,
Devouring all things green in sight
And picking bare the trees at night
With gusts of icy breath, erasing verdure from the ground.

But now, spring’s vanguards, dressed in white, like angel hosts arrayed,
Declare the end of that dark night they silently invade;
Their advent marks the break of day,
When lush green fields and riotous May
The ravenous wolf will put to flight, as frozen wastelands fade.

Arising from the mouldering ground like spirits from the grave,
They haunt the landscape all around, a heavenly enclave
Sent here to purify the earth,
Presiding o’er the land’s rebirth,
As field and fen again resound with music, wave on wave.

Like hatching chicks, they peep their heads up through their crystal shell,
Emerging, as their number spreads throughout the melting dell;
In silent strength, they take their place,
Transforming with their quiet grace
The frosty fields to flower beds, to tell us, “All is well.”

Yet snowdrops are themselves the slaves of time, and so must die;
Their drooping heads must drop in graves at last and there must lie;
The wolf of winter must return,
But not for long—the tide will turn—
As snowdrops come again to pave the way for spring’s reply.

So let us hear the happy news these passing prophets say:
Their dazzling presence brings to view a future glorious day
When countless angels, dressed in white,
Will usher in the end of night
As endless spring descends like dew to never pass away!

 

 

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.


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17 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    What an incredibly beautiful poem that reads like a dream and resonates so very deeply!

    And are you on the most remarkable roll, or what?

    Reply
  2. Paul Oratofsky

    Musically, verbally, and lyrically beautiful. A joy to read. It’s the admixture of compatible but different melodies brilliantly laced together into one harmonious fabric that makes this sing so deliciously.

    Thanks for this, Martin.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to read it and share you thoughts in response. Much appreciated.

      Reply
  3. Peter Hartley

    Martin – I might have written “governing” or “overseeing” rather than “presiding o’er”, but then I’d do anything to avoid archaisms, and admittedly my two suggestions don’t have precisely the same meaning anyway. Apart from that little niggle it is very atmospheric, and Paul above describes the poem far better than I could.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      I am glad you found the poem “atmospheric.” I often find myself moved to write (especially nature poems) by the desire to express the mood or atmospher of a particular scene in writing. I appreciate your taking the time to give me your critique.

      Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    Galanthus nivalis has been blooming in my garden for two weeks now, due to the mild weather. I have only one niggling objection to the poem, which is that in the first stanza you rhymed “forth” with “henceforth.” This is essentially an identity rhyme (“forth”/”forth”) and, as such, a weak rhyme. Of course your options were limited to “north” and “swarth,” or to some other word of which “orth” is a part. Though not strictly forbidden, I find such identity rhymes to be ugly and a sign of insufficient imagination or diligence.

    Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      I caught it too, C.B., (actually, I had to go back and look at it) but I think the syllabic/rhythmic difference of “bursting forth” and “henceforth” carried it for me.

      Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      I try to avoid identity rhymes generally, but perhaps it was because of the rhythmic difference that Joe points out between “bursting forth” and “henceforth,” I left it in place. If I could think of an alternative reading that uses “north” (for example), I woul very likely change this line of the poem; but so far nothing has come to mind.

      Reply
      • James A. TWeedie

        “worth” would be acceptable as both a near and as a sight rhyme. I suggest this even though the double “forth” rhyme is perfectly fine with me. Blake does this to the point of tedium and seems to get a pass for it and his rhymes are far less sophisticated than any we see here at SCP. I

        Also, whatever comments have described this poem as lovely, or whatever, I see their bet and raise it! It is way above the average fare and I was blessed by both its beauty and form, as well as its message.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    This tour de force of an enviably crafted poem paints mellifluous, linguistic scenes that dazzle the mind’s eye with awe and beauty . This glorious tribute to those ‘passing prophets’ is an absolute privilege to read. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you so much for expressing your appreciation of the poem. I am very glad you liked it!

      Reply
  6. Margaret Coats

    Fine seasonal poem that proceeds beyond the seasons in graceful language and music. Your skill with a bold and rare stanza form, as well as your careful focus on the image of the snowdrop, makes this poem at least as good as John Keble’s “Tuesday in Easter Week” (subtitled “To the Snowdrop” in his celebrated volume The Christian Year, published 1827).

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      I know that the snowdrop has appeared repeatedly in literature, and its symbolic tie to new life and the resurrection has been noted before, but I was not familiar with the poem by John Keble. Thanks for the lead, and for your very encouraging feedback.

      Reply
  7. Monty

    I fully agree, Martin, with the sentiments of two other commenters in this thread:

    With CB, when he says that identity-rhymes are “weak” and can look “ugly” on the page.
    With Joe, when he says that you’re “on the most remarkable roll” . . and you really are.

    The ‘roll’ seems to’ve started with your winning entry ‘2b or not 2b’ in last year’s ‘Line of Shakespeare’ competition . . since when you’ve just kept on rolling. Long may it continue . .

    Reply

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