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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. . .”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The sun shines so brightly on this verdant hill
Where I sit in silence so peaceful and still;
I’ve come here alone to survey the fair scene
Spread out now before me, so fragrant and green.

A balmy breeze blows here, so easy and free;
The song of the lark and the buzz of the bee,
The whispering grass and the coo of the dove
Draws from my heart songs of thanksgiving and love.

I love this place where I can rest for a while
And look out and see, spanning many a mile,
The wide earth outstretched and the path that I’ve trod
That’s brought me thus far by the mercy of God.

Below lies a patchwork, so varied and bright,
Where meadows and groves mingle shadow and light,
And placid brooks gleam beneath cool, shady bowers
Near fields full of glowing and graceful wildflowers.

There sheep and cows graze on fresh clover and grass
Beneath dreamy skies where the lazy clouds pass,
And one lonely seagull keeps circling on high,
In search of the sea with a sad, mewing cry.

I see running hedgerows and hushed country lanes
Where country maids walk in the eve with their swains
Past humble thatched cottages, old water mills,
Meandering footpaths that lead to the hills.

All this I can see—yet I see so much more!
Perched high on this hill, other scenes come before
The eye of  remembrance, as here I behold
Dear faces appearing from sweet days of old.

I see a child rising so high on a swing
Together with friends whom he gladly would bring,
Set free from the earth, on a mission to Mars—
Just look as in fancy they fly to the stars!

I hear the child laugh as he skips down the road,
A stranger to care and life’s heart-crushing load;
I watch him drift off at the end of the day
(For boyhood’s brief season must soon pass away).

I see a youth sitting at twilight alone
To watch the sun set, as the treetops, wind-blown,
Speak quietly to his young heart, as the air
Blows through his own soul, kindling reverence and prayer.

I see him now filled with the pangs of first love
That move him to tears like a sad mourning dove;
I see his heart break and its blossom lie blighted
By longings unmet and by love unrequited.

I see the same man again, now somewhat older,
Kiss gently the head resting on his broad shoulder;
He grasps his wife’s hand, as into the hearth gazing,
He gives thanks to God as they watch the fire blazing.

I see him now, belly round, with his hair thinning
With ear to ear smile, at the whole wide world grinning;
He tears up then watching, with pride and elation,
His “little girl” pass him at her graduation.

I look once again, and I see down the lane
An older man walking, his heart full of pain,
He walks, shoulders drooping, world weary and worn,
Exhausted and saddened by troubles he’s borne.

He keeps drawing closer and starts up the hill,
To find a fine perch, like a bird on a sill,
From where he can look back across the long years
And pour forth his sorrows and melt into tears.

Dear man, how I know you!  I share every sigh,
The tears on your cheek, and your long wailing cry.
I think of my childhood, my youth and my prime,
And grieve every loss with the passage of time.

I long to hold on to these beauties forever:
The sweetness of childhood and youthful endeavor,
The freshness of things when they’re newly discovered,
The joy of adventure, rare treasures uncovered.

The strength of young manhood that slowly is drained,
As wisdom increases through life’s lessons gained;
Oh, yes, my heart’s rent with deep wounds by time’s knife
And bleeds for the briefness and losses of life!

How beautiful, oh! but how heart-piercing, too,
To see from this hilltop so poignant a view;
To look back at days that can never return,
So bright, yet so fleeting, like candles that burn.

Oh, how can I put into words what I feel?
An ache that persists like these church bells that peal
Across the wide valley, so crisp and so clear,
To count all the hours of the swift passing year.

The solemn bells toll, and this message proclaim–
That nothing on earth will stay always the same;
For change and decay are in all that we see.
Earth’s beauties point upward—that’s where I would be.

So now, youthful pilgrims, I bid you adieu!
I’m heading up higher and hope to meet you
When we reach the top, if you choose to ascend;
I’ll look for you when we have both reached our end.

Keep to the right path, and you’ll surely arrive,
Where strength, love and beauty forever will thrive;
God bless your life’s journey; your heart may He fill
With thanks as you savor each view from the hill.

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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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13 Responses

    • Martin Rizley

      David, thanks for sharing your response to the poem; I´m so pleased that you liked it.

      Reply
  1. C.B. Anderson

    This poem gave us a sweeping view of the vast panorama where an archetypal life is played out. The anapestic meter is the perfect vehicle for the lush images, the unabashed sentiment, and the logical thrust that drives the poem forward into each successive temporal node. The reader is able not only to experience vicariously the feelings of the narrator, but also to experience them directly, as he sees clearly laid out what the narrator himself is regarding.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      C.B. I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of the poem; I like the expression “archetypal life” which highlights the fact that there are certain common experiences human beings share. That is what makes possible, I suppose, that sense of identification with a narrator´s feelings, as the various images used evoke parallel memories in the mind of the reader.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Yes, the heart and the soul draw breath from the same lungs. Pneuma is pretty much all we’ve got.

  2. Paul Freeman

    Very readable and very enjoyable. The breadth of the story told by the poem reminded me of Telegraph Road, an epic song (and my favourite song) by Dire Straits.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      I am not familiar with that song, Paul, but I will check it out. Thanks for your feedback.

      Reply
  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Martin, whenever I see your name I know I’m in for a poetic treat, and ‘The View from the Hill’ is wistful, beautiful, spiritual and insightful. From the shining Ecclesiastes quote to the blessing of the final closing couplet your words have touched my heart. I love the scenes from nature (to sit amid God’s wonders has always soothed me during troubled times), and these potent lines; “Oh, yes, my heart’s rent with deep wounds by time’s knife/And bleeds for the briefness and losses of life!” make me want to savor every moment more… much, much more. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Susan, for expressing to me your heartfelt response to the poem. Since you are from England originally, you may have recognized the English natre of the countyside I was describing, a “patchwork” landscape with hedgerows, thatched cottages and water mills. I was in fact thinking of a particular hill in England when I wrote it, Bredon Hill in the county of Worcester. Although I have never been there personally, various photos of the hill and a lovely symphonic rhapsody by the English composer Julius Harrison entitled Bedon Hill, served as inspiration for the poem. I wanted to express in the poem the same mood of nostalgic wistfulness that Harrison has expressed so beautifully in his music, which can be heard at the following link:
      https://youtu.be/5ZY_JTU6ynA

      Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Martin, what a delightful read. As an Englishman who loves to climb hills, I have stood on Bredon many times, the words of Housman’s “Shropshire Lad” in my head. Although Bredon is not in Shropshire, it looks over to that most rural of English Shires. Across from Bredon is the glorious switchback ridge of the Malverns where we are firmly in Sir Edward Elgar territory, the music of George Butterworth echoes off all these hills. You have summed up this very special piece of England perfectly and I will look out the Harrison piece with interest.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Jeff,
      Your description of the area around Bredon Hill makes me want to hop on a plane and go there at once. I guess I´ll have to wait a while– until Covid restrictions are scaled back; in the meantime, armchair journeys to the “sceptered isle” will have to suffice, with the music of Elgar and Butterworth playing in the background– composers whose music long been a source of delight for this Anglophile! If you like Vaughan Williams´ “Lark Ascending,” you will love the piece by Harrison– it breathes the same fresh English air.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Martin, I have loved, forever, the Lark Ascending. Whenever I am in reflective mood on a hilltop, I often hear Morten Lauridson’s “Oh Magnum Mysterium.”
        Thank you again, I will re-read this afternoon and then go out and climb a big hill.

  5. David Watt

    Martin, your poem is rich with the images of life, and spiritually uplifting. I was particularly struck by the same lines praised by Susan. I always look forward to reading your life affirming work.

    Reply

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