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The Pale Rider Comes

“So then give to Caesar what is his,” our Lord and Master said,
__“And to God give what is his—your sacred soul!”
Yet despite these limits placed on him, with drawn sword dripping red,
__Bloody Caesar comes to seize complete control.

He comes wearing many masks to hide the pallor of his face,
__Stripped of flesh with empty sockets for his eyes.
Staring blind and grinning grimly at his prey, he would efface
__Every trace of their existence with his lies.

He burns up their life and legacy with bonfire and with pen,
__Using killings fields and famines to erase
The dark memory of monstrous deeds committed against men,
__Lest his glorious name be splattered with disgrace.

Under cover of the night, he buries deep their charred remains,
__Using dungeon, ditch, and Dachau’s dens to hide
From the record books all mention of the places, dates, and names
__Of the hapless victims of his genocide.

From all corners of the earth he comes, with bellowed cries of rage,
__Armed with axe and dressed in sable robe and cowl.
Riding on, his handle changes with each turning of the page,
__But he always wears the same imperious scowl.

Whether known as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, he comes with heart unchanged,
__Always proud, ambitious, hateful, cold, and cruel,
Driven by a lust for power, with his appetites deranged
__From the human flesh he feeds on for his fuel.

Though he tries to hide the truth, it will assuredly be found,
__From the putrid odor rising from his deeds
And the cries of all his victims who lie underneath the ground,
__Though their mounds be covered o’er with many weeds.

From the blood of valiant martyrs, who gave all to fight this fiend
__May we draw the strength to struggle in our day
Against every form of tyranny, to keep it quarantined
__And to stand against it when it comes our way.

May the word “resist” be ever on our freedom-loving lips,
__So that, long before that ghastly shade appears,
We are ready to defeat him, though an axe swing from his hips,
__With our lives, our love, our prayers, our blood, our tears.

We do not deny to Caesar what he rightfully may claim–
__Rusty coins with fading images of men.
But our souls which bear God’s image, and our lives which bear His name,
__To the Sovereign Minter only must be given.

So brave Daniel keeps on praying, and three lads refuse to bow
__To a god a despot tells them to adore.
And two fishermen keep preaching, willing never to kowtow,
__As they leave their empty nets beside the shore.

For they know they cannot give supreme devotion to a man,
__Though he claims the right their hearts and minds to own;
So, to Caesar they pay tribute and obey him where they can,
__But the things of God they give to God alone.

Let us join them in resisting, then, wherever he may ride
__This fierce specter, for in due time, he will fall,
With his ghoulish grimace shattered, at the turning of the tide,
__By the rightful King and only Lord of all.

.

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The World

When I survey this vast, sin-laden world
About to break under its crushing load
Of crimes unnumbered, offenses untold,
Heavy with guilt, and ready to be hurled
Into hell’s burning pit, I feel reduced
To nothingness before the magnitude
Of pain inflicted by the viper’s brood
Of evils in this rebels’ camp unloosed:

Diseases, famines, wars and racial strife,
Lying religions that enslave the soul,
Dark vices that entice, then take their toll
In vile addictions, loss of health and life.
Behold the train of those who agonize!
More countless than the sand upon the shore;
Like crashing waves, their voices ever roar
With curses, blasphemies, and anguished cries.

Oh, who upon his shoulders could withstand
The dreadful weight of such a world as this,
Or silence with his heel the viper’s hiss,
Or calm the ocean’s roar with outstretched hand?
Only that perfect Man who gladly bore
Upon his mighty back a rugged cross,
And took our blinding pain and endless loss,
That we might know God’s favor evermore.

.

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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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10 Responses

  1. Roy E. Peterson

    “The Pale Rider Comes,” is a great rendition of what is due to Caesar and what is meant for God in highly descriptive terminology that command our attention. I believe in the first verse and third line, the word you meant is “sword” and not “sworn.” The imagery is compelling covering the centuries, since Christ explained it to the Pharisees. A true masterpiece. ” “The World” is a crushing indictment of our present plight! Another great work of poetry.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Roy, for your feedback and for noting the correction that needed to be made in the first stanza. I am glad that you enjoyed the poems.

      Reply
  2. Phil S. Rogers

    Great poems! Especially loved ‘The Pale Rider Comes.’ Thank you, Martin.

    Reply
  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    Beautiful work, Martin! Some of the parts I especially like in “The Pale Rider Comes”, are the way you carried through the coin imagery from “Rusty coins with fading images of men” to “the Sovereign Minter.”; the brilliant phrase “with bonfire and with pen”; and “dungeons, ditch, and Dachau’s dens”. Also, the idea of quarantining tyranny is wonderful. Your long lines with their emphatic meter, are perfect for this very significant subject. “The World” continues with your depiction of the results of the Fall and the impossibility of mere people of Adam’s race ever being able to fix it, with the result that only the God of peace can crush Satan underfoot — “Or silence with his heel the viper’s hiss” is just brilliant!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you so much, Cynthia, for your enthusiastic response to both poems. You understood well the theological framework of the second poem with your reference to the Fall. The woeful panorama of human vice and suffering depicted in the first two stanzas serves as a dark cloud out of which a silver lining shines forth in the last stanza with the image of the perfect Substitute who enters the scene to pay the ransom price.

      Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Martin, thank you for these beautifully crafted, impactful and fiercely expressive poems – poems I will be returning to. “The Pale Rider Comes” uses every poetic device to create filmic images that rise before my eyes in all their horror. I especially like:

    Whether known as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, he comes with heart unchanged,
    __Always proud, ambitious, hateful, cold, and cruel,
    Driven by a lust for power, with his appetites deranged
    __From the human flesh he feeds on for his fuel.

    This says everything about the evil here on Earth – same evil, different guises, and the guise of ‘care’ it creeps about in today is truly mind blowing and heart wrenching.

    Both poems pack one helluva powerful punch. We should all be waking up to the fact we’re fighting a bitter battle against that Pale Rider… but ultimately, he isn’t going to win! Great stuff!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Susan, for your thoughtful response to the poems. I agree with you about the “mind blowing” form that tyranny can take in modern Western societies under the guise of “care”. In the name of the collective good, some demigod politicians would gradually whittle away at all individual liberties, such as freedom of speech and the right to informed consent when it comes personal medical decisons. I am reminded of a great quote by C.S. Lewis on this subject. He wrote, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

      Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    A poem can’t get much more uplifting than either of these. What happened? Did your dog eat your favorite cat? Did your cell phone get stuck in your ear? Did the Devil come disguised as a Fuller Brush salesman?

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      I grant you that both poems are rather “apocalyptic” in tone, with a dark vision of the world´s spiritual plight in this present age; but remember, in apocalyptic literature, good triumphs over evil, not the reverse! So both poems end on a message of hope, despite the dark tone with which they begin.

      Reply

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