Ruba’i: Thaw

The snow and ice are in retreat;
Clear water sparkles in the street
And my mind turns once more to Spring
When Winter finally knows defeat.

Dank days and endless evenings bring
Bleak, melancholy thoughts that ring
Like curfew bells inside my head
And set the darkness echoing.

Long months the woods and fields lie dead
And, with them, joy. An aching dread
Of all the life Iโ€™ve left undone
Leaves me unsleeping in my bed.

But soon the battle will be won:
The ground will warm, the sap will run,
And hope will rise up with the sun.
And hope will rise up with the sun.


This is my first-ever attempt at the ruba’i, but I already know it won’t be my last (you have been warned!) It’s a very humble homage to one of my poet-heroes, Robert Frost, who adopted the same form for his incomparable ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.


16 thoughts on “Ruba’i: Thaw

  1. I am smiling Nick at the synchronicity of our posts today.

    I love that Robert Frost poem and I think this is a lovely homage to his poem.

    I suspect that the retreat may be a bit longer in coming, but in the meantime your poem made me smile.

    Take care my friend on those icy lanes


    • ‘Synchronicity’ – what a lovely word, and notion. It’s wonderful to be part of a community of people who see patterns, make intellectual leaps, and join the dots of life in new and imaginative ways. And if I’ve brought a smile to your face, my friend, I shall consider the day a complete success! N.

  2. I had forgotten how bleak and barren winter months could be in England. I do remember, though, finding delight in small colonies of snowdrops appearing here and there in the garden. Then after that, I think it was daffodils galore that carpeted all soil, and the scent was just lovely. I love English spring.

    #I really must learn and appreciate more about poetry; iambic pentameter, Ruba’i, they all sound so fascinating.

    Ayano xxx

    • ‘Bleak and barren’ perfectly describes the scene from my window this morning, Ayano; heaps of frozen snow, sheets of glassy ice and a sky the colour of old asphalt. Nothing much to encourage anyone out of doors. January had been one of the mildest on record, and all the bluebells, snowdrops, crocuses and other spring flowers were starting to show: I think they may be repenting their enthusiasm now!

      Iambic pentameter, despite its Latin name, is the classic metre of English poetry – thanks largely to Will Shakespeare, I guess. It’s all to do with ‘stressed’ syllables: an iamb is made up of two syllables, one ‘weak’ and one ‘strong’ – think ‘dee-DUM’. And ‘pentameter’ simply means there are five such pairs to each line: ‘dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM dee-DUM’. For example:

      But SOFT; what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS? (Romeo and Juliet)

      The TIME is OUT of JOINT; oh CURsed SPITE That EVer I was BORN to SET it RIGHT (Hamlet)

      The CURfew TOLLS the KNELL of PASSing DAY (Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’)

      Trouble is, one you get it in your head, it’s REALLY hard to write in any other metre! N.xx

    • SoCal is definitely the place to be right now…I was talking to a client yesterday who’s just spent two weeks in Barbados; boy did she get a shock when she arrived back in England at the weekend! Pleased you liked the poem; apologies if it reminded you of winters best forgotten!

  3. Nick,

    Now I am not sucking up here but you never cease to amaze me with your talent. (No, honestly, I’m not!!:))

    All these different forms of poetry I keep coming across – I know nothing!!!! I have never heard of this one. But within the “not-knowing” I know you do it so well.

    And I have just recently introduced myself to Robert Frost and so far so good!!

    You leave me quite speechless and that doesn’t often happen! LOL ๐Ÿ™‚

    Christine x

    • I’m humbled, Christine, but also delighted, of course. I knew I wanted to write something that wasn’t a sonnet for a change (!) and ‘ruba’i’ (as in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam) popped into my head. No idea why. Anyway, I Googled it, and only then discovered that it’s the form used for the Robert Frost poem: never spotted it, even though it’s one of my favourites! I noted down the rhyme scheme (which is AABA, BBCB, CCDC etc, if you’re interested!) then looked out of the window. The first two lines came to me there and then, and it just wrote itself after that – I had the whole thing nailed down in about 10 minutes! Believe me, it almost NEVER happens like that usually! N.xx

    • Ever since I turned freelance 13 years ago, I’ve had a quote from the German-American artist Carl Rungius (1869-1959) above my desk: “Learn from all, and imitate no one.” Just as applicable to poets as painters, I’ve always thought. (Lest this sound too high-minded and noble, I also have an Ashleigh Brilliant postcard that says ‘Sometimes I wish I could stop being creative, and just do what everyone else is doing’, which is much nearer to my working mindset!) N.xx

  4. I read the discussion with hellopoponto (hope I got that right) and agree that once you get iambic into your head it’s hard to get it out. Still, a brave experiment with a ballad or some other meter helps.
    I love this, of course. If there’s ever been a Frost poem that I haven’t read I wish someone would tell me so that I could read it.
    This poem is exquisite and a proper tribute, as David says, to Frost. I glory in reading your poetry, checking this out almost every night–even when I’m so tired I can hardly think, like tonight.

  5. The coming of spring after a long, dead winter is a wonderful—I believe God-given—metaphor that is meant to have the effect on us you’ve very eloquently captured in this poem. No matter how long the cold lasts, it won’t last forever. No matter how dark the night, the dawn will come. These are sweet graces!

    Thanks for sharing this, Nick. Definitely an encouragement for me today.

    Grace and peace to you,

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