On Visiting the Tea Garden in Middletown, New York

I.

A harried daddy with two kids in tow,
Maneuvering through city streets and cars,
I look around quite nervously for crows
Whose filthy bombs my head before had marred.

I dashed in through the front door of the place,
A maniac who straggled desp’rately
Straight to the counter through the tranquil space,
I had ten minutes only for some tea.

“Give me something to make it worth the trip!”
I thought, but said, “Which do you recommend?”
And then as if by thought and not by lip,
She spoke and offered me a floral blend:

A soothing oolong and Chrysanthemum,
The flavor of a mystic garden’s hum.

 

II.

The flavor of a mystic garden’s hum
And misty essence of the mountain top
From where the shriveled leaves of tea did come,
Infuse as time slows nearly to a stop.

There, fragrance of the flowers mixed with dew
Congeals to rest upon the tea plant’s leaves
And then with piercing sunshine further stew
Into a potion made from Heaven’s sieve.

Rich scenes of rivers bending out of sight
And legends of Immortals in the caves,
Of fairies dancing in the full moonlight,
Rub on the plant as on the shore rub waves.

These leaves then plucked and cast across the world
Have all this hidden magic in them curled.

 

III.

“…Have all this hidden magic in them curled,”
The Lady of the garden teahouse said.
Indeed, I’ve traveled all around the world,
And peering down from clouds has been my head,

I never tasted anything like that,
So soothing and refreshing to the mind
Like ocean vast and grand, yet calm and flat,
And all my fleeting troubles left behind.

The tea-filled, smiling kids to me have changed,
No longer baggage, they’re endangered pets,
Some fleck of gold in each warm breath contained,
“Have they or I or both somehow reset?”

Ten minutes at the tea house now are up,
The bottom seems the top of my tea cup.

 

The Trojan Treasure

The Trojan War has finished its long course.
Achaeans won by sneaking past the vaulting walls
As if they were a gift: a wooden horse;
A decade done, at last the city falls!
And yet the riches found were not it all,
Along with war, there came a great  resource
Achilles’ n’ Agamemnon’s egos tall
Were humbled to the ground with mighty force.

The greatest hero and Achaean king
Saw limits to their sight and faced their error;
Their compromise, a wretched shineless thing,
Was their most brilliant and enlight’ning treasure.

Amidst life’s war, when warrior wills compete,
Just do your job and one day bitter’s sweet.

Written July 9, 2013 / Revised June 19, 2017

 

Evan Mantyk is President of the Society of Classical Poets. He teaches literature and history in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

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14 Responses

  1. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    I would like to be the first to congratulate Evan Mantyk, editor of our nation’s most important venue of traditional poetry, for daring a veritable “corona” of sonnets based on the simplest of experiences.

    In the Ars Poetica Nova, we see Shakespeare’s sonnet form once more privileged, with the inevitable referencing of John Donne’s “La Corona.”

    And just as the Holy Sonnets were Donne’s refuge from the vicissitudes of a false career in the worst kind of poetry (we only read his Holy Sonnets today), so here, the reader accepts takes refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city in the tea garden of the imagination.

    “And all my fleeting troubles left behind…”

    The Tea Garden Sonnets are not ponderous or profound—already a radical departure from the pretentiousness of the self-proclaimed “greats” of the dead 20th-century. Rather, these sonnets are chaste and discreet, as noble in their modesty as they are refined in their intention, a reflection, to be sure, of the poet himself.

    Their very personality sets them apart, making them memorable. Indeed, this introduction of personality into art is all that Ruskin had hoped for in his critique of classicism.

    Pleasure and delight, I have learned, are some of the hallmarks of the Ars Poetica Nova. The Tea Garden Sonnets prove that the Nouvelle Poésie is not a simple cesspool of “whatever you want because it’s poetry.”

    The garish, attention-craving brutes of modernism, with their dime-store pornography, their violence, their comic-book darkness, these are all undone, so simply, so wonderfully…

    …by a cup of tea forever to be enjoyed!

    Reply
  2. David Watt

    The simple pleasure of tea drinking described beautifully. I particularly enjoyed lines including ‘These leaves then plucked and cast across the world
    Have all this hidden magic in them curled’

    Reply
  3. Father Richard Libby

    Mr. Mantyk, congratulations on these wonderful sonnets! I’m particularly impressed with the “Tea Garden” sonnets. I read them and felt as if I’d had the experience myself.

    Reply
    • Evan

      Thank you, Father Libby! I’m just glad that you and others enjoyed them.

      Reply
  4. James Sale

    As a profound tea addict, with over 20 varieties of tea on my shelves at home, and expecting Americans to love only the coffee (!), this poem is a joy. I love the linking refrains. I love some of the truly beautiful lines – I was only discussing recently on these pages the most melodious line in the English language, and the Tennyson one of ‘immemorial bee hums’ might come second to ‘A soothing oolong and Chrysanthemum,
    The flavor of a mystic garden’s hum.’ Now that – that is melodious – like the tea (to use synaesthesia). This is a really fun poem.

    Reply
    • Evan

      Thank you, James! I admit that I did not drink tea or coffee until I married my wife who is a New Zealander, your Common Wealth compatriot, and have been a tea drinker ever since.

      Reply

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