The Teacher to His Students

“The ghost… the ghost of Hamlet’s father, came
Upon the castle walls one moonless night.
This father, once the king, had come to blame
His brother, who had done the gravest slight:
To murder him and take the queen as wife,
Then clutch the royal scepter in his claw,
And use the state to guard his lies and life
(Back then his was the highest voice of law).

So then. The ghost appears to you one night
And says what you have tried to not believe:
‘That beast did poison me without a fight,
Revenge my soul or else I will not leave!’

Do you believe the ghost who’s thin as air,
And risk your life for justice? Do you dare?”

 

King Alfred the Great and the Viking King

Based on real events in 878 AD

These Danish Vikings once had come to take
Old England from its Saxon king and lords,
To burn the churches, happily to shake
Their merciless and muddy spears and swords.

Twas these same Vikings who now fled the field,
At Edendune, they lost to Alfred, th’ King,
Who chased his puny prey and had them sealed
Around within his folded eagle wings.

The Vikings found an empty fort for them
To make a final stand now for their lives.
No water left, like bulbs cut from the stem,
The thirst upon their throats cut worse than knives.

The Viking leader Guthrum led them out,
Surrendering to those he once had fought.
Then made to kneel to Alfred, tall and stout;
Compassion from his victims, Guthrum sought.

King Alfred raised his sword to Guthrum’s head,
But set it down upon his shoulder flat,
And said, “I’ll set you free, but you must dread
Not me, but God, and kneel before He that

Is the Creator, the vast Heaven’s King,
Who governs from above with gracious might,
Before him bow, abandon wicked things,
And be forgiven for your sinful fight.

If that is something you can swallow down,
Put in your stomach like your meat and mead,
And you can see beyond your Viking crown
To what your people and your future need,

Well then, we’ll rule our peoples joined as one,
I, your godfather, and you, my godson.”

 

To People Duped by Communism

It’s not that you have willed this evilness,
A specter does your body n’ brain possess.

You have been made to think that struggle is
The way to make the earth a fleshly bliss,

But all you make is stinking and corrupt
And bank upon ideas time’s shown bankrupt,

And cheat and lie until elections won,
And make of morals just a jeering pun,

And let the world upon great evil run,
And let Mao keep “the barrel of his gun,”

And leave the peaceful Falun Gong to die,
And let the beast rain terror from the sky.

Awake and see you are extreme and sick,
The world can’t wait, reform yourself, and quick!

 

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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17 Responses

  1. Carole Mertz

    I enjoyed especially “King Alfred the Great and the Viking King.” It is said they dined together after the Danes’ defeat. I wonder how that meal set in the Viking King’s craw. I love the poem as I suspect your students do as well.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      And, of course, we would inform the students that Mr. Mantyk’s poem sits squarely within an important tradition established by G.K. Chesterton in his “Ballad of the White Horse,” and that the learned study of tradition, along with the poet’s loving apprenticeship to it, is one of the hallmarks of the Ars Poetica Nova.

      I would even add that the Society of Classical Poets is the flagship of this new movement which far surpasses the empty formalism of the past.

      Reply
    • Evan

      Thank you, Carol, Joseph, and Sally, I am always so astounded by the rich and wonderful tales that history holds and that lie forgotten while ridiculous and vacuous movies about implausible masked men seem to endlessly flourish. It is as if I made a wish that my comic book heroes would come to life when I was an 11-year-old and a devilish genie granted it, with the twist that it wasn’t granted immediately, the following year I out grew my interest in them, and finally later on in life the movies were made to taunt me.

      In truth, the above poems are part of movie script I am working on. Hopefully I can undo my first wish one day and bring classical poetry to the big screen!

      Reply
  2. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    I am pleased to congratulate Mr. Mantyk on these three poems which, in a certain sense, are intertwined by the underlying theme of paganism.

    Hamlet returns from a Protestant university in Wittenberg, Martin Luther’s home town, in doubt of his own faith and ultimately dies a vengeful pagan. The opposite holds true in the next poem, as the Viking leader Guthrum, by his contact with Alfred the Great, dies a baptized Catholic. And finally, the seven heroic couplets of the last poem call out the paganism of the present day under one of its many guises.

    All three poems form a single analogical framework adumbrating through historical or literary figuration today’s wreckers and destroyers of civilization. As such, I find these three works powerful and useful at once. For me, they are clear proof that only poets who embrace divine and Catholic faith, either directly or indirectly, are able to address their fellow men in language that is beautiful, meaningful, and true.

    Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Evan,

    It is rare to find a poem about historic events today, literary or otherwise. It is even more rare to find three which echo the clear depths of a deep pool of pure water. And yes, this is a time of great historic importance — a clash of good and evil.

    In a world of lies and confusion, quiet clarity is a quality to be treasured, and you present it in these poems.

    I think you must be a fine teacher, doing good in the world.

    Sally Cook

    Reply
  4. David Hollywood

    These poems are what I love about this society. They give us Classical Poetry, and a wonderfully emotional and mental uplift to all who are involved. Since discovering The Society I have somewhat turned away from searching for other satisfactory poetry sites because in the vast number of instances I have been left frustrated, and while there are occasions when I don’t completely agree with what is written I am however almost always admiring of the talent and flows and efforts that I read on these pages. I am sometimes accused of being a little elitist, but I don’t care. If I sense something about levels of excellence, then I don’t believe in compromising my attempted appreciations of it, and therefore and albeit I hope I can still maintain and continue to be enthusiastic and supportive of authentic attempts, and so when I regularly and personally fail with my own struggles I desire that at least it is not due to my having veered from or diluted my search for sincerity. Isn’t it wonderful how these poems stimulate our acknowledgements! Thank you for them, and what else they reveal.

    Reply
  5. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Evan Sir.

    These are really marvelous poems and indeed, classical poetry is the root of all beauty that emanates from a poet’s quill.

    Regards

    Reply
  6. J. Simon Harris

    I really enjoyed the first two poems especially. The one about Hamlet neatly summarizes the dilemma with which Hamlet struggles throughout most of the play, appropriately in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. I love the uncertain ending of the poem, the question that is also a challenge, “do you dare?”. It even rhymes with that famous uncertain question which begins the play, “Who’s there?”. Very nice work. I think any student of Hamlet will appreciate it.

    The second poem, however, is my favorite of the three. The underlying story is not one most people know, but it is a great one. You tell it at the perfect pace, keeping the tension even as the rhymes propel us through. My favorite part is just before the turn, the line, “King Alfred raised his sword to Guthrum’s head.” You think of the final scene of the Aeneid; with equal parts anticipation and dread, you think the king will behead his invading enemy. But he chooses to be merciful instead. More than merciful, he allows Guthrum to keep his position as ruler of his people, and he even invites him into his family. What a powerful demonstration of mercy and compassion. Thanks for posting this.

    Reply
    • Evan

      Thank you, Mr. Harris! And I especially enjoyed your latter paragraph, which probably unconsciously includes an onslaught of rhymes… head… dread… behead… instead… clearly some analysis from a fellow poet.

      Reply
  7. David Watt

    In “King Alfred the Great and the Viking King” I particularly love the way you interweave history with poetry, and in doing so create an amalgam of both. “The Teacher to His Students,” although not history, shares the common theme of good against evil as Sally has rightly pointed out. Historical, or literary fiction, it matters not when poetry brings both to life the same.

    Reply
  8. James A. Tweedie

    I appreciate how the form of each poem reflects its subject–Shakespeare and the Elizibethan Sonnet, King Alfred and the medeival minstral’s lay, and the blunt couplets of the final poem which ring like a smithy beating hammers and sickles into plowshares and pruning hooks.

    Reply
  9. James Sale

    I agree with all the encomiums here: these are fine poems and remind one, as Joseph Mackenzie points out, of the traditions, like GK Chesterton’s work (of which I am a great admirer – he is my favourite writer of the C20th) in which narrative plays such a critical role. Perhaps history at school would be a lot more interesting if poems such as these were used to explore ideas and periods of time. Joseph Mackenzie’s perceptive observation on the connection between the three poems is very ingenious; my only point of dispute would be that Communism is not a return to Paganism, but rather a deviation into deep atheism. We can tell the difference because paganism at least had its moments of intense beauty, whereas deep atheism is only capable of intense horror. And that is why, I think, Evan Mantyk writes so persistently and ably against it.

    Reply

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