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The Emerald Queen

A Legend from the Future

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Part I.

Have you heard the old tale of the Emerald Queen?
‘Twas a long time ago when folks would demean
Us humans as animals—nothing else more!—
Evolved from bacteria found on the floor.
They forgot the Creator had made us like him,
That we’re here for a purpose and not on a whim.
Not seeing the truth they were consequently
Destroying themselves quite unchivalrously.

But those who would chance to be walking near here,
By the woods over yonder, would subtly hear
A voice like a brook flowing softly on rocks
That sang of a crystalline key that unlocks
Old mysteries’ truths they forgot had existed.
The voice called them on and its pulling persisted.
It drew them on further through winding old trails
Where waterfalls gush and ruins tell tales,
To a castle where sang the Emerald Queen—
A proof in herself of a kingdom unseen.

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Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is Editor of the Society of Classical Poets.


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32 Responses

  1. Paul Buchheit

    Very nice, Evan. I love “..a brook flowing softly on rocks That sang of a crystalline key that unlocks
    Old mysteries’ truths..”

    Reply
  2. Margaret Coats

    Evan, this sounds like the beginning of a mysterious legend with deep meaning to it. Could it have motifs associated with Frideswide, patroness of the city and university of Oxford? Much has been lost from the story of a noble girl of the seventh century, but the image in her recently restored shrine at Christ Church College Chapel is a face hidden among heavy greenery. A tangentially significant poem is Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Binsey Poplars.” Themes of sight for believers and blindness for persecutors apply.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Margaret, Frideswide was not who I had in mind though I do find the connection quite interesting (and perhaps the source of another image, should I do more parts). Thank you.

      This is a somewhat odd piece that I wrote for my wife’s birthday in early December and had no intention of sharing publicly, but the Walther piece in the New York Times (which Whidden has written in response to recently here https://classicalpoets.org/2023/02/15/modernism-and-the-murder-of-the-peoples-poetry-and-art-an-essay-by-phillip-whidden/) includes a part that describes the following as a reason for the death of poetry:

      “But modern life, disenchanted by science and mediated by technology, has made that kind of relationship with the natural world impossible, even if we are keen botanists or hikers. Absent the ability to see nature this way — as
      the dwelling place of unseen forces, teeming with images to be summoned and transformed, as opposed to an undifferentiated mass of resources to be either exploited or preserved — it is unlikely that we will look for those images in the work of Homer or Virgil, and even less likely that we will create those images ourselves.”

      My poem seemed to be directly connected to Walther’s proposed diagnosis. Yes, if you believe in Darwinian evolution as dogma (as well as man-made CO2 as apocalyptic and “The Science” behind covid vaccines as more powerful than natural God-given rights), then the inevitable outcome is that you are disconnected from the inherent poetry and beauty of life and are living in a depressing dead-seeming world.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Well then, Evan, can we understand the Emerald Queen to be another manifestation of Mother Nature? She might be the feminine counterpart to “the Green Man” of European folklore.

        One nice thing about Graeco-Roman religion was that it had divinities like Demeter, Artemis, Pan, Flora, Faunus, Pomona, and the tutelary nymphs of forests, groves, springs, and rivers, all of whom were directly connected to the world of nature, and who therefore served to prevent natural resources from being considered as mere lifeless material to be carelessly exploited. A world permeated by divinity makes poetry a lot easier to write.

      • Evan Mantyk

        Yes, Joe, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favorite texts with students so I think that is showing here.

  3. Norma Pain

    These are my favorite lines in your poem Evan:
    “They forgot the Creator had made us like him,
    That we’re here for a purpose and not on a whim”
    Thank you. Is there a part 11 still to be written?

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    This is lovely, Evan. I agree with Paul B. above, about those exquisite lines, and their thoughts are continued throughout your second verse, especially, which reminds me of a C.S. Lewis line I have long loved: “All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.” (“The Problem of Pain”)

    Reply
  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Such a beautifully told story with words of elegance and deep-seated meaning. This has mysticism combined with morality that intrigues the senses. There are so many lines and sentences that enchant and entrance. I especially loved, “A voice like a brook flowing softly on rocks
    That sang of a crystalline key that unlocks
    Old mysteries’ truths they forgot had existed.”
    The jump from bacteria on the floor to the Creator of life is a marvelous message for everyone reading this! I look forward to more that seems indicated by this being Part 1.

    Reply
  6. Vicki Roberts

    I love poem stories that draw me in, and this one does just that. Looking for Part 2!!! Great writing, but then again, you’re the master. 😉

    Reply
  7. James Sale

    Very evocative Evan, and important too: your last line ‘A proof in herself of a kingdom unseen’ is key. All our striving is to establish the order of the ‘invisible’ kingdom. As Carole Brooks Platt expressed this: ‘… poetic consciousness is collective and collaborative, amassed and interjected since the beginning of time into poetic minds properly receptive to the Primal One. The poet must surrender to the daimon, obey the voice of the Angelic orders, and make visible the invisible.’ That is a great project to be working on – go, Evan, go!

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      I was unfamiliar with Carole Brooks Platt, but I shall have to look into her. Thank you, James.

      Reply
  8. Margaret Coats

    Hello again, Evan! Here I’m expanding and explaining my comment above, rather than reply to your reply there, so as to have a full-width comment box. I didn’t expect that you knew about Frideswide of Oxford, but thought you might be working on an Emerald Queen tale with similar elements of symbolism (i.e., motifs of earth, woman, vegetation, vision). This is related to, but broader than, what James Sale says about poetic consciousness. And it definitely ties into what you said about the human relationship to the natural world. Anthropologist of religion Mircea Eliade, who studied cultures worldwide, came to the conclusion that man cannot LIVE except in sacred space and sacred time. Modern “deadness” happens when we fail to discover, at the most basic level, spiritual POWER at some particular location in nature. Discerning power in an impressive tree, for example, leads one to recognize the tree as sacred, and ultimately to acknowledge a god who made it so. Eliade says individuals and societies find or make the sacred for themselves, even with very mundane substitutes for the archtetypal paradise. I mentioned to you the Hopkins poem “Binsey Poplars,” in part because Binsey (earlier Thornbery) is still a sacred place in a small way, consecrated by the memory of Frideswide’s flight there to escape an unwanted suitor, and by a hermitage she built. But Frideswide probably has little to do with Hopkins’s love for the poplars. They had become “sacred” to him in a personal way (not as part of his very well-developed religious sense), such that he reacts to their felling with an agonized cri de coeur expressed in the poem. In fact, as I look back at it, Hopkins finds he has lost the Emerald Queen to mere local functionality!

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Very interesting, Margaret. Perhaps Eliade’s theory would explain the Shinto shrines in nature as well. Within the last year or so, I recall putting together a grouping of famous poets, including Milton, Shakespeare, and others, and I suddenly noticed that all of the images I selected contained a trees in them quite unintentionally.

      Reply
  9. Brian A Yapko

    Evan, I greatly enjoyed Part I of The Emerald Queen and look forward to Part II! I’m captured by the sense of mystery and magic here which appears to be a direct rebuttal to atheistic Darwinism. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Brian! I appreciate the encouragement, which can be crucial in poetry writing.

      Reply
  10. C.B. Anderson

    Everything you say is true, and that’s what I want to hear. The poem speaks for itself and says a lot more besides.

    Reply
  11. Jeff Eardley

    Evan, next time I visit our ancient site of Luds Church, I will pass your wonderful poem on to the Green Knight for his approval. We have a “Burne Jones” window in our local church to accompany your fine artwork today. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Thank you, Jeff. I’d love to meet you in person and go together some time!

      Reply
  12. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Evan, I am arriving late to the comments section. I would just like to add that I am intrigued and excited by this poem and (like others) look forward to hearing more. I particularly like the first six lines of the opening stanza… they sing to my soul! Beautifully done!

    Reply
  13. Monika Cooper

    My guess about the Emerald Queen is that she is a figure of Wisdom (poetic wisdom) or poetic imagination.

    Though it’s been a long time since I read it, I thought of the Faerie Queen landscape and terrain and the influence of that poem on C. S. Lewis. Also Tolkien’s Galadriel and Goldberry. The mythic sources the Inklings accessed have to be re-achieved in each generation. Now it’s for us and our contemporaries to seek the “crystalline key.”

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Hmmm… that strongly makes me want to write more. Thank you, Monika!

      Reply

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