“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power– Green Lantern’s light!”– The Green Lantern Oath
For comic fans, avid and casual alike, there are a few quotes that resonate and stand the test of time. Spiderman and ‘responsibility’. Batman and the ‘cowardly [criminal] lot’. Few of these, arguably, have ever reached the pinnacle of literary expression, aside from that of the Green Lantern’s Oath. The sacred mantra that gave rise to sheer greatness birthed by the unbreakable power and triumph of will.
The Green Lantern Corp are galactic guardians that tap into a particular energy source of the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum that is accessed through ones the willpower, channelled throw power rings. So essentially thing like the Force in Star Wars. There are other colours in this spectrum and require different forms of emotion to tap into them. Yellow symbolising fear (Sinestro), ergo Green Lantern’s greatest nemesis, and the colour ‘yellow’ being a weakness. Red is harnessed and fuelled by rage, White by life, Black by death, Violet by Love, Orange by Greed and Avarice, Blue by hope.
Rainbow and colour-coding affinities aside, there is something quite compelling to know a superheroes’ main gift stems from being able to harness energy through sheer force of will. That means any one of us – man or woman – could potentially dig deep enough to embody the spirit of what it means to be part of the Green Lantern Corp.
Now the Green Lantern mantra was not born as we first witnessed it exiting the lips of the legendary GL Hal Jordan, who came during the Silver Age of the comic book. The Green Lantern Oath read slightly differently when Alan Scott, the first ever Green Lantern to appear on the spread of All-American Comics #16 in July 1940, uttered our first taste of the infamous mantra:
And I shall shed my light over dark evil,
For the dark things cannot stand the light;
The light of…THE GREEN LANTERN!
The use of dichotomy is instantly the first recognisable survivor of the Alan Scott Mantra that has found its way to the heart and soul of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern Mantra, and the slew of other Lantern Oaths. The original mantra gives a succinct narrative of the true power of will – to be light amidst the darkness, to overcome it and to become a beacon for all those who dare answer the call to be greater. Those who were once lost in the inky swells of fear and death would now be able to see the shining tower to guide them towards the evergreen-glowing virtue of inner strength and self-reliance. But never forgetting that as a part of the GL corp, you are but a cell in a battery. A part of a brotherhood that equally gives and takes strength from each other and the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum.
But what is it that set the Hal Jordan Lantern Oath from the Alan Scott mantra? Poetry. This is not just in reference to the rhyme scheme employed. We’re talking diction too. It paints a narrative that brings greater sentiment that the first Mantra only hints at. Alan Scott’s mantra shows light being brought to the ‘dark evil’ and that evil being conquered. But Jordan’s Oath, however, brings a sense of foreshadowing and paints a vivid tale from the first word to the end of the stanza.
It all begins with the first line “In brightest day, in darkest night”. The polarities of day and night. Amidst the bleakness darkest hour, a time bereft of all hope and promise. Evil’s taint has spread vigorously and has corrupted all in its shadow and wake. But as if forcing the reader to look past the woes and darkness plaguing our very existence, our eyes are drawn to a light on the horizon with the second line. As no matter the time or the circumstance, there is no exit clause for the next line…
“No evil shall escape my sight”. That is a powerful line for many reasons. The first line speaks of the width and breadth of circumstance and all probabilities. To then have this line met by a saying of any evil and the pain being wrought is not going unnoticed. You’re now faced with the concept of a near-omnipresent, omnipotent being that assures us that all that is happening is something that will not go unpunished and be allowed to fester and go out unchallenged. The apathy of bureaucracy cannot say the same thing. The second line instantly takes away our focus from a dire circumstance and has the reader entertain the idea there is something beyond this bleakness and hopelessness.
Then the third line appears. Magically so. “Let those who worship evil’s might”. The wrong-doers have been revealed from the shroud of wrought chaos and the veil of darkness. But what is it that had so much power to not only expose them but place them in a reticle? It is here where the final line brings the impetus that has been steadily building over the course of the stanza… “Beware my power…Green Lantern’s light!”
“Beware my power…Green Lantern’s light!” Fist raised. Neon green blooms from rings of majestic, unbridled power, cutting through the proverbial and literal darkness, exposing the creatures of the night. Trepidation they once instilled in the innocent now wrenches their own expressions as they gaze upon the holy light. Beware my power. This is a warning only to evildoers. The Green Lantern’s light. Exposing and bringing truth to the darkness. The Oath is a stanza. This is poetry. And every Oath that has followed has been a variation of this one.
From Sinestro’s corp:
“In blackest day, in brightest night,
Beware your fears made into light.
Let those who try to stop what’s right
Burn like my power Sinestro’s might!”
to Alpha Lantern Corps oath:
“In days of peace, in nights of war,
Obey the laws forever more.
Misconduct must be answered for,
Swear us the chosen–the Alpha Corps!”
Of course, there is the very succinct, resounding Orange Lanterns Corp oath:
What’s mine is mine and mine and mine.
And mine and mine and mine!
I think Trump is an honorary member of the Orange Lantern Corp. Having that said, the cadence of the Green Lantern Corp has indubitably stood the test of time, better than its many offspring. Partially as it commands the reader to speak with authority and to deliver the line with a certain defiance. The variations birthed from the Green Lantern Oath, however, have a tinge of the cringeworthy, emitting a slightly corny aura. Partially, knowing that these other Oaths are the descendants and slightly inferior clones of the tried and tested stanza. The other reason is that it seems certain writers put more emphasis on having a rhyme scheme rather than diction and impetus of each line and how it plays out in delivery.
The Green Lantern may have made a brief appearance in Justice League, which has been the closest we’ve seen of the green glow that at least had stage presence in the DCEU for a while. Notably, however, we have not had a fully, cinematically-actualised Green Lantern. Sorry, Ryan Reynolds. Their ‘blackest days’ apparently.
But whatever future there is for the Lantern Corp, we hope creators return to that one stanza that has been the guiding light for Hal Jordan, and many of the soldiers and heroes that have been anointed as defenders of the known (and unknown) universe.