Retold

“Atgofion (Memories)” 

Wizard, warlock

Myrddin, Merlin

So many words and names for me,

one man…

So many tales of us together, Arthur,

yet I wonder how many

speak of the magician and the king

when we were young…

I am new at court,

my powers strong but not full-grown,

you’ve not yet come into your own.

We should be

master and servant –

instead we are the closest friends.

I believe

in the king you might be,

and you

trust the magic I might make.

It’s not always easy

being a prince’s consort

when most of Camelot thinks

you ought to have a queen.

My work is magic and healing,

I’m loyal to Camelot and you –

we try to make others’ doubt irrelevant.

Smiling, I listen

as the ceremony ends.

Guinevere, our friend, our heir,

is queen now.

Arthur, you and I

are free to go adventuring again.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Copyright September 2011, October 2014. Written in Dubai.

A few years ago, when I told a friend that I was planning to write a series of poems based on the King Arthur stories, he suggested that I try to write a piece depicting Merlin and Arthur as young men. Since this seemed like a cool idea, I agreed I’d give it a try. What you see above is the result, which has gone through a few different versions.  The BBC television series Merlin was one of my inspirations, since it’s one of the few versions of the Arthur-Merlin tales  I’m aware of which depicts them in young adulthood.

(Note: “Atgofion” is Welsh for “memories” – a nod to Merlin and Arthur’s origins 🙂 )

Guinevere and Arthur

“One Night in Camelot” 

This endless day inside our hall

is silent now, is done.

Come my love, let us walk the hills.

Our lands can wait, our kingdom sleeps

Above, the stars are calling.

So often, we have no time

to be just you and me –

right now I’m not a king.

My sweet Gwen

In this quiet night

when the guard dogs,

asleep like stones,

lie curled beside our door,

let’s slip out to breathe the breeze, to run and laugh.

Yes, my brightheart, come!

I take your hand,

softly kiss your fingertips,

as we disappear

into the dark.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia, copyright 2011, 2013

Tristan and Isolde. Erec and Enid. Lancelot and Guinevere. Those are some of the couples which usually come to mind when we think about King Arthur love stories.

But what about Guinevere and Arthur themselves, or Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, to give both the king and queen their Welsh names? What would things have been like, if they shared a great love, and that was the love we remembered?  This piece is my attempt at imagining a moment of tenderness between the royal couple.

A quick update, long overdue: I’m happy to share with you that this piece was published in the Spring 2013 edition of Garm Lu: A Canadian Celtic Arts Journal. My sincerest gratitude to the editors, and congratulations to all contributors.

Tonight in Camelot

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to be a place through which I can share my original poetry – hopefully with a wide audience, in time. Please feel free to read, comment, discuss, and forward!

(I would like to note that I am the author of all poems and photographs posted on this blog unless stated otherwise, and that I reserve all rights to the same.)

“Gwenhwyfar”

Bow before the spirit white

whose light festoons her bower.

Sing the bride of Arthur’s court –

the High Queen and the flower.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga, Latvia,copyright 2011.

 

“Tale of the Kitchen Knight”

A lady sat at her casement,

with eyes as clear as sky,

her voice flitting like sparrowsong,

and glimmering low and high.

There came in sight a yeoman rough,

striding oe’r the land.

Bow and quiver were his tools,

strength was in his hand.

‘Tower-singer, come you down,

come and be my maid.

String my bow, come grace my camp,

and do not be afraid.’

‘Nay, O archer over-proud,

I do not wish to be

your pretty doll, your drink of mead

beneath the greenwood tree.’

A fairy lord a-walking came,

bright stars they were his eyes,

a cloak of night about him wrap’d,

his sweet voice full of lies.

‘O mortal beauty fair as sun,

come dwell inside my mound.

My power yours, you shall be queen

o’er halls beneath the ground.’

‘Nay now, my lord, such tales I’ve heard

of all the things you claim.

You’ll snatch my very soul away

and trap me in your game.’

As stars appeared, there whistling came

a merry smiling knight,

his scarred and burned and blistered hands

did swing through twinkling light.

Her eyes fix’d on those hands, she called,

‘Stranger, whence come you this eve?’

He laughing cried, ‘I’m the Kitchen Knight,

to Arthur’s court I cleave.’

‘The Kitchen Knight I am called there,

my craft is pots and bread.

I carve no warriors in the lists,

I craft royal feasts instead.’

‘I love bright things’, the lady said,

‘but not those of the royal kind.

If you seek my hand, you must

stay now to hear my mind.’

‘I love bright things, both true and fair –

like friendship, song and ale.

Offer me these with loving heart,

I’ll join you without fail.’

Gone with him to Camelot,

she learn’d his noble heart.

Both friends and lovers they became,

a pair who would never part.

She sewed a banner – mead and meat –

as sigil for her Kitchen Knight.

They lived, they loved, they cooked and sang –

and ne’er was a court so bright.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Riga and Toronto, copyright 2011.

 

“To Tristan”

No one understands the words you’ve said

said to shield the silence in your head,

silence guarded by the clamour of the sword

Her face floats,

white flame unspoken word –

Yseult.

Phantom hands like fire and like song

raise your blade

as you turn within the lists,

giving you a strength none can defeat.

Yet the price is cold and bitter,

sharp as a receding tide.

Wakeful, you stir under the moon,

chasing

the image of your happiness, a pale ghost in the breeze.

Blood speaks in your heart

but cannot reach across the seas

through walls of stone,

where she sits by another man’s hand,

her thoughts

shaking and burning

as they try to touch you –

you, who are hers.

She sings to the waters,

you scream to the wind,

voices meeting in midair

for the memory of a kiss.

Only the deepest core of your heart

lives

– and it might as well be stone.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Toronto, copyright 2011.

 

The pieces above were published in the March 2012 edition of Garm Lu: A Canadian Celtic Arts Journal . Each one deals with a character or particular moment from Arthurian legend, which has long been a fascination of mine. Since there are well-known Arthurian figures which have been written about ad nauseam, I’ve made an effort to write on  lesser-known characters, on moments within the Arthur tales which are never described – or at least, to offer unusual perspectives on some familiar faces.

Many sincere thanks go to my friend Greg Darwin, who offered invaluable advice when it came time to edit the first draft of “Tale of the Kitchen Knight”. Tapadh leat, a chara!

I wish you all happy reading!