Lancelot & Guinevere by Herbert James Draper (c.1890)
King Arthur’s Court – Camelot
My Poetry Corner March 2018 features the poem “Camelot or Haunted Eden” by American poet, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz (1944-2017). March 7th marks one year since she lost her battle with lung cancer, leaving behind her husband of forty-five years.
In August 2017, Richard Mankiewicz compiled a Limited Edition of his wife’s body of work in the collection The Poetry of Angela Consolo Mankiewicz. In the Foreword, he shares her farewell message to him in which she built upon the poem “Camelot or Haunted Eden,” first published in Summer 1989.
What words say Love the way I feel it? she asks in the opening lines of her farewell message. In the face of death, during this Horror of a year, their love is all that matters.
She then speaks of Gratitude for things born of your true Love… / Who would have thought Gratitude could be so pure, so wonderful…
She returns to the love, quoting from the featured poem, “Camelot or Haunted Eden,” but omitting the final stanza in which she had expressed her fear of him dying before she did. Life can be unpredictable.
In the first stanza, after over sixteen years together – when the poem was first published – Mankiewicz ponders a love that’s attentive to her needs and calms her fears, like a knight in armor, yet doesn’t suffocate or impede her to pursue her own dreams.
What is this love that rests inside his heart,
That succors me but lets me breathe apart?
This well from which I fetch a word, a hug,
A kiss that lets me live this day and shrug
Off demons that invade my artless brain;
This armor plate, this clasp without a chain.
The day to day stresses of life can gnaw at any relationship. Happy the couple who help each other recover from incoming assaults with a willing ear, a hug, an encouraging word, as the poet shares in the second stanza.
This love that rocks the stress of everyday
Away from me and lightens my dismay.
This love that makes a lap for me to sink
Inside when worlds collide and I can’t think.
A love that sits with ready arms to hold
My weariness when I am feeling old.
Yet, the greatest challenge to an enduring marriage is often our character flaws, whether the size of a lime or grapefruit, that can corrode a fragile relationship. In the last stanza of her farewell message, Mankiewicz expresses her good fortune in finding a lifelong partner who loves her with all her human frailty.
A love that loves my pride and childish grins.
A love that knows my soul and shares my sins.
A love that brought me more than one can earn,
That only luck’s good fortune can discern.
Camelot or Haunted Eden? Over the years, life-threatening health issues haunted their Eden. No marital relationship, even one that endures forty-five years, is perfect. Life has its pain and anxieties. What makes the difference is the love and gratitude that we sprinkle daily along the journey. Mankiewicz’s farewell message to her husband says it all.
To read the complete featured poem and learn more about the work of Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, go to my Poetry Corner March 2018.