Paul Robeson at the County Theatre
Haverfordwest, South Wales, May 1st , 1938
They’ve known for years the simplest evenings out,
church socials, shilling dances and the flicks.
Hepburn and Boyer playing Break of Hearts,
and Garbo as Karenina, Will Hay
in some daft farce, Temple in Stowaway,
Astaire and Rogers dancing through Top Hat.
And now celebrity. His name rings sounds
of fame and wonder and exotica
and all that sings of marvels up the line.
A mile from town, doorways in Prendergast
flutter with waves and welcomes at the sense
that here, in flesh and voice, entering town,
we have a burnished legend. Down in town,
crowds mill, the man is warm, signs autographs.
They love him, they applaud.
The concert starts:
a famed soprano singing Handel airs,
a Milford schoolboy playing violin.
And then the sad lament of Shenandoah
and Go Down, Moses. Robeson’s rumbling voice
cossets and captivates, until the night,
pregnant with novelty, swells up in love,
to clasp and clap and touch their gentle guest.
Then Ol’ Man River is his final gift.
They’ll thrill, for years, to Robeson’s plunging bass,
sounding the sad deep river of his race.
Previously published in ‘Roundyhouse’ 13, (2005)
Robert Nisbet, from Pembrokeshire, taught English in grammar and comprehensive schools and later taught creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. He has had hundreds of poems published in Britain, dozens in the USA and a couple in India.