Keith Armstrong

The Golden Room

‘Was it for nothing that the little room,

All golden in the lamplight, thrilled with golden

Laughter from hearts of friends that summer night?’ (Wilfrid Gibson)


I’m as happy as a daffodil

this day;

sunshine flows around me

over fences,

leaping

with the joy of my poetry.


I am Lord Pretty Field,

a tipsy aristocrat of verse,

become full of myself

and country booze

in the Beauchamp Arms.


Under branches frothy with blossom,

I carry a torch from Northumberland

for Wilfrid Gibson

and his old mates;

for Geraldine

I bear

my Cheviot heart

in Gloucester ciderlight.


We can only catch

a petal from the slaughter,

a bloom

to ease the melancholy

of a Dymock dusk;

hear laughter

over the gloomy murmurs

of distant wars.


A swirling rook cries out

across St Mary’s spire

in dialect

as I climb

back to my White House room

to dream of an England gone,

and a flash of whisky

with Abercrombie.


For Wilfrid you are still

‘a singing star’,

drenched in balladry;

and this I know:

I will keep your little songs alive

in this Golden Room in my heart

and, in my Hexham’s market place,

rant for you

and cover

all our love

with streaming daffodils.



Gloucestershire 2003

Keith Armstrong © 2018

Folk Song for Thomas Spence

(1750-1814)


Down by the old Quayside,

I heard a young man cry,

among the nets and ships he made his way.

As the keelboats buzzed along,

he sang a seagull’s song;

he cried out for the Rights of you and me.


Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,

he gave up all his life

just to be free.

Up and down the cobbled Side,

struggling on through the Broad Chare,

he shouted out his wares

for you and me.


Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,

he was a man the likes you rarely see.

With a pamphlet in his hand,

and a poem at his command,

he haunts the Quayside still

and his words sing.


His folks they both were Scots,

sold socks and fishing nets,

through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.

In this theatre of life,

the crying and the strife,

they tried to be decent and be strong.


Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,

he gave up all his life

just to be free.

Up and down the cobbled Side,

struggling on through the Broad Chare,

he shouted out his wares

for you and me.


Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,

he was a man the likes you rarely see.

With a pamphlet in his hand,

and a poem at his command,

he haunts the Quayside still

and his words sing.


(from the music-theatre piece Pig’s Meat written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)



Keith Armstrong © 2018