THE LIFE AND WORK OF DYLAN THOMAS
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Under Milk Wood   -   part 1

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[ Silence ]

FIRST VOICE [ Very softly ]
To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.
Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrodgered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wetnosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.
You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed, to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.
Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llareggub Hill, dew fall, star fall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.
Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning, in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman's loft like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread's bakery flying like black flour. It is tonight in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.
Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.
Time passes. Listen. Time passes.
Come closer now.
Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the coms and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird-watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.
From where you are, you can hear their dreams.
Captain Cat, the retired blind sea-captain, asleep in his bunk in the seashelled, ship-in-bottled, shipshape best cabin of Schooner House dreams of
SECOND VOICE
never such seas as any that swamped the decks of his S.S. Kidwelly bellying over the bedclothes and jellyfish-slippery sucking him down salt deep into the Davy dark where the fish come biting out and nibble him down to his wishbone, and the long drowned nuzzle up to him.
FIRST DROWNED
Remember me, Captain?
CAPTAIN CAT
You're Dancing Williams!
FIRST DROWNED
I lost my step in Nantucket.
SECOND DROWNED
Do you see me, Captain? the white bone talking? I'm Tom-Fred the donkeyman... we shared the same girl once ... her name was Mrs Probert...
WOMAN'S VOICE
Rosie Probert, thirty three Duck Lane. Come on up, boys, I'm dead.
THIRD DROWNED
Hold me, Captain, I'm Jonah Jarvis, come to a bad end, very enjoyable.
FOURTH DROWNED
Alfred Pomeroy Jones, sea-lawyer, born in Mumbles, sung like a linnet, crowned you with a flagon, tattooed with mermaids, thirst like a dredger, died of blisters.
FIRST DROWNED
This skull at your earhole is
FIFTH DROWNED
Curly Bevan. Tell my auntie it was me that pawned the ormolu clock.
CAPTAIN CAT
Aye, aye, Curly.
SECOND DROWNED
Tell my missus no I never
THIRD DROWNED
I never done what she said I never.
FOURTH DROWNED
Yes, they did.
FIFTH DROWNED
And who brings coconuts and shawls and parrots to my Gwen now? How's it above?
SECOND DROWNED
Is there rum and laverbread?
THIRD DROWNED
Bosoms and robins?
FOURTH DROWNED
Concertinas?
FIFTH DROWNED
Ebenezer's bell?
FIRST DROWNED
Fighting and onions?
SECOND DROWNED
And sparrows and daisies?
THIRD DROWNED
Tiddlers in a jamjar?
FOURTH DROWNED
Buttermilk and whippets?
FIFTH DROWNED
Rock-a-bye baby?
FIRST DROWNED
Washing on the line?
SECOND DROWNED
And old girls in the snug?
THIRD DROWNED
How's the tenors in Dowlais?
FOURTH DROWNED
Who milks the cows in Maesgwyn?
FIFTH DROWNED
When she smiles, is there dimples?
FIRST DROWNED
What's the smell of parsley?
CAPTAIN CAT
Oh, my dead dears!
FIRST VOICE
From where you are, you can hear in Cockle Row in the spring, moonless night, Miss Price, dressmaker and sweetshop-keeper, dream of
SECOND VOICE
her lover, tall as the town clock tower, Samson-syrup-gold-maned, whacking thighed and piping hot, thunderbolt-bass'd and barnacle-breasted, flailing up the cockles with his eyes like blowlamps and scooping low over her lonely loving hotwaterbottled body.
MR EDWARDS
Myfanwy Price!
MISS PRICE
Mr Mog Edwards!
MR EDWARDS
I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast.
MISS PRICE
I will knit you a wallet of forget-me-not blue, for the money to be comfy. I will warm your heart by the fire so that you can slip it in under your vest when the shop is closed.
MR EDWARDS
Myfanwy, Myfanwy, before the mice gnaw at your bottom drawer will you say
MISS PRICE
Yes, Mog, yes, Mog, yes, yes, yes.
MR EDWARDS
And all the bells of the tills of the town shall ring for our wedding.

[ Noise of money-tills and chapel bells ]
FIRST VOICE
Come now, drift up the dark, come up the drifting sea-dark street now in the dark night seesawing like the sea, to the bible-black airless attic over Jack Black the cobbler's shop where alone and savagely Jack Black sleeps in a nightshirt tied to his ankles with elastic and dreams of
SECOND VOICE
chasing the naughty couples down the grassgreen gooseberried double bed of the wood, flogging the tosspots in the spit-and-sawdust, driving out the bare, bold girls from the sixpenny hops of his nightmares.
JACK BLACK [ Loudly ]
Ach y fi!
Ach y fi!
FIRST VOICE
Evans the Death, the undertaker,
SECOND VOICE
laughs high and aloud in his sleep and curls up his toes as he sees, upon waking fifty years ago, snow lie deep on the goosefield behind the sleeping house; and he runs out into the field where his mother is making Welshcakes in the snow, and steals a fistfull of snowflakes and currants and climbs back to bed to eat them cold and sweet under the warm, white clothes while his mother dances in the snow kitchen crying out for her lost currants.
FIRST VOICE
And in the little pink-eyed cottage next to the undertaker's, lie, alone, the seventeen snoring gentle stone of Mister Waldo, rabbitcatcher, barber, herbalist, catdoctor, quack, his fat, pink hands, palms up, over the edge of the patchwork quilt, his black boots neat and tidy in the washing-basin, his bowler on a nail above the bed, a milk stout and a slice of cold bread pudding under the pillow; and, dripping in the dark, he dreams of
MOTHER
This little piggy went to market
This little piggy stayed at home
This little piggy had roast beef
This little piggy had none
And this little piggy went
LITTLE BOY
wee wee wee wee wee
MOTHER
all the way home to
WIFE [ Screaming ]
Waldo! Wal-do!
MR WALDO
Yes, Blodwen love?
WIFE
Oh, what'll the neighbours say, what'll the neighbours...
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Poor Mrs Waldo
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
What she puts up with
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Never should of married
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
If she didn't had to
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Same as her mother
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
There's a husband for you
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Bad as his father
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
And you know where he ended
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Up in the asylum
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
Crying for his ma
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Every Saturday
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
He hasn't got a leg
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
And carrying on
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
With that Mrs Beattie Morris
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Up in the quarry
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
And seen her baby
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
It's got his nose
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
Oh it makes my heart bleed
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
What he'll do for drink
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
He sold the pianola
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
And her sewing machine
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
Falling in the gutter
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Talking to the lamp-post
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
Using language
FIRST NEIGHBOUR
Singing in the w
SECOND NEIGHBOUR
Poor Mrs Waldo
WIFE [ Tearfully ]
Oh, Waldo, Waldo!
MR WALDO
Hush, love, hush. I'm widower Waldo now.
MOTHER [ Screaming ]
Waldo, Wal-do!
LITTLE BOY
Yes, our mum?
MOTHER
Oh, what'll the neighbours say, what'll the neighbours...
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Black as a chimbley
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Ringing doorbells
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Breaking windows
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Making mudpies
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Stealing currants
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Chalking words
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Saw him in the bushes
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Playing mwchins
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Send him to bed without any supper
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Give him sennapods and lock him in the dark
THIRD NEIGHBOUR
Off to the reformatory
FOURTH NEIGHBOUR
Off to the reformatory
TOGETHER
Learn him with a slipper on his b.t.m.
ANOTHER MOTHER [ Screaming ]
Waldo, Wal-do! what you doing with our Matti?
LITTLE BOY
Give us a kiss, Matti Richards.
LITTLE GIRL
Give us a penny then.
MR WALDO
I only got a halfpenny.
FIRST WOMAN
Lips is a penny.
PREACHER
Will you take this woman Matti Richards
SECOND WOMAN
Dulcie Prothero
THIRD WOMAN
Effie Bevan
FOURTH WOMAN
Lil the Gluepot
FIFTH WOMAN
Mrs Flusher
WIFE
Blodwen Bowen
PREACHER
To be your awful wedded wife
LITTLE BOY [ Screaming ]
No, no, no!
FIRST VOICE
Now, in her iceberg-white, holily laundered crinoline nightgown, under virtuous polar sheets, in her spruced and scoured dust-defying bedroom in trig and trim Bay View, a house for paying guests, at the top of the town, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, widow, twice, of Mr Ogmore, linoleum, retired, and Mr Pritchard, failed bookmaker, who maddened by besoming, swabbing and scrubbing, the voice of the vacuum-cleaner and the fume of polish, ironically swallowed disinfectant, fidgets in her rinsed sleep, wakes in a dream, and nudges in the ribs dead Mr Ogmore, dead Mr Pritchard, ghostly on either side.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
Mr Ogmore!
Mr Pritchard!
It is time to inhale your balsam.
MR OGMORE
Oh, Mrs Ogmore!
MR PRITCHARD
Oh, Mrs Pritchard!
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
Soon it will be time to get up.
Tell me your tasks, in order.
MR OGMORE
I must put my pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas.
MR PRITCHARD
I must take my cold bath which is good for me.
MR OGMORE
I must wear my flannel band to ward off sciatica.
MR PRITCHARD
I must dress behind the curtain and put on my apron.
MR OGMORE
I must blow my nose
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
In the garden, if you please
MR OGMORE
In a piece of tissue-paper which I afterwards burn.
MR PRITCHARD
I must take my salts which are nature's friend.
MR OGMORE
I must boil the drinking water because of germs.
MR PRITCHARD
I must make my herb tea which is free from tannin
MR OGMORE
And have a charcoal biscuit which is good for me.
MR PRITCHARD
I may smoke one pipe of asthma mixture
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
In the woodshed, if you please
MR PRITCHARD
and dust the parlour and spray the canary.
MR OGMORE
I must put on rubber gloves and search the peke for fleas.
MR PRITCHARD
I must dust the blinds and then I must raise them.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.
FIRST VOICE
In Butcher Beynon's, Gossamer Beynon, daughter, schoolteacher, dreaming deep, daintily ferrets under a fluttering hummock of chicken's feathers in a slaughterhouse that has chintz curtains and a three-pieced suite, and finds, with no surprise, a small rough ready man with a bushy tail winking in a paper carrier.
GOSSAMER BEYNON
At last, my love,
FIRST VOICE
sighs Gossamer Beynon. And the bushy tail wags rude and ginger.
ORGAN MORGAN
Help,
SECOND VOICE
cries Organ Morgan, the organist, in his dream,
ORGAN MORGAN
There is perturbation and music in Coronation Street! All the spouses are honking like geese and the babies singing opera. P.C. Atilla Rees has got his truncheon out and is playing cadenzas by the pump, the cows from Sunday Meadow ring like reindeer, and on the roof of Handel Villa see the Women's Welfare hoofing, bloomered, in the moon.
FIRST VOICE
At the sea-end of town, Mr and Mrs Floyd, the cocklers, are sleeping as quiet as death, side by wrinkled side, toothless, salt, and brown, like two old kippers in a box.
And high above, in Salt Lake Farm, Mr Utah Watkins counts, all night, the wife-faced sheep as they leap the fences on the hill, smiling and knitting and bleating just like Mrs Utah Watkins.
UTAH WATKINS [ Yawning ]
Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, forty-eight, eighty-nine...
MRS UTAH WATKINS [ Bleating ]
Knit one slip one
Knit two together
Pass the slipstich over...
FIRST VOICE
Ocky Milkman, drowned asleep in Cockle Street, is emptying his churns into the Dewi River,
OCKY MILKMAN [ Whispering ]
regardless of expense,
FIRST VOICE
and weeping like a funeral.
SECOND VOICE
Cherry Owen, next door, lifts a tankard to his lips but nothing flows out of it. He shakes the tankard. It turns into a fish. He drinks the fish.
FIRST VOICE
P.C. Attila Rees lumps out of bed, dead to the dark, and still foghorning, and drags out his helmet from under the bed; but deep in the backyard lock-up of his sleep a mean voice murmurs.
A VOICE [ Murmuring ]
You'll be sorry for this in the morning,
FIRST VOICE
and he heave-ho's back to bed. His helmet swashes in the dark.
SECOND VOICE
Willy Nilly, postman, asleep up street, walks fourteen miles to deliver the post as he does every day of the night, and rat-a-tats hard and sharp on Mrs Willy Nilly.
MRS WILLY NILLY
Don't spank me, please, teacher,
SECOND VOICE
whimpers his wife at his side, but every night of her married life she has been late for school.
FIRST VOICE
Sinbad Sailors, over the taproom of the Sailors Arms, hugs his damp pillow whose secret name is
SINBAD
Gossamer Beynon.
FIRST VOICE
A mogul catches Lily Smalls in the wash-house.
LILY SMALLS
Ooh, you old mogul!
SECOND VOICE
Mrs Rose-Cottage's eldest, Mae, peels off her pink-and-white skin in a furnace in a tower in a cave in a waterfall in a wood and waits there raw as an onion for Mister Right to leap up the burning tall hollow splashes of leaves like a brilliantined trout.
MAE ROSE-COTTAGE [ Very close and softly, drawing out the words ]
Call me Dolores
Like they do in the stories.
FIRST VOICE
Alone until she dies, Bessie Bighead, hired help, born in the workhouse, smelling of the cowshed, snores bass and gruff on a couch of straw in a loft in Salt Lake Farm and picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn't looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.
And the Inspectors of Cruelty fly down into Mrs Butcher Beynon's dream to persecute Mr Beynon for selling
BUTCHER BEYNON
owl meat, dogs' eyes, manchop.
SECOND VOICE
Mr Beynon, in butcher's bloodied apron, spring-heels down Coronation Street, a finger, not his own, in his mouth. Straightfaced in his cunning sleep he pulls the legs of his dreams and
BUTCHER BEYNON
hunting on pigback shoots down the wild giblets.
ORGAN MORGAN [ High and softly ]
Help!
GOSSAMER BEYNON [ Softly ]
My foxy darling.
FIRST VOICE
Now behind the eyes and secrets of the dreamers in the streets rocked to sleep by the sea, see the
SECOND VOICE
titbits and topsyturvies, bobs and buttontops, bags and bones, ash and rind and dandruff and nailparings, saliva and snowflakes and moulted feathers of dreams, the wrecks and sprats and shells and fishbones, whalejuice and moonshine and small salt fry dished up by the hidden sea.
FIRST VOICE
The owls are hunting. Look, over Bethesda gravestones one hoots and swoops and catches a mouse by Hannah Rees, Beloved Wife. And in Coronation Street, which you alone can see it is so dark under the chapel in the skies, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, poet, preacher, turns in his deep towards-dawn sleep and dreams of
REV.ELIJENKINS
Eisteddfodau.
SECOND VOICE
He intricately rhymes, to the music of crwth and pibgorn, all night long in his druid's seedy nightie in a beer-tent black with parchs.
FIRST VOICE
Mr Pugh, schoolmaster, fathoms asleep, pretends to be sleeping, spies foxy round the droop of his nightcap and pssst! whistles up
MR PUGH
Murder.
FIRST VOICE
Mrs Organ Morgan, groceress, coiled grey like a dormouse, her paws to her ears, conjures
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Silence.
SECOND VOICE
She sleeps very dulcet in a cove of wool, and trumpeting Organ Morgan at her side snores no louder than a spider.
FIRST VOICE
Mary Ann Sailors dreams of
MARY ANN SAILORS
The Garden of Eden.
FIRST VOICE
She comes in her smock-frock and clogs
MARY ANN SAILORS
away from the cool scrubbed cobbled kitchen with the Sunday-school pictures on the whitewashed wall and the farmers' almanac hung above the settle and the sides of bacon on the ceiling hooks, and goes down the cockleshelled paths of that applepie kitchen garden, ducking under the gippo's clothespegs, catching her apron on the blackcurrant bushes, past beanrows and onion-bed and tomatoes ripening on the wall towards the old man playing the harmonium in the orchard, and sits down on the grass at his side and shells the green peas that grow up through the lap of her frock that brushes the dew.
FIRST VOICE
In Donkey Street, so furred with sleep, Dai Bread, Polly Garter, Nogood Boyo, and Lord Cut-Glass sigh before the dawn that is about to be and dream of
DAI BREAD
Harems.
POLLY GARTER
Babies.
NOGOOD BOYO
Nothing.
LORD CUT-GLASS
Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.
FIRST VOICE
Time passes. Listen. Time passes. An owl flies home past Bethesda, to a chapel in an oak. And the dawn inches up.


Continue to Under Milk Wood - Part 2
3. This Is Llareggub Hill
4. The Town Smells Of Seaweed And Breakfast




The Life And Work Of Dylan Thomas written, designed, and copyright (except where otherwise noted) © by Willem Jonkman. All rights reserved. Contact: [email protected]

Copyright for the works of Dylan Thomas on this site © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright for the recording of Under Milk Wood used on this site, © 1963, 1995 BBC Worldwide Ltd. Most works on this site are read by the author, using embedded audio-files which require Adobe Flash Player. Listening is best experienced using a broadband connection (DSL, cable, T1) in order to enjoy seamless play of this site's audio features.

Acknowledgements: Constantine FitzGibbon, The Life Of Dylan Thomas © 1965; Annis Pratt, Dylan Thomas' Early Prose: A Study In Creative Mythology © 1970; Andrew Sinclair, Dylan Thomas © 1975; Paul Ferris, Dylan Thomas - A Biography © 1977; John Ackerman, Welsh Dylan © 1979; Susan Richardson, The Legacy Of Dylan Thomas In Wales © 2000; Joan Gooding, Britain's Last Romantic Poet: Dylan Thomas © 2000.