THE LIFE AND WORK OF DYLAN THOMAS
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Under Milk Wood   -   part 2

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[ One distant bell-note, faintly reverberating on ]
FIRST VOICE
Stand on this hill. This is Llareggub Hill, old as the hills, high, cool, and green, and from this small circle of stones, made not by druids but by Mrs Beynon's Billy, you can see all the town below you sleeping in the first of the dawn.
You can hear the love-sick woodpigeons mooning in bed. A dog barks in his sleep, farmyards away. The town ripples like a lake in the waking haze.
VOICE OF A GUIDE-BOOK
Less than five hundred souls inhabit the three quaint streets and the few narrow by-lanes and scattered farmsteads that constitute this small, decaying watering-place which may, indeed, be called a 'backwater of life' without disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty individuality of their own. The main street, Coronation Street, consists, for the most part, of humble, two-storied houses many of which attempt to achieve some measure of gaiety by prinking themselves out in crude colours and by the liberal use of pinkwash, though there are remaining a few eighteenth-century houses of more pretension, if, on the whole, in a sad state of disrepair. Though there is little to attract the hillclimber, the healthseeker, the sportsman, or the weekending motorist, the contemplative may, if sufficiently attracted to spare it some leisurely hours, find, in its cobbled streets and its little fishing harbour, in its several curious customs, and in the conversation of its local 'characters,' some of that picturesque sense of the past so frequently lacking in towns and villages which have kept more abreast of the times. The one place of worship, with its neglected graveyard, is of no architectural interest. The river Dewi is said to abound in trout, but is much poached.
[ A cock crows ]
FIRST VOICE
The principality of the sky lightens now, over our green hill, into spring morning larked and crowed and belling.
[ Slow bell notes ]
FIRST VOICE
Who pulls the townhall bellrope but blind Captain Cat? One by one, the sleepers are rung out of sleep this one morning as every morning. And soon you shall see the chimneys' slow upflying snow as Captain Cat, in sailor's cap and seaboots, announces today with his loud get-out-of-bed bell.
SECOND VOICE
The Reverend Eli Jenkins, in Bethesda House, gropes out of bed into his preacher's black, combs back his bard's white hair, forgets to wash, pads barefoot downstairs, opens the front door, stands in the doorway and, looking out at the day and up at the eternal hill, and hearing the sea break and the gab of birds, remembers his own verses and tells them, softly, to empty Coronation Street that is rising and raising its blinds.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Dear Gwalia! I know there are
Towns lovelier than ours,
And fairer hills and loftier far,
And groves more full of flowers,

And boskier woods more blithe with spring
And bright with birds' adorning,
And sweeter bards than I to sing
Their praise this beauteous morning.

By Cader Idris, tempest-torn,
Or Moel y Wyddfa's glory,
Carnedd Llewelyn beauty born,
Plinlimmon old in story,

By mountains where King Arthur dreams,
By Penmaen Mawr defiant,
Llareggub Hill a molehill seems,
A pygmy to a giant.

By Sawdde, Senny, Dovey, Dee,
Edw, Eden, Aled, all,
Taff and Towy broad and free,
Llyfnant with its waterfall,

Claerwen, Cleddau, Dulais, Daw,
Ely, Gwili, Ogwr, Nedd,
Small is our River Dewi, Lord,
A baby on a rushy bed.

By Carreg Cennen, King of time,
Our Heron Head is only
A bit of stone with seaweed spread
Where gulls come to be lonely.

A tiny dingle is Milk Wood
By golden Grove 'neath Grongar,
But let me choose and oh! I should
Love all my life and longer

To stroll among our trees and stray
In Goosegog Lane, on Donkey Down,
And hear the Dewi sing all day,
And never, never leave the town.
[ Slow bell notes ]
SECOND VOICE
The Reverend Jenkins closes the front door. His morning service is over.
FIRST VOICE
Now, woken at last by the out-of-bed-sleepy-head-Polly-put-the-kettle-on townhall bell, Lily Smalls, Mrs Beynon's treasure, comes downstairs from a dream of royalty who all night long went larking with her full of sauce in the Milk Wood dark, and puts the kettle on the primus ring in Mrs Beynon's kitchen, and looks at herself in Mr Beynon's shaving-glass over the sink, and sees:
LILY SMALLS
Oh, there's a face!
Where you get that hair from?
Got it from old tom cat.
Give it back then, love.
Oh, there's a perm!

Where you get that nose from, Lily?
Got it from my father, silly.
You've got it on upside down!
Oh, there's a conk!

Look at your complexion!
Oh no, you look.
Needs a bit of make-up.
Needs a veil.
Oh, there's glamour!

Where you get that smile, Lil?
Never you mind, girl.
Nobody loves you.
That's what you think.

Who is it loves you?
Shan't tell.
Come on, Lily.
Cross your heart then?
Cross my heart.
FIRST VOICE
And very softly, her lips almost touching her reflection, she breathes the name and clouds the shaving-glass.
MRS BEYNON [ Loudly, from above ]
Lily!
LILY SMALLS [ Loudly ]
Yes, mum.
MRS BEYNON
Where's my tea, girl?
LILY SMALLS
[ Softly ] Where d'you think? In the cat-box?
[ Loudly] Coming up, mum...
FIRST VOICE
Mr Pugh, in the School House opposite, takes up the morning tea to Mrs Pugh, and whispers on the stairs:
MR PUGH
Here's your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.
I've throttled your parakeet.
I've spat in the vases.
I've put cheese in the mouseholes.
Here's your... [ door creaks open ] ... nice tea, dear.
MRS PUGH
Too much sugar.
MR PUGH
You haven't tasted it yet, dear.
MRS PUGH
Too much milk, then. Has Mr Jenkins said his poetry?
MR PUGH
Yes, dear.
MRS PUGH
Then it's time to get up. Give me my glasses.
No, not my reading glasses, I want to look out. I want to see.
SECOND VOICE
Lily Smalls the treasure down on her red knees washing the front step.
MRS PUGH
She's tucked her dress in her bloomers - oh, the baggage!
SECOND VOICE
P.C. Attila Rees, ox-broad, barge-booted, stamping out of Handcuff House in a heavy beef-red huff, black-browed under his damp helmet...
MRS PUGH
He's going to arrest Polly Garter, mark my words.
MR PUGH
What for, my dear?
MRS PUGH
For having babies.
SECOND VOICE
... and lumbering down towards the strand to see that the sea is still there.
FIRST VOICE
Mary Ann Sailors, opening her bedroom window above the taproom and calling out to the heavens
MARY ANN SAILORS
I'm eighty five years three months and a day!
MRS PUGH
I will say this for her, she never makes a mistake.
FIRST VOICE
Organ Morgan at his bedroom window playing chords on the sill to the morning fishwife gulls who, heckling over Donkey Street, observe
DAI BREAD
Me, Dai Bread, hurrying to the bakery, pushing in my shirt-tails, buttoning my waistcoat, ping goes a button, why can't they sew them, no time for breakfast, nothing for breakfast, there's wives for you...
MRS DAI BREAD ONE
Me, Mrs Dai Bread One, capped and shawled and no old corset, nice to be comfy, nice to be nice, clogging on the cobbles to stir up a neighbour. Oh, Mrs Sarah, can you spare a loaf, love? Dai Bread forgot the bread. There's a lovely morning! How's your boils this morning? Isn't that good news now, it's a change to sit down. Ta, Mrs Sarah.
MRS DAI BREAD TWO
Me, Mrs Dai Bread Two, gypsied to kill in a silky scarlet petticoat above my knees, dirty pretty knees, see my body through my petticoat brown as a berry, high-heel shoes with one heel missing, tortoiseshell comb in my bright black slinky hair, nothing else at all but a dab of scent, lolling gaudy at the doorway, tell your fortune in the tea-leaves, scowling at the sunshine, lighting up my pipe.
LORD CUT-GLASS
Me, Lord Cut-Glass, in an old frock-coat belonged to Eli Jenkins and a pair of postman's trousers from Bethesda Jumble, running out of doors to empty slops - oh mind there, Rover! - and then running in again, tick tock.
NOGOOD BOYO
Me, Nogood Boyo, up to no good in the wash-house.
MISS PRICE
Me, Miss Price, in my pretty print housecoat, deft at the clothesline, natty as a jenny-wren, then pit-pat back to my egg in its cosy, my crisp toast-fingers, my homemade plum and butterpat.
POLLY GARTER
Me, Polly Garter, under the washing line, giving the breast in the garden to my bonny new baby. Nothing grows in our garden, only washing. And babies. And where's their fathers live, my love? Over the hills and far away. You're looking up at me now. I know what you're thinking, you poor little milky creature. You're thinking, you're no better than you should be, Polly, and that's good enough for me. Oh, isn't life a terrible thing, thank God?
FIRST VOICE
Now frying-pans spit, kettles and cats purr in the kitchens. The town smells of seaweed and breakfast all the way down from Bay View, where Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, in smock and turban, big-besomed to engage the dust, picks at her starchless bread and sips lemon-rind tea, to Bottom Cottage, where Mr Waldo, in bowler and bib, gobbles his bubble-and-squeak and kippers and swigs from the saucebottle. Mary Ann Sailors
MARY ANN SAILORS
praises the Lord who made porridge.
FIRST VOICE
Mr Pugh
MR PUGH
remembers ground glass as he juggles his omelette.
FIRST VOICE
Mrs Pugh
MRS PUGH
nags the salt-cellar.
FIRST VOICE
Willy Nilly postman
WILLY NILLY
downs his last bucket of black brackish tea and rumbles out bandy to the clucking back where the hens twitch and grieve for their tea-soaked sops.
FIRST VOICE
Mrs Willy Nilly
MRS WILLY NILLY
full of tea to her double-chinned brim broods and bubbles over her coven of kettles on the hissing hot range always ready to steam open the mail.
FIRST VOICE
The Reverend Eli Jenkins
REV. ELI JENKINS
finds a rhyme and dips his pen in his cocoa.
FIRST VOICE
Lord Cut-Glass in his ticking kitchen
LORD CUT-GLASS
scampers from clock to clock, a bunch of clock-keys in one hand, a fish-head in the other.
FIRST VOICE
Captain Cat in his galley
CAPTAIN CAT
blind and fine-fingered savours his sea-fry.
FIRST VOICE
Mr and Mrs Cherry Owen, in their Donkey Street room that is bedroom, parlour, kitchen, and scullery, sit down to last night's supper of onions boiled in their overcoats and broth of spuds and baconrind and leeks and bones.
MRS CHERRY OWEN
See that smudge on the wall by the picture of Auntie Blossom? That's where you threw the sago.
[ Cherry Owen laughs with delight ]
MRS CHERRY OWEN
You only missed me by an inch.
CHERRY OWEN
I always miss Auntie Blossom too.
MRS CHERRY OWEN
Remember last night? In you reeled, my boy, as drunk as a deacon with a big wet bucket and a fish-frail full of stout and you looked at me and you said, 'God has come home!' you said, and then over the bucket you went, sprawling and bawling, and the floor was all flagons and eels.
CHERRY OWEN
Was I wounded?
MRS CHERRY OWEN
And then you took off your trousers and you said, 'Does anybody want a fight?' Oh, you old baboon.
CHERRY OWEN
Give me a kiss.
MRS CHERRY OWEN
And then you sang 'Aberystwyth', tenor and bass.
CHERRY OWEN
I always sing 'Aberystwyth'.
MRS CHERRY OWEN
And then you did a little dance on the table.
CHERRY OWEN
I did?
MRS CHERRY OWEN
Drop dead!
CHERRY OWEN
And then what did I do?
MRS CHERRY OWEN
Then you cried like a baby and said you were a poor drunk orphan with nowhere to go but the grave.
CHERRY OWEN
And what did I do next, my dear?
MRS CHERRY OWEN
Then you danced on the table all over again and said you were King Solomon Owen and I was your Mrs Sheba.
CHERRY OWEN [ Softly ]
And then?
MRS CHERRY OWEN
And then I got you into bed and you snored all night like a brewery.
[ Mr and Mrs Cherry Owen laugh delightedly together ]
FIRST VOICE
From Beynon Butchers in Coronation Street, the smell of fried liver sidles out with onions on its breath. And listen! In the dark breakfast-room behind the shop, Mr and Mrs Beynon, waited upon by their treasure, enjoy, between bites, their everymorning hullabaloo, and Mrs Beynon slips the gristly bits under the tasselled tablecloth to her fat cat.
[ Cat purrs ]
MRS BEYNON
She likes the liver, Ben.
MR BEYNON
She ought to do, Bess. It's her brother's.
MRS BEYNON [ Screaming ]
Oh, d'you hear that, Lily?
LILY SMALLS
Yes, mum.
MRS BEYNON
We're eating pusscat.
LILY SMALLS
Yes, mum.
MRS BEYNON
Oh, you cat-butcher!
MR BEYNON
It was doctored, mind.
MRS BEYNON [ Hysterical ]
What's that got to do with it?
MR BEYNON
Yesterday, we had mole.
MRS BEYNON
Oh, Lily, Lily!
MR BEYNON
Monday, otter. Tuesday, shrews.
[ Mrs Beynon screams ]
LILY SMALLS
Go on, Mrs Beynon. He's the biggest liar in town.
MRS BEYNON
Don't you dare say that about Mr Beynon.
LILY SMALLS
Everybody knows it, mum.
MRS BEYNON
Mr Beynon never tells a lie. Do you, Ben?
MR BEYNON
No, Bess. And now I am going out after the corgies, with my little cleaver.
MRS BEYNON
Oh, Lily, Lily!
FIRST VOICE
Up the street, in the Sailors Arms, Sinbad Sailors, grandson of Mary Ann Sailors, draws a pint in the sunlit bar. The ship's clock in the bar says half past eleven. Half past eleven is opening time. The hands of the clock have stayed still at half past eleven for fifty years. It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms.
SINBAD
Here's to me, Sinbad.
FIRST VOICE
All over the town, babies and old men are cleaned and put into their broken prams and wheeled on to the sunlit cockled cobbles or out into the backyards under the dancing underclothes, and left. A baby cries.
OLD MAN
I want my pipe and he wants his bottle.
[ School bell rings ]
FIRST VOICE
Noses are wiped, heads picked, hair combed, paws scrubbed, ears boxed, and the children shrilled off to school.
[ Children's voices, up and out ]
SECOND VOICE
Fishermen grumble to their nets. Nogood Boyo goes out in the dinghy Zanzibar, ships the oars, drifts slowly in the dab-filled bay, and, lying on his back in the unbaled water, among crabs' legs and tangled lines, looks up at the spring sky.
NOGOOD BOYO [ Softly, lazily ]
I don't know who's up there and I don't care.
FIRST VOICE
He turns his head and looks up at Llareggub Hill, and sees, among green lathered trees, the white houses of the strewn away farms, where farmboys whistle, dogs shout, cows low, but all too far away for him, or you, to hear. And in the town, the shops squeak open. Mr Edwards, in butterfly-collar and straw-hat at the doorway of Manchester House, measures, with his eye, the dawdlers by for striped flannel shirts and shrouds and flowery blouses, and bellows to himself in the darkness behind his eye
MR EDWARDS [ whispers ]
I love Miss Price.


Continue to Under Milk Wood - Part 3
5. Blind Captain Cat Hears All The Morning Of The Town
6. The Villagers Go About Their Business




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.