THE LIFE AND WORK OF DYLAN THOMAS
logo
















































Under Milk Wood   -   part 3

Click the play button to listen to embedded audio


FIRST VOICE

Syrup is sold in the post-office. A car drives to market, full of fowls and a farmer. Milk churns stand at Coronation Corner like short, silver policemen. And, sitting at the open window of Schooner House, blind Captain Cat hears all the morning of the town.
[ School bell in background. Children's voices. The noise of children's feet on the cobbles ]
CAPTAIN CAT [ Softly, to himself ]
Maggie Richards, Ricky Rhys, Tommy Powell, our Sal, little Gerwain, Billy Swansea with the dog's voice, one of Mr Waldo's, nasty Humphrey, Jackie with the sniff... Where's Dicky's Albie? and the boys from Ty-pant? Perhaps they got the rash again.
[ A sudden cry among the children's voices ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Somebody's hit Maggie Richards. Two to one it's Billy Swansea. Never trust a boy who barks.
[ A burst of yelping crying ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Right again! It's Billy.
FIRST VOICE
And the children's voices cry away.
[ Postman's rat-a-tat on door. Distant ]
CAPTAIN CAT [ Softly, to himself ]
That's Willy Nilly knocking at Bay View. Rat-a-tat, very soft. The knocker's got a kid glove on. Who's sent a letter to Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard?
[ Rat-a-tat. Distant again ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Careful now, she swabs the front glassy. Every step's like a bar of soap. Mind your size twelveses. That old Bessie would beeswax the lawn to make the birds slip.
WILLY NILLY
Morning, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
Good morning, postman.
WILLY NILLY
Here's a letter for you with stamped and addressed envelope enclosed, all the way from Builth Wells. A gentleman wants to study birds and can he have accommodation for two weeks and a bath vegetarian.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
No.
WILLY NILLY [ Persuasively ]
You wouldn't know he was in the house, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard. He'd be out in the mornings at the bang of dawn with his bag of breadcrumbs and his little telescope...
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
And come home at all hours covered with feathers. I don't want persons in my nice clean rooms breathing all over the chairs...
WILLY NILLY
Cross my heart, he won't breathe.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
... and putting their feet on my carpets and sneezing on my china and sleeping in my sheets...
WILLY NILLY
He only wants a single bed, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard.
[ Door slams ]
CAPTAIN CAT [ Softly ]
And back she goes to the kitchen, to polish the potatoes.
One, two, three, four, five ... That's Mrs Rose-Cottage. What's today? Today she gets the letter from her sister in Gorslas. How's the twins' teeth?
He's stopping at School House.
WILLY NILLY
Morning, Mrs Pugh. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard won't have a gentleman in from Builth Wells because he'll sleep in her sheets, Mrs Rose-Cottage's sister in Gorslas's twins have got to have them out...
MRS PUGH
Give me the parcel.
WILLY NILLY
It's for Mr Pugh, Mrs Pugh.
MRS PUGH
Never you mind. What's inside it?
WILLY NILLY
A book called 'Lives of the Great Poisoners'.
CAPTAIN CAT
That's Manchester House.
WILLY NILLY
Morning, Mr Edwards. Very small news. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard won't have birds in the house, and Mr Pugh's bought a book now on how to do in Mrs Pugh.
MR EDWARDS
Have you got a letter from her?
WILLY NILLY
Miss Price loves you with all her heart. Smelling of lavender today. She's down to the last of the elderflower wine but the quince jam's bearing up and she's knitting roses on the doilies. Last week she sold three jars of boiled sweets, pound of humbugs, half a box of jellybabies and six coloured photos of Llareggub. Yours for ever. Then twenty-one X's.
MR EDWARDS
Oh, Willy Nilly, she's a ruby! Here's my letter. Put it into her hands now.
[ Slow feet on cobbles, quicker feet approaching ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Mr Waldo hurrying to the Sailors Arms. Pint of stout with an egg in it.

[ Footsteps stop ]

[ Softly ] There's a letter for him.
WILLY NILLY
It's another paternity summons, Mr Waldo.
FIRST VOICE
The quick footsteps hurry on along the cobbles and up three steps to the Sailors Arms.
MR WALDO [ Calling out ]
Quick, Sinbad. Pint of stout. And no egg in.
FIRST VOICE
People are moving now, up and down the cobbled street.
CAPTAIN CAT
All the women are out this morning, in the sun. You can tell it's Spring. There goes Mrs Cherry, you can tell her by her trotters, off she trots new as a daisy. Who's that talking by the pump? Mrs Floyd and Boyo, talking flatfish. What can you talk about flatfish? That's Mrs Dai Bread One, waltzing up the street like a jelly, every time she shakes it's slap slap slap. Who's that? Mrs Butcher Beynon with her pet black cat, it follows her everywhere, miaow and all. There goes Mrs Twenty Three, important, the sun gets up and goes down in her dewlap, when she shuts her eyes, it's night. High heels now, in the morning too, Mrs Rose-Cottage's eldest, Mae, seventeen and never been kissed ho ho, going young and milking under my window to the field with the nannygoats, she reminds me all the way. Can't hear what the women are gabbing round the pump. Same as ever. Who's having a baby, who blacked whose eye, seen Polly Garter giving her belly an airing, there should be a law, seen Mrs Beynon's new mauve jumper, it's her old grey jumper dyed, who's dead, who's dying, there's a lovely day, oh the cost of soapflakes!
[ Organ music distant ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Organ Morgan's at it early. You can tell it's Spring.

Ocky Milkman on his round. I will say this, his milk's as fresh as the dew. Half dew it is. Snuffle on, Ocky, watering the townÉ Somebody's coming. Now the voices round the pump can see somebody coming. Hush, there's a hush! You can tell by the noise of the hush, it's Polly Garter. [ Louder ] Hullo, Polly, who's there?
POLLY GARTER [ Off ]
Me, love.
CAPTAIN CAT
That's Polly Garter. [ Softly ] Hullo, Polly, my love. Can you hear the dumb goose-hiss of the wives as they huddle and peck or flounce at a waddle away? Who cuddled you when? Which of their gandering hubbies moaned in Milk Wood for your naughty mothering arms and body like a wardrobe, love? Scrub the floors of the Welfare Hall for the Mothers' Union Social Dance, you're one mother won't wriggle her roly poly bum or pat her fat little buttery foot in that wedding-ringed holy tonight though the waltzing breadwinners snatched from the cosy smoke of the Sailors Arms will grizzle and mope.
[ A cock crows ]
CAPTAIN CAT
Too late, cock, too late
SECOND VOICE
for the town's half over with its morning. The morning's busy as bees.
FIRST VOICE
There's the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed cobbles of the humming streets, hammering of horse-shoes, gobble quack and cackle, tomtit twitter from the bird-ounced boughs, braying on Donkey Down. Bread is baking, pigs are grunting, chop goes the butcher, milk-churns bell, tills ring, sheep cough, dogs shout, saws sing. Oh, the Spring whinny and morning moo from the clog dancing farms, the gulls' gab and rabble on the boat-bobbing river and sea and the cockles bubbling in the sand, scamper of sanderlings, curlew cry, crow caw, pigeon coo, clock strike, bull bellow, and the ragged gabble of the beargarden school as the women scratch and babble in Mrs Organ Morgan's general shop where everything is sold: custard, buckets, henna, rat-traps, shrimp nets, sugar, stamps, confetti, paraffin, hatchets, whistles.
FIRST WOMAN
Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
SECOND WOMAN
la di da
FIRST WOMAN
got a man in Builth Wells
THIRD WOMAN
and he got a little telescope to look at birds
SECOND WOMAN
Willy Nilly said
THIRD WOMAN
Remember her first husband? He didn't need a telescope
FIRST WOMAN
he looked at them undressing through the keyhole
THIRD WOMAN
and he used to shout Tallyho
SECOND WOMAN
but Mr Ogmore was a proper gentleman
FIRST WOMAN
even though he hanged his collie
THIRD WOMAN
Seen Mrs Butcher Beynon?
SECOND WOMAN
She said Butcher Beynon put dogs in the mincer
FIRST WOMAN
Go on he's pulling her leg
THIRD WOMAN
Now don't you dare tell her that, there's a dear
SECOND WOMAN
or she'll think he's trying to pull it off and eat it
FOURTH WOMAN
There's a nasty lot live here when you come to think
FIRST WOMAN
Look at that Nogood Boyo now
SECOND WOMAN
too lazy to wipe his snout
THIRD WOMAN
and going out fishing every day and all he ever brought back was a Mrs Samuels
FIRST WOMAN
been in the water a week
SECOND WOMAN
And look at Ocky Milkman's wife that nobody's ever seen
FIRST WOMAN
he keeps her in the cupboard with the empties
THIRD WOMAN
and think of Dai Bread with two wives
SECOND WOMAN
one for the daytime and one for the night
FOURTH WOMAN
Men are brutes on the quiet
THIRD WOMAN
And how's Organ Morgan, Mrs Morgan
FIRST WOMAN
you look dead beat
SECOND WOMAN
it's organ organ all the time with him
THIRD WOMAN
up every night until midnight playing the organ
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Oh, I'm a martyr to music.
FIRST VOICE
Outside, the sun springs down on the rough and tumbling town. It runs through the hedges of Goosegog Lane, cuffing the birds to sing. Spring whips green down Cockle Row, and the shells ring out. Llareggub this snip of a morning is wild fruit and warm, the streets, fields, sands and waters springing in the young sun.
SECOND VOICE
Evans the Death presses hard with black gloves on the coffin of his breast in case his heart jumps out.
EVANS THE DEATH [ Harsh ]
Where's your dignity. Lie down.
SECOND VOICE
Spring stirs Gossamer Beynon schoolmistress like a spoon.
GOSSAMER BEYNON [ Tearfully ]
Oh, what can I do? I'll never be refined if I twitch.
SECOND VOICE
Spring this strong morning foams in a flame in Jack Black as he cobbles a high-heeled shoe for Mrs Dai Bread Two the gypsy, but he hammers it sternly out.
JACK BLACK [ To a hammer rhythm ]
There is no leg belonging to the foot that belongs to this shoe.
SECOND VOICE
The sun and the green breeze ship Captain Cat sea-memory again.
CAPTAIN CAT
No, I'll take the mulatto, by God, who's captain here?
Parlez-vous jig jig. Madam?
SECOND VOICE
Mary Ann Sailors says very softly to herself as she looks out at Llareggub Hill from the bedroom where she was born
MARY ANN SAILORS [ Loudly ]
It is Spring in Llareggub in the sun in my old age, and this is the Chosen Land.
[ A choir of children's voices suddenly cries out on one, high, glad, long, sighing note ]
FIRST VOICE
And in Willy Nilly the Postman's dark and sizzling damp tea-coated misty pygmy kitchen where the spittingcat kettles throb and hop on the range, Mrs Willy Nilly steams open Mr Mog Edwards' letter to Miss Myfanwy Price and reads it aloud to Willy Nilly by the squint of the Spring sun through the one sealed window running with tears, while the drugged, bedraggled hens at the back door whimper and snivel for the lickerish bog-black tea.
MRS WILLY NILLY
From Manchester House, Llareggub. Sole Prop: Mr Mog Edwards (late of Twll), Linendraper, Haberdasher, Master Tailor, Costumier. For West End Negligee, Lingerie, Teagowns, Evening Dress, Trousseaux, Layettes. Also Ready to Wear for All Occasions. Economical Outfitting for Agricultural Employment Our Speciality. Wardrobes Bought. Among Our Satisfied Customers Ministers of Religion and J.P.'s. Fittings by Appointment. Advertising Weekly in the Twll Bugle. Beloved Myfanwy Price my Bride in Heaven,
MOG EDWARDS
I love you until Death do us part and then we shall be together for ever and ever. A new parcel of ribbons has come from Carmarthen today, all the colours in the rainbow. I wish I could tie a ribbon in your hair a white one but it cannot be. I dreamed last night you were all dripping wet and you sat on my lap as the Reverend Jenkins went down the street. I see you got a mermaid in your lap he said and he lifted his hat. He is a proper Christian. Not like Cherry Owen who said you should have thrown her back he said. Business is very poorly. Polly Garter bought two garters with roses but she never got stockings so what is the use I say. Mr Waldo tried to sell me a woman's nightie outsize he said he found it and we know where. I sold a packet of pins to Sinbad Sailors to pick his teeth. If this goes on I shall be in the poorhouse. My heart is in your bosom and yours is in mine. God be with you always Myfanwy Price and keep you lovely for me in His Heavenly Mansion. I must stop now and remain, Your Eternal, Mog Edwards.
MRS WILLY NILLY
And then a little message with a rubber stamp. Shop at Mog's!!!
FIRST VOICE
And Willy Nilly, rumbling, jockeys out again to the three-seated shack called the House of Commons in the back where the hens weep, and sees, in sudden Springshine,
SECOND VOICE
herring gulls heckling down to the harbour where the fishermen spit and prop the morning up and eye the fishy sea smooth to the sea's end as it lulls in blue. Green and gold money, tobacco, tinned salmon, hats with feathers, pots of fish-paste, warmth for the winter-to-be, weave and leap in it rich and slippery in the flash and shapes of fishes through the cold sea-streets. But with blue lazy eyes the fishermen gaze at that milk-mild whispering water with no ruck or ripple as though it blew great guns and serpents and typhooned the town.
FISHERMAN
Too rough for fishing today.
SECOND VOICE
And they thank God, and gob at a gull for luck, and moss-slow and silent make their way uphill, from the still still sea, towards the Sailors Arms as the children
FIRST VOICE
spank and scamper rough and singing out of school into the draggletail yard. And Captain Cat at his window says soft to himself the words of their song.
CAPTAIN CAT [ Keeping to the beat of the singing ]
Johnnie Crack and Flossie Snail
Kept their baby in a milking pail
Flossie Snail and Johnnie Crack
One would pull it out and one would put it back
O it's my turn now said Flossie Snail
To take the baby from the milking pail
And it's my turn now said Johnnie Crack
To smack it on the head and put it back

Johnnie Crack and Flossie Snail
Kept their baby in a milking pail
One would put it back and one would pull it out
And all it had to drink was ale and stout
For Johnnie Crack and Flossie Snail
Always used to say that stout and ale
Was good for a baby in a milking pail.
[ Long pause ]


Continue to Under Milk Wood - Part 4
7. The Music Of The Spheres
8. Mid-Day, Mr And Mrs Pugh Are Silent




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.