THE LIFE AND WORK OF DYLAN THOMAS
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Under Milk Wood   -   part 4

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FIRST VOICE

The music of the spheres is heard distinctly over Milk Wood. It is 'The Rustle of Spring'.
SECOND VOICE
A glee-party sings in Bethesda Graveyard, gay but muffled.
FIRST VOICE
Vegetables make love above the tenors
SECOND VOICE
and dogs bark blue in the face.
FIRST VOICE
Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard belches in a teeny hanky and chases the sunlight with a flywhisk, but even she cannot drive out the Spring: from one of her fingerbowls, a primrose grows.
SECOND VOICE
Mrs Dai Bread One and Mrs Dai Bread Two are sitting outside their house in Donkey Lane, one darkly one plumply blooming in the quick, dewy sun. Mrs Dai Bread Two is looking into a crystal ball which she holds in the lap of her dirty yellow petticoat, hard against her hard dark thighs.
MRS DAI BREAD TWO
Cross my palm with silver. Out of our housekeeping money. Aah!
MRS DAI BREAD ONE
What d'you see, lovie?
MRS DAIBREAD TWO
I see a featherbed. With three pillows on it. And a text above the bed. I can't read what it says, there's great clouds blowing. Now they have blown away. God is love, the text says.
MRS DAI BREAD ONE [ Delighted ]
That's our bed.
MRS DAI BREAD TWO
And now it's vanished. The sun's spinning like a top. Who's this coming out of the sun? It's a hairy little man with big pink lips. He got a wall eye.
MRS DAIBREAD ONE
It's Dai, it's Dai Bread!
MRS DAIBREAD TWO
Ssh! The featherbed's floating back. The little man's taking his boots off. He's pulling his shirt over his head. He's beating his chest with his fists. He's climbing into bed.
MRS DAI BREAD ONE
Go on, go on.
MRS DAIBREAD TWO
There's two women in bed. He looks at them both, with his head cocked on one side. He's whistling through his teeth. Now he grips his little arms round one of the women.
MRS DAI BREAD ONE
Which one, which one?
MRS DAI BREAD TWO
I can't see any more. There's great clouds blowing again.
MRS DAI BREAD ONE
Ach, the mean old clouds!
[ Pause. The children's singing fades ]
FIRST VOICE
The morning is all singing. The Reverend Eli Jenkins, busy on his morning calls, stops outside the Welfare Hall to hear Polly Garter as she scrubs the floors for the Mothers' Union Dance tonight.
POLLY GARTER [ Singing ]
I loved a man whose name was Tom
He was strong as a bear and two yards long
I loved a man whose name was Dick
He was big as a barrel and three feet thick
And I loved a man whose name was Harry
Six feet tall and sweet as a cherry
But the one I loved best awake or asleep
Was little Willy Wee and he's six feet deep.

Oh Tom Dick and Harry were three fine men
And I'll never have such loving again
But little Willy Wee who took me on his knee
Little Willy Wee was the man for me.

Now men from every parish round
Run after me and roll me on the ground
But whenever I love another man back
Johnnie from the Hill or Sailing Jack
I always think as they do what they please
Of Tom Dick and Harry who were tall as trees
But most I think when I'm by their side
Of little Willy Wee who downed and died.

O Tom Dick and Harry were three fine men
And I'll never have such loving again
But little Willy Wee who took me on his knee
Little Willy Weazel was the man for me.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Praise the Lord! We are a musical nation.
SECOND VOICE
And the Reverend Eli Jenkins hurries on through the town to visit the sick with jelly and poems.
FIRST VOICE
The town's as full as a lovebird's egg.
MR WALDO
There goes the Reverend,
FIRST VOICE
says Mr Waldo at the smoked herring brown window of the unwashed Sailors Arms,
MR WALDO
with his brolly and his odes. Fill 'em up, Sinbad, I'm on the treacle today.
SECOND VOICE
The silent fishermen flush down their pints.
SINBAD
Oh, Mr Waldo,
FIRST VOICE
sighs Sinbad Sailors,
SINBAD
I dote on that Gossamer Beynon.
FIRST VOICE
Love, sings the Spring. The bedspring grass bounces under birds' bums and lambs. And Gossamer Beynon, schoolteacher, spoonstirred and quivering, teaches her slubberdegullion class.
[ Children singing ]
GOSSAMER BEYNON
Now, now, your accent, children!

It was a lover and his lass
With a hey and a hao and a hey nonino...
SINBAD
Oh, Mr Waldo,
FIRST VOICE
says Sinbad Sailors,
SINBAD
She's a lady all over.
FIRST VOICE
And Mr Waldo, who is thinking of a woman soft as Eve and sharp as sciatica to share his bread-pudding bed, answers,
MR WALDO
No lady that I know is.
SINBAD
And if only grandma'd die, cross my heart I'd go down on my knees Mr Waldo and I'd say Miss Gossamer I'd say
CHILDREN'S VOICES
When birds do sing a ding a ding a ding
Sweet lovers love the Spring...
FIRST VOICE
Polly Garter sings, still on her knees,
POLLY GARTER
Tom Dick and Harry were three fine men
And I'll never have such
CHILDREN
Ding a ding
POLLY GARTER
again.
FIRST VOICE
And the morning school is over, and Captain Cat at his curtained schooner's porthole open to the Spring sun tides hears the naughty forfeiting children tumble and rhyme on the cobbles...
GIRLS' VOICES
Gwennie call the boys
They make such a noise.
GIRL
Boys boys boys
Come along to me.
GIRLS' VOICES
Boys boys boys
Kiss Gwennie where she says
Or give her a penny.
Go on, Gwennie.
GIRL
Kiss me in Goosegog Lane
Or give me a penny.
What's your name?
FIRST BOY
Billy.
GIRL
Kiss me in Goosegog Lane Billy
Or give me a penny silly.
FIRST BOY
Gwennie Gwennie
I kiss you in Goosegog Lane
Now I haven't got to give you a penny.
GIRLS' VOICES
Boys boys boys
Kiss Gwennie where she says
Or give her a penny.
Go on, Gwennie.
GIRL
Kiss me on Llareggub Hill
Or give me a penny.
What's your name?
SECOND BOY
Johnnie Cristo.
GIRL
Kiss me on Llareggub Hill Johnnie Cristo
Or give me a penny mister.
SECOND BOY
Gwennie Gwennie
I kiss you on Llareggub Hill.
Now I haven't got to give you a penny.
GIRLS' VOICES
Boys boys boys
Kiss Gwennie where she says
Or give her a penny.
Go on, Gwennie.
GIRL
Kiss me in Milk Wood
Or give me a penny.
What's your name?
THIRD BOY
Dicky.
GIRL
Kiss me in Milk Wood Dicky
Or give me a penny quickly.
THIRD BOY
Gwennie Gwennie I
can't kiss you in Milk Wood.
GIRLS' VOICES
Gwennie ask him why.
GIRL
Why?
THIRD BOY
Because my mother said I mustn't.
GIRLS' VOICES
Cowardy cowardy custard Give Gwennie a penny.
GIRL
Give me a penny.
THIRD BOY
I haven't got any.
GIRLS' VOICES
Put him in the river
Up to his liver
Quick quick Dirty Dick
Beat him on the bum
With a rhubarb stick.
Aiee!
Hush!
FIRST VOICE
And the shrill girls giggle and master around him and squeal as they clutch and thrash, and he blubbers away downhill with his patched pants falling, and his tear-splashed blush burns all the way as the triumphant bird-like sisters scream with buttons in their claws and the bully brothers hoot after him his little nickname and his mother's shame and his father's wickedness with the loose wild barefoot women of the hovels of the hills. It all means nothing at all, and, howling for his milky mum, for her cawl and buttermilk and cowbreath and Welshcakes and the fat birth-smelling bed and moonlit kitchen of her arms, he'll never forget as he paddles blind home through the weeping end of the world. Then his tormentors tussle and run to the Cockle Street sweet-shop, their pennies sticky as honey, to buy from Miss Myfanwy Price, who is cocky and neat as a puff-bosomed robin and her small round buttocks tight as ticks, gobstoppers big as wens that rainbow as you suck, brandyballs, wine-gums, hundreds and thousands, liquorice sweet as sick, nugget to tug and ribbon out like another red rubbery tongue, gum to glue in girls' curls, crimson coughdrops to spit blood, ice-cream cornets, dandelion-and-burdock, raspberry and cherryade, pop goes the weasel and the wind.
SECOND VOICE
Gossamer Beynon high-heels out of school. The sun hums down through the cotton flowers of her dress into the bell of her heart and buzzes in the honey there and couches and kisses, lazy-loving and boozed, in her red-berried breast. Eyes run from the trees and windows of the street steaming 'Gossamer', and strip her to the nipples and the bees. She blazes naked past the Sailors Arms, the only woman on the Dai-Adamed earth. Sinbad Sailors places on her thighs still dewdamp from the first mangrowing cock-crow garden his reverent goat-bearded hands.
GOSSAMER BEYNON
I don't care if he is common,
SECOND VOICE
she whispers to her salad-day deep self,
GOSSAMER BEYNON
I want to gobble him up. I don't care if he does drop his aitches,
SECOND VOICE
she tells the stripped and mother-of-the-world big-beamed and Eve-hipped spring of her self,
GOSSAMER BEYNON
so long as he's all cucumber and hooves.
SECOND VOICE
Sinbad Sailors watches her go by, demure and proud and schoolmarm in her crisp flower dress and sun-defying hat, with never a look or lilt or wriggle, the butcher's unmelting icemaiden daughter veiled forever from the hungry hug of his eyes.
SINBAD SAILORS
Oh, Gossamer Beynon, why are you so proud?
SECOND VOICE
He grieves to his Guinness.
SINBAD SAILORS
Oh, beautiful beautiful Gossamer B., I wish I wish that you were for me. I wish you were not so educated.
SECOND VOICE
She feels his goatbeard tickle her in the middle of the world like a tuft of wiry fire, and she turns, in a terror of delight, away from his whips and whiskery conflagration and sits down in the kitchen to a plate heaped high with chips and the kidneys of lambs. In the blind-drawn dark dining-room of School House, dusty and echoing as a dining room in a vault, Mr and Mrs Pugh are silent over cold grey cottage pie. Mr Pugh reads, as he forks the shroud meat in, from Lives of the Great Poisoners. He has bound a plain brown-paper cover round the book. Slyly, between slow mouth fuls, he sidespies up at Mrs Pugh, poisons her with his eye, then goes on reading. He underlines certain passages and smiles in secret.
MRS PUGH
Persons with manners do not read at table,
FIRST VOICE
says Mrs Pugh. She swallows a digestive tablet as big as a horse-pill, washing it down with clouded peasoup water.
[ Pause ]
MRS PUGH
Some persons were brought up in pigsties.
MR PUGH
Pigs don't read at table, dear.
FIRST VOICE
Bitterly she flicks dust from the broken cruet. It settles on the pie in a thin gnat-rain.
MR PUGH
Pigs can't read, my dear.
MRS PUGH
I know one who can.
FIRST VOICE
Alone in the hissing laboratory of his wishes, Mr Pugh minces among bad vats and Jeroboams, tiptoes through spinneys of murdering herbs, agony dancing in his crucibles, and mixes especially for Mrs Pugh a venomous porridge unknown to toxologists which will scald and viper through her until her ears fall off like figs, her toes grow big and black as balloons, and steam comes screaming out of her navel.
MR PUGH
You know best, dear,
FIRST VOICE
says Mr Pugh, and quick as a flash he ducks her in rat soup.
MRS PUGH
What's that book by your trough, Mr Pugh?
MR PUGH
It's a theological work, my dear. Lives of the Great Saints.
FIRST VOICE
Mrs Pugh smiles. An icicle forms in the cold air of the dining vault.
MRS PUGH
I saw you talking to a saint this morning. Saint Polly Garter. She was martyred again last night. Mrs Organ Morgan saw her with Mr Waldo.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
And when they saw me they pretended they were looking for nests,
SECOND VOICE
said Mrs Organ Morgan to her husband, with her mouth full of fish as a pelican's.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
But you don't go nesting in long combinations, I said to myself, like Mr Waldo was wearing, and your dress nearly over your head like Polly Garter's. Oh, they didn't fool me.
SECOND VOICE
One big bird gulp, and the flounder's gone. She licks her lips and goes stabbing again.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
And when you think of all those babies she's got, then all I can say is she'd better give up bird nesting that's all I can say, it isn't the right kind of hobby at all for a woman that can't say No even to midgets. Remember Bob Spit? He wasn't any bigger than a baby and he gave her two. But they're two nice boys, I will say that, Fred Spit and Arthur. Sometimes I like Fred best and sometimes I like Arthur. Who do you like best, Organ?
ORGAN MORGAN
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Organ Morgan, you haven't been listening to a word I said. It's organ organ all the time with you...
FIRST VOICE
And she bursts into tears, and, in the middle of her salty howling, nimbly spears a small flat fish and pelicans it whole.
ORGAN MORGAN
And then Palestrina,
SECOND VOICE
says Organ Morgan.
FIRST VOICE
Lord Cut-Glass, in his kitchen full of time, squats down alone to a dogdish, marked Fido, of peppery fish-scraps and listens to the voices of his sixty-six clocks - one for each year of his loony age - and watches, with love, their black-and-white moony loudlipped faces tocking the earth away: slow clocks, quick clocks, pendulumed heart-knocks, china, alarm, grandfather, cuckoo; clocks shaped like Noah's whirring Ark, clocks that bicker in marble ships, clocks in the wombs of glass women, hourglass chimers, tu-wit-tu-woo clocks, clocks that pluck tunes, Vesuvius clocks all black bells and lava, Niagara clocks that cataract their ticks, old time-weeping clocks with ebony beards, clocks with no hands forever drumming out time without ever knowing what time it is. His sixty-six singers are all set at different hours. Lord Cut-Glass lives in a house and a life at siege. Any minute or dark day now, the unknown enemy will loot and savage downhill, but they will not catch him napping. Sixty-six different times in his fish-slimy kitchen ping, strike, tick, chime and tock.
SECOND VOICE
The lust and lilt and lather and emerald breeze and crackle of the bird-praise and body of Spring with its breasts full of rivering May-milk, means, to that lordly fish-head nibbler, nothing but another nearness to the tribes and navies of the Last Black Day who'll sear and pillage down Armageddon Hill to his double-locked rusty-shuttered tick tock dust-scrabbled shack at the bottom of the town that has fallen head over bells in love.
POLLY GARTER
And I'll never have such loving again,
SECOND VOICE
pretty Polly hums and longs.
POLLY GARTER [ Sings ]
Now when farmers' boys on the first fair day
Come down from the hills to drink and be gay
Before the sun sinks I'll lie there in their arms
For they're good bad boys from the lonely farms,
But I always think as we tumble into bed
Of little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead...
[ A long silence ]


Continue to Under Milk Wood - Part 5
9. The Sunny, Slow Lulling Afternoon
10. Now The Town Is Dusk




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.