THE LIFE AND WORK OF DYLAN THOMAS
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Under Milk Wood   -   part 5

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FIRST VOICE

The sunny slow lulling afternoon yawns and moons through the dozy town. The sea lolls, laps and idles in, with fishes sleeping in its lap. The meadows still as Sunday, the shut-eye tasselled bulls, the goat-and-daisy dingles, nap happy and lazy. The dumb duck-ponds snooze. Clouds sag and pillow on Llareggub Hill. Pigs grunt in a wet wallow-bath, and smile as they snort and dream. They dream of the acorned swill of the world, the rooting for pig-fruit, the bagpipe dugs of the mother sow, the squeal and snuffle of yesses of the women pigs in rut. They mud-bask and snout in the pig-loving sun; their tails curl; they rollick and slobber and snore to deep, smug, after-swill sleep. Donkeys angelically drowse on Donkey Down.
MRS PUGH
Persons with manners,
SECOND VOICE
snaps Mrs cold Pugh,
MRS PUGH
do not nod at table.
FIRST VOICE
Mr Pugh cringes awake. He puts on a soft-soaping smile: it is sad and grey under his nicotine-eggyellow weeping walrus Victorian moustache worn thick and long in memory of Doctor Crippen.
MRS PUGH
You should wait until you retire to your sty,
SECOND VOICE
says Mrs Pugh, sweet as a razor. His fawning measly quarter-smile freezes. Sly and silent, he foxes into his chemist's den and there, in a hiss and prussic circle of cauldrons and phials brimful with pox and the Black Death, cooks up a fricassee of deadly nightshade, nicotine, hot frog, cyanide and bat-spit for his needling stalactite hag and bednag of a pokerbacked nutcracker wife.
MR PUGH
I beg your pardon, my dear,
SECOND VOICE
he murmurs with a wheedle.
FIRST VOICE
Captain Cat, at his window thrown wide to the sun and the clippered seas he sailed long ago when his eyes were blue and bright, slumbers and voyages; ear-ringed and rolling, I Love You Rosie Probert tattooed on his belly, he brawls with broken bottles in the fug and babel of the dark dock bars, roves with a herd of short and good time cows in every naughty port and twines and souses with the drowned and blowsy-breasted dead. He weeps as he sleeps and sails, and the tears run down his grog-blossomed nose.
SECOND VOICE
One voice of all he remembers most dearly as his dream buckets down. Lazy early Rosie with the flaxen thatch, whom he shared with Tom-Fred the donkeyman and many another seaman, clearly and near to him speaks from the bedroom of her dust. In that gulf and haven, fleets by the dozen have anchored for the little heaven of the night; but she speaks to Captain napping Cat alone. Mrs Probert...
ROSIE PROBERT
from Duck Lane, Jack. Quack twice and ask for Rosie
SECOND VOICE
... is the one love of his sea-life that was sardined with women.
ROSIE PROBERT [ Softly ]
What seas did you see,
Tom Cat, Tom Cat,
In your sailoring days
Long long ago?
What sea beasts were
In the wavery green
When you were my master?
CAPTAIN CAT
I'll tell you the truth.
Seas barking like seals,
Blue seas and green,
Seas covered with eels
And mermen and whales.
ROSIE PROBERT
What seas did you sail
Old whaler when
On the blubbery waves
Between Frisco and Wales
You were my bosun?
CAPTAIN CAT
As true as I'm here
Dear you Tom Cat's tart
You landlubber Rosie
You cosy love
My easy as easy
My true sweetheart,
Seas green as a bean
Seas gliding with swans
In the seal-barking moon.
ROSIE PROBERT
What seas were rocking
My little deck hand
My favourite husband
In your seaboots and hunger
My duck my whaler
My honey my daddy
My pretty sugar sailor.
With my name on your belly
When you were a boy
Long long ago?
CAPTAIN CAT
I'll tell you no lies.
The only sea I saw
Was the seesaw sea
With you riding on it.
Lie down, lie easy.
Let me shipwreck in your thighs.
ROSIE PROBERT
Knock twice, Jack,
At the door of my grave
And ask for Rosie.
CAPTAIN CAT
Rosie Probert.
ROSIE PROBERT
Remember her.
She is forgetting.
The earth which filled her mouth
Is vanishing from her.
Remember me.
I have forgotten you.
I am going into the darkness of the darkness for ever.
I have forgotten that I was ever born.
CHILD
Look,
FIRST VOICE
says a child to her mother as they pass by the window of Schooner House,
CHILD
Captain Cat is crying.
FIRST VOICE
Captain Cat is crying
CAPTAIN CAT
Come back, come back,
FIRST VOICE
up the silences and echoes of the passages of the eternal night.
CHILD
He's crying all over his nose,
FIRST VOICE
says the child. Mother and child move on down the street.
CHILD
He's got a nose like strawberries,
FIRST VOICE
the child says; and then she forgets him too. She sees in the still middle of the bluebagged bay Nogood Boyo fishing from the Zanzibar.
CHILD
Nogood Boyo gave me three pennies yesterday but I wouldn't,
FIRST VOICE
the child tells her mother
SECOND VOICE
Boyo catches a whalebone corset. It is all he has caught all day.
NOGOOD BOYO
Bloody funny fish!
SECOND VOICE
Mrs Dai Bread Two gypsies up his mind's slow eye, dressed only in a bangle.
NOGOOD BOYO
She's wearing her nightgown.
[ Pleadingly ] Would you like this nice wet corset, Mrs Dai Bread Two?
MRS DAIBREAD TWO
No, I won't!
NOGOOD BOYO
And a bite of my little apple?
SECOND VOICE
he offers with no hope.
FIRST VOICE
She shakes her brass nightgown, and he chases her out of his mind; and when he comes gusting back, there in the bloodshot centre of his eye a geisha girl grins and bows in a kimono of ricepaper.
NOGOOD BOYO
I want to be good Boyo, but nobody'll let me,
FIRST VOICE
he sighs as she writhes politely. The land fades, the sea flocks silently away; and through the warm white cloud where he lies silky, tingling uneasy Eastern music undoes him in a Japanese minute.
SECOND VOICE
The afternoon buzzes like lazy bees round the flowers round Mae Rose-Cottage. Nearly asleep in the field of nannygoats who hum and gently butt the sun, she blows love on a puffball.
MAE ROSE-COTTAGE [ Lazily ]
He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me! - the dirty old fool.
SECOND VOICE
Lazy she lies alone in clover and sweet-grass, seventeen and never been sweet in the grass ho ho.
FIRST VOICE
The Reverend Eli Jenkins inky in his cool front parlour or poem-room tells only the truth in his Lifework - the Population, Main Industry, Shipping, History, Topography, Flora and Fauna of the town he worships in - the White Book of Llareggub. Portraits of famous bards and preachers, all fur and wool from the squint to the kneecaps, hang over him heavy as sheep, next to faint lady watercolours of pale green Milk Wood like a lettuce salad dying. His mother, propped against a palm in a pot, with her wedding-ring waist and bust like a black-cloth dining-table suffers in her stays.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Oh, angels be careful there with your knives and forks,
FIRST VOICE
he prays. There is no known likeness of his father Esau, who, undogcollared because of his little weakness, was scythed to the bone one harvest by mistake when sleeping with his weakness in the corn. He lost all ambition and died, with one leg.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Poor Dad,
SECOND VOICE
grieves the Reverend Eli,
REV. ELI JENKINS
to die of drink and agriculture.
SECOND VOICE
Farmer Watkins in Salt Lake Farm hates his cattle on the hill as he ho's them in to milking.
UTAH WATKINS [ In a fury ]
Damn you, you damned dairies!
SECOND VOICE
A cow kisses him.
UTAH WATKINS
Bite her to death!
SECOND VOICE
he shouts to his deaf dog who smiles and licks his hand.
UTAH WATKINS
Gore him, sit on him, Daisy!
SECOND VOICE
he bawls to the cow who barbed him with her tongue, and she moos gentle words as he raves and dances among his summerbreathed slaves walking delicately to the farm. The coming of the end of the Spring day is already reflected in the lakes of their great eyes. Bessie Bighead greets them by the names she gave them when they were maidens.
BESSIE BIGHEAD
Peg, Meg, Buttercup, Moll,
Fan from the Castle,
Theodosia and Daisy.
SECOND VOICE
They bow their heads.
FIRST VOICE
Look up Bessie Bighead in the White Book of Llareggub and you will find the few haggard rags and the one poor glittering thread of her history laid out in pages there with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first lost love.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Conceived in Milk Wood, born in a barn, wrapped in paper, left on a doorstep, big-headed and bass-voiced she grew in the dark until long-dead Gomer Owen kissed her when she wasn't looking because he was dared. Now in the light she'll work, sing, milk, say the cows' sweet names and sleep until the night sucks out her soul and spits it into the sky.
FIRST VOICE
In her life-long love-light, holily Bessie milks the fond lake-eyed cows as dusk showers slowly down over byre, sea and town. Utah Watkins curses through the farmyard on a carthorse.
UTAH WATKINS
Gallop, you bleeding cripple!
FIRST VOICE
and the huge horse neighs softly as though he had given it a lump of sugar.
Now the town is dusk. Each cobble, donkey, goose and gooseberry street is a thoroughfare of dusk; and dusk and ceremonial dust, and night's first darkening snow, and the sleep of birds, drift under and through the live dusk of this place of love. Llareggub is the capital of dusk.
Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, at the first drop of the dusk-shower, seals all her Sea View doors, draws the germ-free blinds, sits, erect as a dry dream on a highbacked hygienic chair and wills herself to cold, quick sleep. At once, at twice, Mr Ogmore and Mr Pritchard, who all dead day long have been gossiping like ghosts in the woodshed, planning the loveless destruction of their glass widow, reluctantly sigh and sidle into her clean house.
MR PRITCHARD
You first, Mr Ogmore.
MR OGMORE
After you, Mr Pritchard.
MR PRITCHARD
No, no, Mr Ogmore. You widowed her first.
FIRST VOICE
And in through the keyhole, with tears where their eyes once were, they ooze and grumble.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
Husbands,
FIRST VOICE
she says in her sleep. There is acid love in her voice for one of the two shambling phantoms. Mr Ogmore hopes that it is not for him. So does Mr Pritchard.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
I love you both.
MR OGMORE [ With terror ]
Oh, Mrs Ogmore.
MR PRITCHARD [ With horror ]
Oh, Mrs Pritchard.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD
Soon it will be time to go to bed. Tell me your tasks in order.
MR OGMORE AND MR PRITCHARD
We must take our pyjamas from the drawer marked pyjamas.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD [ Coldly ]
And then you must take them off.
SECOND VOICE
Down in the dusking town, Mae Rose-Cottage, still lying in clover, listens to the nannygoats chew, draws circles of lipstick round her nipples.
MAE ROSE-COTTAGE
I'm fast. I'm a bad lot. God will strike me dead. I'm seventeen. I'll go to hell,
SECOND VOICE
she tells the goats.
MAE ROSE-COTTAGE
You just wait. I'll sin till I blow up!
SECOND VOICE
She lies deep, waiting for the worst to happen; the goats champ and sneer.
FIRST VOICE
And at the doorway of Bethesda House, the Reverend Jenkins recites to Llareggub Hill his sunset poem.
REV. ELI JENKINS
Every morning, when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep Thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

O let us see another day!
Bless us this holy night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, goodbye - but just for now!
FIRST VOICE
Jack Black prepares once more to meet his Satan in the Wood. He grinds his night-teeth, closes his eyes, climbs into his religious trousers, their flies sewn up with cobbler's thread, and pads out, torched and bibled, grimly, joyfully, into the already sinning dusk.
JACK BLACK
Off to Gomorrah!
SECOND VOICE
And Lily Smalls is up to Nogood Boyo in the wash-house.
FIRST VOICE
And Cherry Owen, sober as Sunday as he is every day of the week, goes off happy as Saturday to get drunk as a deacon as he does every night.
CHERRY OWEN
I always say she's got two husbands, one drunk and one sober.
MRS CHERRY OWEN
And aren't I a lucky woman? Because I love them both.
SINBAD
Evening, Cherry.
CHERRY OWEN
Evening, Sinbad.
SINBAD
What'll you have?
CHERRY OWEN
Too much.
SINBAD
The Sailors Arms is always open,
FIRST VOICE
Sinbad suffers to himself, heartbroken,
SINBAD
Oh, Gossamer, open yours!
FIRST VOICE
Dusk is drowned for ever until tomorrow. It is all at once night now. The windy town is a hill of windows, and from the larrupped waves, the lights of the lamps in the windows call back the day and the dead that have run away to sea. All over the calling dark, babies and old men are bribed and lullabied to sleep.
FIRST WOMAN'S VOICE
Hushabye, baby, the sandman is coming...
SECOND WOMAN'S VOICE [ singing ]
Rockabye, grandpa, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
Down will come grandpa, whiskers and all.
FIRST VOICE
Or their daughters cover up the old unwinking men like parrots, and in their little dark in the lit and bustling young kitchen corners, all night long they watch, beady-eyed, the long night through in case death catches them asleep.
SECOND VOICE
Unmarried girls, alone in their privately bridal bedrooms, powder and curl for the Dance of the World. They make, in front of their looking-glasses, haughty or come-hithering faces for the young men in the street outside, at the lamplit leaning corners, who wait in the all-at-once wind to wolve and whistle.
FIRST VOICE
The drinkers in the Sailors Arms drink to the failure of the dance.
A DRINKER
Down with the waltzing and skipping.
CHERRY OWEN
Dancing isn't natural,
FIRST VOICE
righteously says Cherry Owen who has just downed seventeen pints of flat, warm, thin, Welsh, bitter beer.
SECOND VOICE
Mr Waldo, in his corner of the Sailors Arms, sings
MR WALDO
In Pembroke City when I was young
I lived by the Castle Keep
Sixpence a week was my wages
For working for the chimbley sweep.
Six cold pennies he gave me
Not a farthing more or less
And all the fare I could afford
Was parsnip gin and watercress.
I did not need a knife and fork
Or a bib up to my chin
To dine on a dish of watercress
And a jug of parsnip gin.
Did you ever hear a growing boy
To live so cruel cheap
On grub that has no flesh and bones
And liquor that makes you weep?
Sweep sweep chimbley sweep,
I wept through Pembroke City
Poor and barefoot in the snow
Till a kind young woman took pity.
Poor little chimbley sweep she said
Black as the ace of spades
Oh nobody's swept my chimbley
Since my husband went his ways.
Come and sweep my chimbley
Come and sweep my chimbley
She sighed to me with a blush
Come and sweep my chimbley
Come and sweep my chimbley
Bring along your chimbley brush!
SECOND VOICE
A farmer's lantern glimmers, a spark on Llareggub hillside.
FIRST VOICE
Llareggub Hill, writes the Reverend Jenkins in his poem-room,
REV ELI JENKINS
Llareggub Hill, that mystic tumulus, the memorial of peoples that dwelt in the region of Llareggub before the Celts left the Land of Summer and where the old wizards made themselves a wife out of flowers.
FIRST VOICE
Blind Captain Cat climbs into his bunk. Like a cat, he sees in the dark. Through the voyages of his tears, he sails to see the dead.
CAPTAIN CAT
Dancing Williams!
FIRST DROWNED
Still dancing.
CAPTAIN CAT
Jonah Jarvis
THIRD DROWNED
Still.
SECOND DROWNED
Curly Bevan's skull.
ROSIE PROBERT
Rosie, with God. She has forgotten dying.
FIRST VOICE
The dead come out in their Sunday best.
SECOND VOICE
Listen to the night breaking.
FIRST VOICE
Organ Morgan goes to chapel to play the organ. He plays alone at night to anyone who will listen: lovers, revellers, the silent dead, tramps or sheep. He sees Bach lying on a tombstone.
ORGAN MORGAN
Johann Sebastian!
CHERRY OWEN [ Drunkenly ]
Who?
ORGAN MORGAN
Johann Sebastian mighty Bach. Oh, Bach, fach.
CHERRY OWEN
To hell with you,
FIRST VOICE
says Cherry Owen who is resting on the tombstone on his way home. Mr Mog Edwards and Miss Myfanwy Price happily apart from one another at the top and the sea-end of the town write their everynight letters of love and desire. In the warm White Book of Llareggub you will find the little maps of the islands of their contentment.
MYFANWY PRICE
Oh, my Mog, I am yours for ever.
FIRST VOICE
And she looks around with pleasure at her own neat neverdull room which Mr Mog Edwards will never enter.
MOG EDWARDS
Come to my arms, Myfanwy.
FIRST VOICE
And he hugs his lovely money to his own heart. And Mr Waldo drunk in the dusky wood hugs his lovely Polly Garter under the eyes and rattling tongues of the neighbours and the birds, and he does not care. He smacks his live red lips.
But it is not his name that Polly Garter whispers as she lies under the oak and loves him back. Six feet deep that name sings in the cold earth.
POLLY GARTER [ Sings ]
But I always think as we tumble into bed
Of little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead.
FIRST VOICE
The thin night darkens. A breeze from the creased water sighs the streets close under Milk waking Wood. The Wood, whose every tree-foot's cloven in the black glad sight of the hunters of lovers, that is a God-built garden to Mary Ann Sailors who knows there is Heaven on earth and the chosen people of His kind fire in Llareggub's land, that is the fair day farmhands' wantoning ignorant chapel of bridesbeds, and, to the Reverend Eli Jenkins, a greenleaved sermon on the innocence of men, the suddenly wind-shaken wood springs awake for the second dark time this one Spring day.




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.