St David's Day: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

first broadcast 1954

[Lily the maid has just got up and is looking at herself in the mirror]


Oh there's a face!
Where you get that hair from? 
Got it from a 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. 

And very softly, her lips almost touching her reflection, 
she breathes the name and clouds the shaving-glass.

observations: On St David’s Day, it seemed like a good idea to feature a Welsh writer – there aren’t that many of them, but Dylan Thomas is a great choice. Perhaps not many of his poems will live forever (Do not go gentle into that good night, because people like to have it at funerals, it’s the My Way of poetry) but Under Milk Wood surely will be his lasting monument. It’s called a play for voices, and was written for radio – Richard Burton was in the original BBC production. The play’s narrators wander over the small town of Llareggub (spell it backwards) telling us the dreams of the inhabitants – then the characters wake up and we hear them going about their business. The language is amazingly beautiful and, of course, poetic.

Last year’s St David’s Day entry was from Kingsley Amis’s book The Old Devils – one of the characters in it is perhaps partially based on Dylan Thomas, although Thomas himself did not live to become an Old Devil - he died of drink before he was 40. Amis was surprisingly good at mother-daughter conversations, I said in that entry, and it seems that Dylan Thomas is surprisingly good at women talking to themselves – this bit is lovely (and has lived in my mind since I first heard it when I was a similar age to Lily) and the women’s voices throughout are very good - Polly Garter and Mrs Dai Bread One and Two, Rosie Probert, Mary Ann Sailors.

Links on the blog: Young girls looking in a mirror and thinking about love in Halloween Party, and Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene likes what she sees in the glass.

The picture is from Flickr.


  1. I've always liked Thomas' poetry. Like lots of other Thomas fans, I like Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night especially. Thanks for reminding me of his work.

  2. Keep on writing, great job!

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  3. Llareggub - hilarious. Good ol' Thomas!


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