Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

First broadcast 1954


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!

observations: Should be read with this earlier entry.

Captain Cat is a blind, retired sea captain haunted by the memories of drowned comrades. Here he’s all about the women, but he is one of the key characters for introducing us to everyone in the play. (The names are splendid throughout: Organ Morgan, Nogood Boyo, Bessie Bighead, Mr and Mrs Willy Nilly.)

Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood, performed in a version of it in 1953 (which was recorded), and died shortly afterwards – he was dead before it was first broadcast on the BBC in 1954. One of the parts he played (as well as the main narrating voice) was the local priest, Rev Eli Jenkins who gives us a rather sweet evening song which now has a life of its own– you can hear male voice choirs, Harry Secombe or Bryn Terfel singing it.

Links on the blog: Captain Cat and his travels and women are reminiscent of the Admiral’s Night in this short story. Lily, in this earlier entry, was maid to Mr and Mrs Butcher Beynon. The milieu of the Lucia books couldn’t be more different in most ways, but small town life, gossip and shopping were very similar.

The picture was taken in Oswestry in 1954 and is from the National Library of Wales – a wonderful resource.