03 Feb 2008

To begin at the beginning:

This is my first year participating in the Blogger’s Silent Poetry Reading, and I am torn, torn I tell you, between two Dylan Thomas poems.

Dylan Thomas is, arguably, Wales’ best loved poet, and certainly its best known. He lived for some years in Laugharne, a scant ten miles away from where I live now. I have peered into his writing shed, perched high above the estuary, and walked the track beneath Laugharne castle, where fishing boats lie waiting for the tide, and sea birds dip and dive. I have seen “The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail, and the stars falling cold” … and raised a pint in his favorite watering hole, sat in the cemetery where he’s buried; long hours, sketching, reading tombstones, musing about the origins of genius.

Dylan was, at best, a right moody bastard, and while I love the urgency and the two fingered salute of And Death Shall Have No Dominion, I have had quite enough of thinking about mortality this week, thank you.

I’ve settled on Under Milkwood, his best known poem, at least in these parts. Amazingly, I never knew this poem, until I moved to Wales. I wish I could read it to you myself but, as this is a silent poetry reading, I will share with you instead the first verse; the one I have memorized. This single verse speaks volumes about the village where I live now; speaks volumes about all Welsh villages, across the whole of Wales.

Dylan Thomas’ Writing Shed

Under Milkwood
A play for voices, by Dylan Thomas

To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.

It’s a long poem; too long to offer here in its entirety, but no matter. It is much better heard than read. It was written to be read aloud. There’s a rhythm to the Welsh language, which adds so much to this poem, and so I urge you to listen. Listen to Pomeroy Jones, born in Mumbles, and Matti Richards, and Dulcie Prothero and Effie Bevan and Lil the Gluepot and Dai the Milk, and the Inspectors of Cruelty and Myfanwy Price and all the rest of them here.

“Oh my mog”… (in this case, dog) …”I am yours forever”…
Brenda, the Voice

Posted on February 3, in Blog


  1. Mark wrote:

    Under Milk Wood is NOT a poem…. it is a “Play For Voices” !

    Come closer now.”


    Posted on 2.8.08 ·
  2. Ella wrote:

    Is to begin at the beginning a book?

    Posted on 6.18.14 ·
  3. “To begin at the beginning… It is midnight in a small town, starless and bible black…”

    That is the first line of Under Milkwood, a play for voices by Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. You can find the complete text on Project Gutenberg.

    Posted on 6.20.14 ·

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