My salad dressing days


Sunday night soporific
December 18, 2005, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The opening paragraphs of ‘Under Milk Wood’ 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.

Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrodgered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wetnosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed, to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llareggub Hill, dew fall, star fall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.

Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning, in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman’s loft like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread’s bakery flying like black flour. It is tonight in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.

Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Come closer now.

Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the coms and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird-watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.

From where you are, you can hear their dreams.

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7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thinks about Richard Burton and melts. This is yet another work that was completely wasted on me at school.

Comment by GreatSheElephant

Ooh a christmas present!
Lovely mouthfuls of words.

Agree with GSE. This was wasted on me at school too even though read aloud by welsh teacher with astonishing green eyes. Or maybe because 🙂

Comment by mig bardsley

It wasn’t spoilt for me at school (since I was educated in France) and I discovered it through the famous Richard Burton recording. I can hear it now…. Wonderful!

Comment by Bela

Oh my gosh! I love Dylan Thomas!
My fav.: ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’
I even painted a pic. on that theme.
have to post it, sometime.

Comment by L>T

wasted on me too – i never realised how beautiful the words were (this from the girl who played mrs organ morgan with her best ivor the engine accent)

Comment by Urban Chick

Ffantasteg, as the Welsh say.

Dylan also has a great description for Swansea, my hometown (and his birthplace): “an ugly, lovely town, crawling, sprawling by the side of a long and splendid curving shore.” Spot on.

Comment by Tabby Rabbit

you’re no slouch, Mrs Chick.

Comment by Justine




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