under milk wood


'FIRST VOICE [Very softly]

To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobble streets 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 dumbfounded 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 jolly, rodgered 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, dewfall, starfall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.'


Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices
(Pages 1-2)




There was an unbroken vocal murmuring at the back of my mind whilst reading Under Milk Wood:


'It was half-past seven in the evening. At half-past seven it is dark, the lamps are lighted, the houses huddle together in groups. They have secrets to tell as soon as it is dark. Ah! If you knew the secrets that houses are telling when the shadows draw them so close together! But you never will know. They close their eyes and they whisper.'


This is the opening passage to E. Temple Thurston's, The City of Beautiful Nonsense and it's a mingling of words i've treasured for years.
I've used it in my artwork.
In my observations of suburbia - more specifically my own neighbourhood.
And it was to be the genesis of my Final Year Project at DOJ.
(until i fled, that is...damn you, sanity)
Something about the sentience Thurston gave to the mundanity of the suburbs resinated with me.
It still does and now having read UMW i feel as if Dylan Thomas took that last line, 'They close their eyes and they whisper', and finally let me in on the big secret.
Those whispers suddenly became an overheard conversation, an admittance, a plea, a vocalised private thought that i was now permitted to know.
Their secrets became my secrets.
And i'll only ever share them with another who's lounged on the grassy peak of Llareggub Hill and drowned their unspoken sorrows at The Sailors' Arms.

This is why he remains my favourite of all poets.