Under Milk Wood ( cont 1 )
Mae Rose Cottage [Very close and softly, drawing
out the words]
Call me Dolores Like they do in the stories.
Alone until she dies, Bessie Bighead, hired help, born in the workhouse, smelling of the cowshed, snores bass and gruff on a couch of straw in a loft in Salt Lake Farm and picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn’t looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.
And the Inspectors of Cruelty fly down into Mrs Butcher Brynon’s dream to persecute Mr Beynon for selling
owlmeat, dogs’ eyes, manchop.
Mr Beynon, in butcher’s bloodied apron, spring-heels down Coronation Street, a finger, not his own, in his mouth. Straightfaced in his cunning sleep he pulls the legs of his dreams and
hunting on pigback shoots down the wild giblets.
Organ Morgan [High and softly]
Gossamer Beynon [Softly]
My foxy darling.
Now behind the eyes and secrets of the dreamers in the streets rocked to sleep by the sea, see the
titbits and topsyturvies, bobs and buttontops, bags and bones, ash and rind and dandruff and nailparings, saliva and snowflakes and moulted feathers of dreams, the wrecks and sprats and shells and fishbones, whale-juice and moonshine and small salt fry dished up by the hidden sea.
The owls are hunting. Look, over Bethesda gravestones one hoots and swoops and catches a mouse by Hannah Rees, Beloved Wife. And in Coronation Street, which you alone can see it is so dark under the chapel in the skies, the Reverend Eli Jenkins, poet, preacher, turns in his deep towards-dawn sleep and dreams of
Rev. Eli Jenkins
He intricately rhymes, to the music of crwth and pibgorn, all night long in his druid’s seedy nightie in a beer-tent black with parchs.
Mr Pugh, schoolmaster, fathoms asleep, pretends to be sleeping, spies foxy round the droop of his nightcap and pssst! whistles up
Mrs Organ Morgan, groceress, coiled grey like a dormouse, her paws to her ears, conjures
Mrs organ Morgan
She sleeps very dulcet in a cove of wool, and trumpeting Organ Morgan at her side snores no louder than a spider.
Mary Ann Sailors dreams of
Mary Ann Sailors
The Garden of Eden.
She comes in her smock-frock and clogs
Mary Ann Sailors
away from the cool scrubbed cobbled kitchen with the Sunday-school pictures on the whitewashed wall and the farmers’ almanac hung above the settle and the sides of bacon on the ceiling hooks, and goes down the cockleshelled paths of that applepie kitchen garden, ducking under the gippo’s clothespegs, catching her apron on the blackcurrant bushes, past beanrows and onion-bed and tomatoes ripening on the wall towards the old man playing the harmonium in the orchard, and sits down on the grass at his side and shells the green peas that grow up through the lap of her frock that brushes the dew.
In Donkey Street, so furred with sleep, Dai Bread, Polly Garter, Nogood Boyo, and Lord Cut–Glass sigh before the dawn that is about to be and dream of
Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.
Time passes. Listen. Time passes. An owl flies I home past Bethesda, to a chapel in an oak. And the dawn inches up.
[One distant bell-note, faintly reverberating
Stand on this hill. This is Llaregyb Hill, old as the hills, high, cool, and green, and from this small circle, of stones, made not by druids but by Mrs Beynon’s Billy, you can see all the town below you sleeping in the first of the dawn.
You can hear the love-sick woodpigeons mooning in bed. A dog barks in his sleep, farmyards away. The town ripples like a lake in the waking haze.
Voice of a guide-book
Less than five hundred souls inhabit the three quaint streets and the few narrow by-lanes and scattered farmsteads that constitute this small, decaying watering-place which may, indeed, be called a ‘backwater of life’ without disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty individuality of their own. The main street, Coronation Street, consists, for the most part, of humble, two-storied houses many of which attempt to achieve some measure of gaiety by prinking themselves out in crude colours and by the liberal use of pinkwash, though there are remaining a few eighteenth-century houses of more pretension, if, on the whole, in a sad state of disrepair. Though there is little to attract the hillclimber, the healthseeker, the sportsman, or the weekending motorist, the contemplative may, if sufficiently attracted to spare it some leisurely hours, find, in its cobbled streets and its little fishing harbour, in its several curious customs, and in the conversation of its local ‘characters,’ some of that picturesque sense of the past so frequently lacking in towns and villages which have kept more abreast of the times. The River Dewi is said to abound in trout, but is much poached. The one place of worship, with its neglected graveyard, is of no architectural interest.
[A cock crows
The principality of the sky lightens now, over our green hill, into spring morning larked and crowed and belling.
[Slow bell notes
Who pulls the townhall bellrope but blind Captain Cat? One by one, the sleepers are rung out of sleep this one morning as every morning. And soon you shall see the chimneys’ slow upflying snow as Captain Cat, in sailor’s cap and seaboots, announces today with his loud get-out-of-bed bell.
The Reverend Eli Jenkins, in Bethesda House, gropes out of bed into his preacher’s black, combs back his bard’s white hair, forgets to wash, pads barefoot downstairs, opens the front door, stands in the doorway and, looking out at the day and up at the eternal hill, and hearing the sea break and the gab of birds, remembers his own verses and tells them softly to empty Coronation Street that is rising and raising its blinds.
Rev. Eli Jenkins
Dear Gwalia! I know there are
Towns lovelier than ours,
And fairer hills and loftier far,
And groves more full of flowers,
And boskier woods more blithe with spring
And bright with birds’ adorning,
And sweeter bards than I to sing
Their praise this beauteous morning.
By Cader Idris, tempest-torn,
Or Moel yr Wyddfa’s glory,
Carnedd Llewelyn beauty born,
Plinlimmon old in story,
By mountains where King Arthur dreams,
By Penmaenmawr defiant,
Llaregyb Hill a molehill seems,
A pygmy to a giant.
By Sawdde, Senny, Dovey, Dee,
Edw, Eden, Aled, all,
Taff and Towy broad and free,
Llyfnant with its waterfall,
Claerwen, Cleddau, Dulais, Daw,
Ely, Gwili, Ogwr, Nedd,
Small is our River Dewi, Lord,
A baby on a rushy bed.
By Carreg Cennen, King of time,
Our Heron Head is only
A bit of stone with seaweed spread
Where gulls come to be lonely.
A tiny dingle is Milk Wood
By Golden Grove ‘neath Grongar,
But let me choose and oh! I should
Love all my life and longer
To stroll among our trees and stray
In Goosegog Lane, on Donkey Down,
And hear the Dewi sing all day,
And never, never leave the town.
The Reverend Jenkins closes the front door. His morning service is over.
[Slow bell notes
Now, woken at last by the out-of-bed-sleepy-head-Polly-put-the-kettle-on townhall bell, Lily Smalls, Mrs Beynon’s treasure, comes downstairs from a dream of royalty who all night long went larking with her full of sauce in the Milk Wood dark, and puts the kettle on the primus ring in Mrs Beynon’s kitchen, and looks at herself in Mr Beynon’s shaving-glass over the sink, and sees:
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?
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.
Mrs Beynon [Loudly, from above]
Lily Smalls [Loudly]
Where’s my tea, girl?
[Softly] Where d’you think? In the cat-box?
[Loudly] Coming up, mum.
Mr Pugh, in the School House opposite, takes up the morning tea to Mrs Pugh, and whispers on the stairs
Here’s your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.
I’ve throttled your parakeet.
I’ve spat in the vases.
I’ve put cheese in the mouseholes.
Here’s your . . . [Door creaks open
. . . nice tea, dear.
Too much sugar.
You haven’t tasted it yet, dear.
Too much milk, then. Has Mr Jenkins said his poetry?
Then it’s time to get up. Give me my glasses.
No, not my reading glasses, I want to look out. I want to see
Lily Smalls the treasure down on her red knees washing the front step.
She’s tucked her dress in her bloomers — oh, the baggage!
P.C. Attila Rees, ox-broad, barge-booted, stamping out of Handcuff House in a heavy beef-red huff, black browed under his damp helmet . . .
He’s going to arrest Polly Garter, mark my words,
What for, dear?
For having babies.
. . . and lumbering down towards the strand to see that the sea is still there.
Mary Ann Sailors, opening her bedroom window above the taproom and calling out to the heavens