Under Milk Wood ( cont 7)

Bessie Bighead

Peg, Meg, Buttercup, Moll,

Fan from the Castle,

Theodosia and Daisy.

 

Second voice

They bow their heads.

 

First voice

Look up Bessie Bighead in the White Book of Llaregyb and you will find the few haggard rags and the one poor glittering thread of her history laid out in pages there with as much love and care as the lock of hair of a first lost love. Conceived in Milk Wood, born in a barn, wrapped in paper, left on a doorstep, bigheaded and bass-voiced she grew in the dark until long-dead Gomer Owen kissed her when she wasn’t looking because he was dared. Now in the light she’ll work, sing, milk, say the cows’ sweet names and sleep until the night sucks out her soul and spits it into the sky. In her life-long low light, holily Bessie milks the fond lake-eyed cows as dusk showers slowly down over byre, sea and town.

 

Utah Watkins curses through the farmyard on a carthorse.

 

Utah Watkins

Gallop, you bleeding cripple!

 

First voice

and the huge horse neighs softly as though he had given it a lump of sugar.

 

Now the town is disk. Each cobble, donkey, goose and gooseberry street is a thoroughfare of dusk; and dusk and ceremonial dust, and — night’s first darkening snow, and the sleep of birds, drift under and through the live dusk of this place of love. Llaregyb is the capital of dusk.

 

Mrs Ogmore–Pritchard, at the first drop of the dusk-shower, seals all her sea-view doors, draws the germ-free blinds, sits, erect as a dry dream on a high-backed hygienic chair and wills herself to cold, quick sleep. At once, at twice, Mr Ogmore and Mr Pritchard, who all dead day long have been gossiping like ghosts in the woodshed, planning the loveless destruction of their glass widow, reluctantly sigh and sidle into her clean house.

 

Mr Pritchard

You first, Mr Ogmore.

 

Mr Ogmore

After you, Mr Pritchard.

 

Mr Pritchard

No, no, Mr Ogmore. You widowed her first.

 

First voice

And in through the keyhole, with tears where their eyes once were, they ooze and grumble.

 

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard

Husbands,

 

First voice

she says in her sleep. There is acid love in her voice for one of the two shambling phantoms. Mr Ogmore hopes that it is not for him. So does Mr Pritchard.

 

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard

I love you both.

 

Mr Ogmore [With terror]

 

Oh, Mrs Ogmore.

 

Mr Pritchard [With horror]

 

Oh, Mrs Pritchard.

 

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard

Soon it will be time to go to bed. Tell me your tasks in order.

 

Mr Ogmore and Mr Pritchard

We must take our pyjamas from the drawer marked pyjamas.

 

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard [Coldly]

 

And then you must take them off.

 

Second voice

Down in the dusking town, Mae Rose Cottage, still lying in clover, listens to the nannygoats chew, draws circles of lipstick round her nipples.

 

Mae Rose Cottage

I’m fast. I’m a bad lot. God will strike me dead. I’m seventeen. I’ll go to hell,

 

Second voice

she tells the goats.

 

Mae Rose Cottage

You just wait. I’ll sin till I blow up!

 

Second voice

She lies deep, waiting for the worst to happen; the goats champ and sneer.

 

First voice

And at the doorway of Bethesda House, the Reverend Jenkins recites to Llaregyb Hill his sunset poem.

 

Rev. Eli Jenkins

Every morning when I wake,

Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,

O please to keep Thy lovely eye

On all poor creatures born to die

 

And every evening at sun-down

I ask a blessing on the town,

For whether we last the night or no

I’m sure is always touch-and-go.

 

We are not wholly bad or good

Who live our lives under Milk Wood,

And Thou, I know, wilt be the first

To see our best side, not our worst.

 

O let us see another day!

Bless us all this night, I pray,

And to the sun we all will bow

And say, good-bye — but just for now!

 

First voice

Jack Black prepares once more to meet his Satan in the Wood. He grinds his night-teeth, closes his eyes, climbs into his religious trousers, their flies sewn up with cobbler’s thread, and pads out, torched and bibled, grimly, joyfully, into the already sinning dusk.

 

Jack Black

Off to Gomorrah!

 

Second voice

And Lily Smalls is up to Nogood Boyo in the wash-house.

 

First voice

And Cherry Owen, sober as Sunday as he is every day of the week, goes off happy as Saturday to get drunk as a deacon as he does every night.

 

Cherry Owen

I always say she’s got two husbands,

 

First voice

says Cherry Owen,

 

Cherry Owen

one drunk and one sober.

 

First voice

And Mrs Cherry simply says

 

Mrs Cherry Owen

And aren’t I a lucky woman? Because I love them both.

 

Sinbad

Evening, Cherry.

 

Cherry Owen

Evening, Sinbad.

 

Sinbad

What’ll you have?

 

Cherry Owen

Too much.

 

Sinbad

The Sailors Arms is always open . . .

 

First voice

Sinbad suffers to himself, heartbroken,

 

Sinbad

. . . oh, Gossamer, open yours!

 

First voice

Dusk is drowned for ever until tomorrow, It is all at once night now, The windy town is a hill of windows, and from the larrupped waves the lights of the lamps in the windows call back the day and the dead that have run away to sea. All over the calling dark, babies and old men are bribed and lullabied to sleep.

 

First woman’s voice

Hushabye, baby, the sandman is coming . . .

 

Second woman’s voice (Singing)

 

Rockabye, grandpa, in the tree top,

When the wind blows the cradle will rock,

When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,

Down will come grandpa, whiskers and all.

 

First voice

Or their daughters cover up the old unwinking men like parrots, and in their little dark in the lit and bustling young kitchen corners, all night long they watch, beady-eyed, the long night through in case death catches them asleep.

 

Second voice

Unmarried girls, alone in their privately bridal bedrooms, powder and curl for the Dance of the World.

 

[Accordion music: dim

 

They make, in front of their looking-glasses, haughty or come-hithering faces for the young men in the street outside, at the lamplit leaning corners, who wait in the all-at-once wind to wolve and whistle.

 

[Accordion music louder, then fading under

 

First voice

The drinkers in the Sailors Arms drink to the failure of the dance.

 

A drinker

Down with the waltzing and the skipping.

 

Cherry Owen

Dancing isn’t natural,

 

First voice

righteously says Cherry Owen who has just downed seventeen pints of flat, warm, thin, Welsh, bitter beer.

 

Second voice

A farmer’s lantern glimmers, a spark on Llaregyb hillside.

 

[Accordion music fades into silence

 

Voice first

Llaregyb Hill, writes the Reverend Jenkins in his poem-room,

 

Rev. Eli Jenkins

Llaregyb Hill, that mystic tumulus, the memorial of peoples that dwelt in the region of Llaregyb before the Celts left the Land of Summer and where the old wizards made themselves a wife out of flowers.

 

Second voice

Mr Waldo, in his corner of the Sailors Arms, sings:

 

Mr Waldo

In Pembroke City when I was young

I lived by the Castle Keep

Sixpence a week was my wages

For working for the chimbley-sweep.

Six cold pennies he

gave me Not a farthing more or less

And all the fare I could afford

Was parsnip gin and watercress.

I did not need a knife and fork

Or a bib up to my chin

To dine on a dish of watercress

And a jug of parsnip gin.

Did you ever hear a growing boy

To live so cruel cheap

On grub that has no flesh and bones

And liquor that makes you weep?

Sweep sweep chimbley sweep,

I wept through Pembroke City

Poor and barefoot in the snow

Till a kind young woman took pity.

Poor little chimbley sweep she said

Black as the ace of spades

O nobody’s swept my chimbley

Since my husband went his ways

Come and sweep my chimbley

Come and sweep my chimbley

She sighed to me with a blush

Come and sweep my chimbley

Come and sweep my chimbley

Bring along your chimbley brush!

 

First voice

Blind Captain Cat climbs into his bunk. Like a cat, he sees in the dark. Through the voyages of his tears he sails to see the dead.

 

Captain Cat

Dancing Williams!

 

First drowned

Still dancing.

 

Captain Cat

Jonah Jarvis

 

Third drowned

Still.

 

First drowned

Curly Bevan’s skull.

 

Rosie Probert

Rosie, with God. She has forgotten dying.

 

First voice

The dead come out in their Sunday best.

 

Second voice

Listen to the night breaking.

 

First voice

Organ Morgan goes to chapel to play the organ. He sees Bach lying on a tombstone.

 

Organ Morgan

Johann Sebastian!

 

Cherry Owen [Drunkenly]

 

Who?

 

Organ Morgan

Johann Sebastian mighty Bach. Oh, Bach fach

 

Cherry Owen

To hell with you,

 

First voice

says Cherry Owen who is resting on the tombstone on his way home.

 

Mr Mog Edwards and Miss Myfanwy Price happily apart from one another at the top and the sea end of the town write their everynight letters of love and desire. In the warm White Book of Llaregyb you will find the little maps of the islands of their contentment.

 

Myfanwy Price

Oh, my Mog, I am yours for ever.

 

First voice

And she looks around with pleasure at her own neat neverdull room which Mr Mog Edwards will never enter.

 

Mog Edwards

Come to my arms, Myfanwy.

 

First voice

And he hugs his lovely money to his own heart.

 

And Mr Waldo drunk in the dusky wood hugs his lovely Polly Garter under the eyes and rattling tongues of the neighbours and the birds, and he does not care. He smacks his live red lips.

 

But it is not his name that Polly Garter whispers as she lies under the oak and loves him back. Six feet deep that name sings in the cold earth.

 

Polly Garter (Sings)

 

But I always think as we tumble into bed

Of little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead.

 

First voice

 

The thin night darkens. A breeze from the creased water sighs the streets close under Milk waking Wood. The Wood, whose every tree-foot’s cloven in the black glad sight of the hunters of lovers, that is a God-built garden to Mary Ann Sailors who knows there is Heaven on earth and the chosen people of His kind fire in Llaregyb’s land, that is the fairday farmhands’ wantoning ignorant chapel of bridesbeds, and, to the Reverend Eli Jenkins, a greenleaved sermon on the innocence of men, the suddenly wind-shaken wood springs awake for the second dark time this one Spring day.

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