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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 to-night 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 jollyrogered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wet-nosed 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.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, suckling mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman's lofts like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread's bakery flying like black flour. It is to-night 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 though 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 combs 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.
Thus began "Under Milk Wood," a 1954 radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Thomas, typically for him, was verbally in full flower in his evocation of spring, while Lisowski is restrained, spare, suggestive. Thomas worked on it for much of his life: In 1931, when he was 17, he published a piece that included lines that were almost identical to parts of the play, and he had an embryonic version of the drama ready by 1933. In 1944 he recorded for BBC Wales a short story ,"Quite Early One Morning," which contained numerous ideas and characters, as well as a 28-line poem, that he continued to develop for "Under Milk Wood." Despite his decades of obsession with the work, when he was due to deliver "that infernally eternally unfinished" play to the producer upon his arrival in New York on 21 April 1953, it was not ready until the afternoon of 14 May, the day of its premier at The Poetry Center at the 92nd Street YMCA, and only then because his agent locked him in a room and refused to let him out until it was finished -- in fact, the last lines of the script were not given to the actors until they were putting on their make-up! On 9 September, as he prepared a reading tour of the United States, he delivered a draft to the BBC, intending to revise the manuscript on his return. He made his last boisterous public appearance at the City College of New York in October. On 3 November he entertained the young poet David Waggoner with fanciful tales of "a schizoid bar in which one was one's only customer" and then, the next day, after binge drinking at the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, he collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel. After being in a coma for 109 hours he died in St. Vincent's Hospital on November 9; his last words were, "I've had 18 straight whiskies......I think that's the record." He was 39."Under Milk Wood" took place in the fictional Welsh fishing village of Llareggub ("bugger all" backwards).
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