Illustrated by Ceri Richards
This classic 1972 Folio edition, reprinted to mark the centenary of Thomas’s birth, includes images by Welsh artist Ceri Richards.
Lyrical and lilting, a melodious prose-poem conceived as a 'play for voices', Under Milk Wood is an affectionate and funny hymn to Wales from its most celebrated son. Telling the stories of a day in the lives of the inhabitants of Llareggub - from Mr Mog Edwards, 'a draper, mad with love', to Nogood Boyo, 'up to no good in the wash-house' - the narrators sweep through the town, listening in to their hopes and dreams and benignly watching over their actions in the richly realised landscape.
'Dylan Thomas's beautiful, bawdy, affectionate, reckless and deeply original play was justly crowned at its first performance by a storm of cheers . . . the characters are romantic, earthy, mad, sane, parochial, universal and wildly comic; and they are gifted with a revelatory wonder of words'
Of all the radio dramatic works sponsored by the BBC, Under Milk Wood has almost certainly achieved the greatest reputation. The universal appeal of this tenderly beautiful and deeply original play rests upon fundamental human characteristics: the gossiping life of a little fishing town, the loving warmth of Polly Garter, the hatreds of Mr and Mrs Pugh, and Captain Cat’s dreams of his old sea comrades and his long-lost love, Rosie Probert. All the characters are suffused with a vivid poetic imagination, and the richness, the exuberance of the language moved Edith Sitwell to say that Dylan Thomas ‘strips from words their old, used, dulling sleepiness, and gives them a refreshed and awakened meaning, a new percussion’. Set over a single day, the ‘play for voices’ winds through the lives of the eccentric residents of Llareggub, charting their ‘dismays and rainbows’, from morning until night. In contrast to the introspective beauty of Thomas’s poetry, Under Milk Wood’s sparkling dialogue focuses on the splendour and endurance of human life. First performed in 1953 in New York – with Thomas in the role of ‘First Voice’ – the play has gone on to be produced countless times as a stage play, radio drama, opera and ballet.
Produced in 1971 – the year before the artist’s death – each surrealist composition captures the inhabitants of Llareggub in joyful detail, and, like the play, evokes the humour and ebullience of day-to-day life.
Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914. After leaving school he briefly worked as a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post before moving to London. Several of his poems were published in the New English Weekly in May 1933, which, along with ‘Light breaks where no sun shines’, published in The Listener in 1934, established him as one of the finest lyric poets of his generation. His collections include 18 Poems (1934), Twentyfive Poems (1936), The Map of Love (1939), Deaths and Entrances (1946) and In Country Sleep (1952). Collected Poems 1934-1952 was published in 1952. As well as poetry, Thomas wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. Between 1950 and 1953 he travelled to the United States on reading and lecture tours, and during this time completed his radio play, Under Milk Wood. He died in New York City in 1953.
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