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Llareggub, trig and trim

It is Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, or St David’s Day to you, and in token of our esteem for our Welsh cousins we will quote a short passage from Under Milk Wood, which, who knows, may displease some of them.

First voice
Now, in her iceberg-white, holily laundered crinoline nightgown, under virtuous polar sheets, in her spruced and scoured dust-defying bedroom in trig and trim Bay View, a house for paying guests, at the top of the town, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard widow, twice, of Mr Ogmore, linoleum, retired, and Mr Pritchard, failed bookmaker, who maddened by besoming, swabbing and scrubbing, the voice of the vacuum-cleaner and the fume of polish, ironically swallowed disinfectant, fidgets in her rinsed sleep, wakes in a dream, and nudges in the ribs dead Mr Ogmore, dead Mr Pritchard, ghostly on either side.

Mrs Ogmore Pritchard
Mr Ogmore!
Mr Pritchard!
It is time to inhale your balsam.

Mr Ogmore
Oh, Mrs Ogmore!

Mr Pritchard
Oh, Mrs Pritchard!

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
Soon it will be time to get up.
Tell me your tasks, in order.

Mr Ogmore
I must put my pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas.

Mr Pritchard
I must take my cold bath which is good for me.

Mr Ogmore
I must wear my flannel band to ward off sciatica.

Mr Pritchard
I must dress behind the curtain and put on my apron.

Mr Ogmore
I must blow my nose.

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
In the garden, if you please.

Mr Ogmore
In a piece of tissue-paper which I afterwards burn.

Mr Pritchard
I must take my salts which are nature’s friend.

Mr Ogmore
I must boil the drinking water because of germs.

Mr Pritchard
I must make my herb tea which is free from tannin.

Mr Ogmore
And have a charcoal biscuit which is good for me.

Mr Pritchard
I may smoke one pipe of asthma mixture.

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
In the woodshed, if you please.

Mr Pritchard
And dust the parlour and spray the canary.

Mr Ogmore
I must put on rubber gloves and search the peke for fleas.

Mr Pritchard
I must dust the blinds and then I must raise them.

Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.

Billy Mills, in an essay-review in this month’s Dublin Review of Books (to be published shortly) writes that

[t]here is a well-established Dylan Thomas myth that goes something like this: early brilliance as an instinctive versifier drunk on words, which was then wasted through more conventional drunkenness, redeemed somewhat by the glamour associated with an early death. Thomas both recognised and helped fuel it by his ironic self-description as the “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive”. The myth fed into the centenary celebrations of his birth last year, which became a kind of year-long Bloomsday, a celebration more of Thomas the character than Thomas the obscure, often difficult, experimental poet ...
[The scholar John] Goodby draws attention to Thomas’s use of Finnegans Wake as an exemplar for his own approach to language, and it’s an illuminating observation. At least in his early work, Thomas shared Joyce’s fascination with the materiality of language and with the grotesque and gothic, and Goodby draws this out at some length. Also like Joyce, Thomas was a doubly marginal figure, being Welsh in England and Anglo-Welsh at home, one consequence being that he was not considered “pure” enough by the Welsh-language cultural arbiters of his native land. It was a condition that he used to his best advantage by drawing on both traditions while feeling equally free to poke fun at both of them. Under Milk Wood, for example, can be read as both a satire on a certain kind of Welshness and of English condescension towards the Welsh.

Happy St David’s Day.

1/3/2015