Language is a wonderful thing. Words are magical. One can only be entranced, enthralled and spellbound. Let all those synonyms pour forth in a stream of sound. It’s all about sound really. It then helps that it has some meaning, of course. Which of the two is more important, you ask? As regards a piece of prose I’d say the latter, whilst for poems the former. (See my last three posts). Tonight I sat engrossed and enchanted by the dulcet and liquid tones of the great actor, Richard Burton reading from Dylan Thomas’ wonderfully spellbinding play Under Milk Wood. What wonderful images Thomas captures in the agility of his Welch tongue! Behind the tidal wave of words one can hear those soft Welch cadences. The images pour forth and sweep the listener away. Listening to Burton’s rendition of his fellow Welch man’s words is akin to letting the breakers roll over the body on a windy day at the beach.
Poems are made for the ear, not the eye. And indeed, Dylan Thomas was a great performer of his own works. You haven’t really listened to real poetry until you’ve heart the master read. Well, all these musings were inspired by listening to an interview with the comic contemporary poet Roger McGough read his own poems. As a young boy and man, Roger was also was enthralled by Dylan Thomas the performer and poet. In this tradition (of poet-performer) one can certainly place our own lovable and loving Brendan Kennelly and the inimitable “Kilfenora Teaboy,” the one and only Paul Durkan. These are all brilliant makers of poems and marvellous performers. I’d travel miles to hear any one of them.
Just read the following aloud (the opening of Under Milk Wood), but with a hushed and reverend voice:
To begin at the beginning:It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobble streets 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 tonight 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 web foot 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 jollyrodgered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wetnosed 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.
The picture at the centre top is one of me taken in the surf at the strand on The Great Blasket about ten years back.