It was enjoyable to hear an excerpt from "Under Milk Wood", as read by the late (and therefore probably quite cheap these days) Richard Burton, on Radio 4's "Poetry Please" this weekend (I count myself as one of their most undeceased listeners). Sadder, though, to think that the whole caboodle would stand little chance at air-time now, in this era of short attention spans and tight schedules, on account of its length. Whilst musing on this sorry state of affairs, I found myself inspired to pen a little tribute, a precis which I think conveys the Essence of what Dylan was Trying To Get At, (with a wink and a nod to a few of his Chums thrown in, how's that for value, Mrs Protheroe?) in a today-radio friendly format of not more than five minutes or I'm switching over to listen to Steve Wright In The Afternoon. So here it is;
"It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge Sunday in a remote village in West Wales - Water, Water everywhere, nor any Drop to Drink. Mr R S Dylan Thomas shambled down Chapel Hill, nursing his spiritual decay like an old goat's rotting molar. Suddenly from the hedgerow in front of him burst Ted Edward Thomas Hughes, as it were the stink of a three-days-dead ferret. 'Lend us a fiver, R S Dylan, or I shall drive your Missus to suicide by shagging her and reading aloud from the collected works of Philip Larkin. And then I shall go back in time and lie tits up in some Flanders field.' 'Bugger off, Ted, I 'aven't got any. I just been to Aber and spent the lot on booze and tarts.' 'Right you are then.' Silence. Ahead of them in the Tregaron-grey fog loomed the impressive figure of Caitlin O'Brien Plath, the love of both their lives, half-naked with a bottle of Milk Stout clutched to each bare breast. She called out to them with the age-old cry of seduction of every true Welshwoman. 'What the bloody 'ell time do you call this, Boyo, it'd be bloody closing time if it wasn't bloody Sunday, R S Dylan, fach!' Her hair blazed fierily in the weak afternoon sunlight. 'Diw, you've never been at putting your head in the Aga again, have you, Caitlin love? Oh, she's been a Martyr to bad hair days since we switched from gas, Ted, and that's the truth.' Briefly, R S Dylan considered extinguishing her with the Stout. Then he drank the Stout. 'And put something on, woman, you look like you've been modelling for Augustus John.' 'Sooner or later, we all model for Augustus John,' she muttered darkly, in a voice pregnant with meaning (and probably Augustus John). Then, together, they fell into The Sailor's Arms, which was, and were, always open, although it was Sunday, and a Sin."
Just the ticket for a Sound-Bite, I thought, and how cleverly have I interwoven passing (but box-ticking) references to a good half-dozen of our modern Bards, Celtic and otherwise, thus potentially freeing up weeks of programming (and let's face it, they do go on a bit, your Poets). Let me know what you think, BBC.
[Footnote: the title of this piece was to have been "Llareggub Revisited", but then I thought, No, Evelyn, no. You stay out of this. I can't see Anthony Andrews in a leading role anywhere here.]