Dylan Thomas

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Portrait of the artist as a young dog

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914 at No 5, Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, and died on November 9, 1953 in St Vincent's Hospital, New York. During his lifetime he wrote many great poems, including Fern Hill, [1] and the villanelle Do not go Gentle into that Good Night. [2] Most of all he is famous for writing the 'play for voices' Under Milk Wood, and the collection of stories, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.

Under Milk Wood

Thomas never fully completed Under Milk Wood, but it was published after his death in 1954. The play had its first solo performance by Dylan Thomas in the Fogg Museum at Harvard on May 3, 1953, and a stage performance in New York on October 25 of that year, just before his death on November 9, 1953. It was first broadcast on 25 January 1954 on the BBC Third Programme. Other productions followed in 1978 and 1994. However, perhaps best known is the 1963 production for radio, with narration by Richard Burton, who claimed "the entire thing is about religion, the idea of death and sex". These important themes are central to the lives of the colourful characters whom Dylan Thomas describes with a great deal of fondness. The play begins:

It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courter's-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are 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.

The setting of Under Milk Wood is in the fictional town of Llareggub[3], situated in South Wales. It is generally thought that the town of New Quay is the actual setting which inspired Thomas, and that he began a draft of the play called Quite Early One Morning as early as 1944.

References

  1. for a full version of the poem see: http://www.bigeye.com/fernhill.htm
  2. The only other modern English villanelle of equal significance is William Empson's "Missing Dates." Inspired by the death of Thomas' own father, it is a searing howl of protest at the inevitability of oblivion: Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
  3. See the following link for the location and explanation of the town name: The origin of Llareggub

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