From where you are, you can hear their dreams…



FIRST VOICE (Very softly)


To begin at the beginning:


It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless

and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched,

courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the

sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.

The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night

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 webfoot

cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft

or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux,

bridesmaided by glowworms 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.

Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded

town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the

invisible starfall, the darkest-beforedawn minutely dewgrazed

stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the

Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover,

the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.


Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional

salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row,

it is the grass growing on Llaregyb Hill, dewfall, starfall,

the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.


Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in

bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and

bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes,

fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a

domino; in Ocky Milkman’s lofts like a mouse with gloves;

in Dai Bread’s bakery flying like black flour. It is to-night

in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its

hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot,

text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours

done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night

neddying among the snuggeries of babies.


Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the

Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of

Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed;

tumbling by the Sailors Arms.


Time passes. Listen. Time passes.


Come closer now.


Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the

slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you

can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the coms. and petticoats

over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth,

Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird-watching

pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the

eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes

and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes

and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.


From where you are, you can hear their dreams.


Under Milk Wood

A Play for Voices


Dylan Thomas

First published 1954