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When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes

January 23, 2008

The above quote is from Dylan Thomas one of the great (if not the greatest) poets of the last century. A complex character best summed up by another recorded statement: I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression. I love the contrasts in that statement: the balance of subjugation and self-expression. His Under Milk Wood (I have the Richard Burton recording on the iPod) is a unique culture artifact, that teases and tantalises at the same time. Here to illustrate that is the wakening poem of the Rev. Eli Jenkins. The third verse always comes unbidden to my mind whenever I return to Wales and gain sight of its mountains.

The Reverend Eli Jenkins, in Bethesda House, gropes out of bed into his preacher’s black, combs back his bard’s white hair, forgets to wash, pads barefoot downstairs, opens the front door, stands in the doorway and, looking out at the day and up at the eternal hill, and hearing the sea break and the gab of birds, remembers his own verses and tells them, softly, to empty Coronation Street that is rising and raising its blinds.

Dear Gwalia! I know there are
Towns lovelier than ours,
And fairer hills and loftier far,
And groves more full of flowers,

And boskier woods more blithe with spring
And bright with birds’ adorning,
And sweeter bards than I to sing
Their praise this beauteous morning.

By Cader Idris, tempest-torn,
Or Moel y Wyddfa’s glory,
Carnedd Llewelyn beauty born,
Plinlimmon old in story,

By mountains where King Arthur dreams,
By Penmaen Mawr defiant,
Llareggub Hill a molehill seems,
A pygmy to a giant.

By Sawdde, Senny, Dovey, Dee,
Edw, Eden, Aled, all,
Taff and Towy broad and free,
Llyfnant with its waterfall,

Claerwen, Cleddau, Dulais, Daw,
Ely, Gwili, Ogwr, Nedd,
Small is our River Dewi, Lord,
A baby on a rushy bed.

By Carreg Cennen, King of time,
Our Heron Head is only
A bit of stone with seaweed spread
Where gulls come to be lonely.

A tiny dingle is Milk Wood
By golden Grove ‘neath Grongar,
But let me choose and oh! I should
Love all my life and longer

To stroll among our trees and stray
In Goosegog Lane, on Donkey Down,
And hear the Dewi sing all day,
And never, never leave the town.

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