A Tribute to Dylan Thomas (1961) - full transcript

An atmospheric tribute to the genius of Welsh poet and dramatist Dylan Thomas, using many of the windswept locations where Thomas himself grew up and found his inspiration. The film is hosted/presented by Richard Burton, Thomas's friend, who narrates the story and appears from time to time amidst the Welsh landscape. Burton had already appeared in Douglas Cleverdon's acclaimed BBC radio dramatisation of Thomas's 'play for voices' Under Milk Wood in the 1950s and, in the early Seventies, would appear in director Andrew Sinclair's film version as First Voice.

He looked, someone once said,
like an unmade bed

But nobody could be so unkind
as Dylan's description of himself.

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[Return Journey]

above medium height,
for Wales, I mean,
five feet six and a half

snub nose

curly mouse-brown hair, one front tooth broken
after playing a game called cats and dogs in the Mermaid, Mumbles

speaks rather fancy, truculent, plausible

a bit of a shower-off

plus-fours and no breakfast, you know

a bombastic adolescent provincial Bohemian
with a thick knotted artist's tie made out of his sister's scarf,

she never knew where it had gone

and a cricket-shirt dyed bottle-green

a gabbing, ambitious, mock-tough, pretentious young man

and moley too

not much pretension about that, was there?

not quite the vision that Augustus John had of him

he saw through

to the innocent cherub beneath

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no one could say of him what he said of another

there goes the ghost of a poet who was dead for years
before they buried him

Dylan died too soon

we could have borne his ghost away

one could echo Sir Philip Sidney

he doth not only show the way

but giveth so sweet a prospect under the way
as to entice any man to enter it

with a tale forsooth he cometh unto you

with a tale which holdeth children from play

and old men from the chimney corner

he loved small towns by the sea best

and Welsh small towns by the sea best of all

one day he discovered Laugharne

that was it

in the words of one of his own characters

he had been lost he said

and had found a dark retreat

to shelter from the bullies and the wind

some people live in Laugharne
because they were born in Laugharne

and saw no good reason to move

others migrated here
for a number of curious reasons

and some like myself just came one day
for the day

and never left

got off the bus and forgot to get on again

in this timeless, barmy (both spellings) town of herons

cormorants, castle, churchyard, gulls, ghosts, geese,
feuds, scares, scandals, mysteries,
bats in the belfry, skeletons in the cupboards, pubs,

mud, cockles, flatfish, curlews, rain,
and human, often all too human, beings;

with its seven public houses, one chapel in action, one factory, two billiard tables, one St. Bernard (without brandy),

one policeman, three rivers, a visiting sea,
one Rolls-Royce [selling fish and chips],
and a multitude of mixed birds

here we just are

and there is nowhere like it

anywhere at all

for 15 years this was his home

here he worked and talked and
drank and laughed and cried

from here he sometimes ventured forth,
beckoned by increasing fame

to London

and America

and back here too he always came
with the noise of distant adulation fading in the wind

the boy in a dream

knowing that the voice was his

to the lane where he paddled blind home
through the weeping end of the world

here in his simple shed he laboured and found

not peace

but turbulent acceptance

it is not a little thing, he thought,
this writing that lies before me

It is the telling of a creation

he could translate every symbol of his dreams

and he lifted the pencil
so that they might stand hard and clear upon the paper

but sometimes the morning was against him

he struggled with words

like a man with a son

and the son stood victoriously at high noon
over the dead story

the afternoon was dying

lazily namelessly drifting over hill and tree
and river and corn and grass
to the evening shaping in the sea

being blown from Wales

in a wind

and far away in the West across the sea he loved,

he died

the ugly lovely town is still alive,
the war made a hideous hole in it

the shop that sold gobstoppers
that rainbow as you suck

brandy balls, wine gums, crimson cough drops
to spit blood, ice-cream cornets,
dandelion and burdock, raspberry and cherry ale

the school world is shattered

the echoing corridors where he scribbled
and smudged and yawned in the long green days

waiting for the bell

here was once the fleapit picture house
we called the itch pit

week after week for years and years
we had sat on the edges of the springless seats
there in the dank but snug flickering dark

let's go and see Lon Chaney
and Richard Talmadge

and Milton Sills and Noah Beery and
Richard Dix and Slim Summerville and Hoot Gibson

we both sighed "Oh for our vanished youth"

the café in the High Street where he talked with the dead

and the now dying

past the havoc'd centre where once a very young man
had mucked about as chirpy as a sparrow

faster remembered

invisible shops

recalling to me my dead youth in the vanished High Street

when the shop windows were blazing

and singing came out of the pubs

I wonder

whether you remember a friend of mine

he always used to come to this bar

he wore a perched pork pie hat
with a peacock feather

who? him?
he owes me half a crown

there couldn't be two like him,
let's hope.

Down to the Three Lamps I used to see him

lifting his ikkle elbow

What's the Three Lamps like now?

it isn't like anything

it isn't there

it's nothing man

you remember Ben Evans's stores?

it's right next door to that.

Ben Evans isn't there either

there the Three Lamps had stood

Now the voices of 14 years ago
hung silent in the ruin.

The brick heaps and the broken wood
that had been houses once,

where the small and hardly known and never-to-be-forgotten people
of the dirty town had lived and loved and died,

and, always, lost.

In those always radiant, rainless,
lazily rowdy and sky-blue summers departed

I remember

August Monday

I remember the sea telling lies
in a shell held to my ear

as we climbed to the still homes over the mumbling bay

we heard the music die

and the voices drift like sand

oh yes I knew him well

I think he was happy all the time

what has become of him now?