Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) began his writing career as a journalist in his native town of Swansea, Wales. He then moved to London where he worked in broadcasting and wrote film scripts, prose and drama to earn enough money to enable him to write what he most wanted to -- poetry. In December 1934 his first book of poetry, "Eighteen Poems," appeared to critical acclaim. During his fourth lecture tour of the United States, in 1953, and a few days after his 39th birthday, he collapsed in his New York hotel. He died on Nov. 9 at St. Vincent's Hospital. His body was sent back to Laugharne, Wales, where his grave is marked by a simple wooden cross. [source]
Dylan Thomas' nostalgic poem strings together a loose assortment of holiday memories from his childhood, narrated by an aging grandfather (Denholm Elliott) to his young grandson on Christmas Eve. Director Don McBrearty did a fine job of crafting an adaptation that captures of the spirit of Thomas' work, with all the heart of the original without the sappiness or commercial undertones typical of holiday movies.
"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."
"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."
"But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house..."
"And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs."
"Sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows..."
"...to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars."
"An old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday..."
"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths...and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us."
"Go on the Useless Presents."
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap.... Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh."
"And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo!"
"And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run."
"For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens."
"I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled."
"Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."
To read the poem in its entirety, click here. And of course, poems are made to be read aloud so I've uploaded an audio file of Dylan Thomas himself reading his work. There is a beautiful rhythm to this poem that you simply must hear to in order to fully appreciate. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
>> download (free) Dylan Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales