This is a very old set of notes on English texts, written for the NSW Higher School Certificate in 1998. It may be useful to students studying the text, but does not reflect any current syllabus.

English literature summaries

Summary of Under Milkwood (Higher School Certificate 1998)

Under Milkwood, Dylan Thomas, 1972.

Night and Dreams.

First voice begins, night-time in Llareggub. The babies, boys, girls, women and men are dreaming. All is quiet. Captain Cat is dreaming of his past, the drowned are speaking to him. The sailors joke and laugh to him, all dead together, with Rosie Probert, whom many shared. Myfanwy Price, the dressmaker, is dreaming of Mog Edwards, the draper. Jack Black dreams joyfully of catching the 'naughty couples'. Evans Death, the undertaker dreams of a childhood day, stealing currants from his mother.

Mister Waldo dreams of his mother and his wife. The neighbours gossip - he is a bad man, he is playing behind his wife's back. When his wife is dead, the neighbours gossip about Little Master Waldo that was, creating mischief and kissing girls. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard is in her clean bed, instructing her dead husbands on their daily duties.

Gossamer Beynon dreams of her 'small rough ready man'. Organ Morgan cries out at a symphony of neighbourhood chaos in his street. Mr Utah Watkins wakes all night, counting wife-sheep, who bleat and knit. Cherry Owen wakes at the pub with his bottle. PC Attila Rees rises in haste and is dragged back to bed. Willy Nilly delivers the post and spanks his wife.

Butcher Beynon's teasing extends into his wife's dreams, and he is prosecuting for selling unsavoury and illegal varieties of meat. The cries of the dreamers echo around each other.

And the Reverend Eli Jenkins dreams of Eisteddfodau poetry, Mr Pugh dreams he is pretending to sleep, to be able to murder his wife. Mrs Organ Morgan takes refuge in the silence of her dreams. Mary Ann Sailors dreams of Eden. Dai Bread dreams of harems, Polly Garter of babies, Nogood Boyo of nothing, and Lord Cut-Glass of clocks.

"Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organ playing wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrodgered sea." - First Voice, male and female theme.
"Time passes. Listen. Time passes." - First Voice.
"From where you are, you can hear their dreams." - First Voice.
"Oh my dead dears!" - Captain Cat.
"And all the bells of the tills of the town shall ring for our wedding. [Noise of money-tills and chapel bells]" - Mog Edwards.
"Oh, what'll the neighbours say, what'll the neighbours..." - Mrs Waldo.
"To be your awful wedded wife" - Preacher.
"Alone until she dies, Bessie Bighead..." - First Voice
"saliva and snowflakes and moulted feathers of dreams..." - Second Voice.
"Mr Pugh, schoolmaster, fathoms asleep, pretends to be sleeping..." - First Voice


The First Voice speaks of the hill, with all the town sleeping below. The Guide-Book comes, in giving an outsider's perspective of the town - that there is nothing of interest within it, excepting a quaint feel of the past. When the cock crows, the sun rises. Captain Cat pulls the bell-rope. Reverend Eli Jenkins, rises, dresses, and recites his poetry to Coronation Street.

Lily Smalls wakes, and sings a song to her ugly reflection, and then leans close to the mirror and breathes her lover's name. Mrs Beynon cries out to her, and Lily mutters under her breath as she takes the tea down. Mr Pugh walks down stairs, gleefully reciting the poisons he could place in tea. Mrs Pugh complains the tea is too sugary, or too milky. She takes her glasses, and snipes about Lily Smalls washing the steps. She sees PC Attila Rees, and wonders whether he is abut to arrest Polly Garter, for having babies.

Mary Ann Sailors opens her window and cries out her age to the town. Organ Morgan is playing. Mr Dai Bread is in a hurry, and curses his wives. His wives reveal their different functions and personalities - one the respectable, boring neighbourhood wife, the other the brown gypsy fortune telling wife. Lord Cut-Glass runs in and out of doors. Nogood Boyo is 'up to no good in the wash-house'. Miss Price hangs out her washing. Polly Garter sits under the clothesline, breastfeeding her new baby. She tells the baby that its father is far away, and imagines the baby is judging her.

The whole town is breakfasting. Mary Ann Sailors gives thanks, Mr Pugh dreams of broken glass, Mrs Pugh 'nags the salt-cellar', Willy Nilly drinks his tea, Mrs Nilly has the kettle on, ready to steam open the mail.

Reverend Eli Jenkins is finding rhymes, Lord Cut-Glass run from clock to clock with the keys. Captain Cat is eating his fish. Mrs Cherry Owen is reciting to her husband his actions of the previous night. He fell over, knocked things over, danced on the table, and then slept soundly all night.

Mrs Beynon is feeding meat-scraps to her cat. Butcher Beynon tells her they are eating cat. Lily Smalls tell Mrs Beynon that her husband is lying, but she trusts him and continues to scream. Sinbad Sailors is drinking in the Sailors Arms. The old men and babies are cleaned.

Breakfast is finished. The children go to school. Nogood Boyo floats in his boat. Mr Mog Edwards measures the passers-by with his draper's eye, and murmurs Miss Price's name to himself. Captain Cat listens at the window to the town. He recognises all the walkers by their footsteps. He recognises all the children's voices, and the postman's knock, wearing kid gloves so as not to dirty Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard's door. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard refuses to take a lodger. Mr Pugh's copy of Lives of the Great Poisoners arrives. Mr Edwards' daily letter from Miss Price arrives. Another paternity summons is delivered to Mr Waldo.

Captain Cat hears the women's footsteps. Mrs Cherry is trotting, Mrs Floyd and Boyo 'talking flatfish', Mrs Dai Bread one out, Mae Rose Cottage milking the nannygoats, Mrs Butcher Beynon and her black cat.

Organ Morgan is practising, and Ocky Milkman delivers the letters. Polly Garter walks through the town, as the women hush. Captain Cat murmurs to her, wondering whether she hears the women, whose husband she slept with last night. He pictures her scrubbing the steps of the Welfare Hall. She won't dance there, though the husbands will be disappointed.

A Cock crows. The animals join together in a cacophony, while the women gossip and chatter. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard has a new man. They laugh at Mrs Beynon's terror of her husband's butchery, and murmur at Mr Dai Bread with two wives, and Mrs Ocky Milkman, whom no one has ever seen.

Evans the Death tries to control his heart rate. Gossamer Beynon sighs for refinement. Captain Cat's mind wanders to the sea. Mrs Willy Nilly steams open the letter to Miss Price, and reads it aloud to her husband.

The children leave school, singing a chanting rhyme. Captain Cat sings along. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard tries to drive out the Spring. Mrs Dai Bread Two sees a vision of Dai Bread's bed. He puts his arm around one woman, but she cannot see which one it is. Polly Garter sings of Tom, Dick and Harry, her lovers. But the one she loved most of all is Willy Weazel, buried six feet deep. The Reverend Eli Jenkins hears her singing, and thanks God for song. Sinbad Sailors gives Mr Waldo a drink, and moans to him about Gossamer Beynon. Polly continues singing and the children emerge from school.

"The town ripples like a lake in the waking haze." - First Voice.
"This small, decaying watering-place which may, indeed, be called a 'backwater of life' without disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty individuality of their own." - Voice of a Guide-Book
"that picturesque sense of the past" - Voice of a Guide-Book
"And never, never leave the town" - Reverend Eli Jenkins
"And very softly, her lips almost touching her reflection, she breathes the name and clouds the shaving-glass" - First Voice (Lily Smalls is 'she')
"Here's your arsenic dear/And your weedkiller biscuit./I've throttled your parakeet./I've spat in the vases./I've put cheese in the mouse-holes./Here's your.../...nice tea, dear." - Mr Pugh
"heavy beef-red huff, black-browed under his damp helmet..." - First Voice
"Me, Mrs Dai Bread One, capped and shawled and no old corset, nice to be comfy, nice to be nice."
"Me, Miss Price, in my pretty print housecoat, deft at the clothesline, natty as a jenny-wren"
"you're no better than you should be, Polly, and that's good enough for me. Oh, isn't life a terrible thing, thank God?" - Polly Garter
"Now frying-pans spit, kettles and cats purr in the kitchen." - First Voice
"bubbles over her coven of kettles on the hissing hot range always ready to steam open the mail." - Mrs Willy Nilly
"and the floor was all flagons and eels." - Mrs Cherry Owen
"It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms" - First Voice
"I want my pipe and he wants his bottle." - Old man
"the children are shrilled off to school" - First Voice
"I don't know who's up there and I don't care." - Nogood Boyo
"And the children's voices cry away." - First Voice
"Mrs Rose Cottage's eldest Mae, seventeen and never been kissed ho ho" - Captain Cat
"Who's having a baby, who blacked whose eye, seen Polly Garter giving her belly an airing, there should be a law" - Captain Cat
"You can tell it's Spring." - Captain Cat
"Hello, Polly my love, can you hear the dumb goose-hiss of the wives as they huddle and peck or flounce at a waddle away? Who cuddled you when? Which of their gandering hubbies moaned in Milk Wood for your naughty mothering arms and body like a wardrobe, love? Scrub the floors of the Welfare Hall for the Mother's Union Social Dance, you're one mother won't wiggle her roly poly bum, or pat her fat little buttery feet in that wedding-ringed holy to-night though the waltzing breadwinners snatched form the cosy smoke of the Sailors Arms will grizzle and mope." - Captain Cat.
"Too late, cock, too late." - Captain Cat
"hammering of horse-shoes, gobble quack and cackle, tomtit twitter from the bird-ounced boughs, braying on Donkey Down" - First Voice.
"Oh, the Spring whinny and morning moo from the clog dancing farms, the gulls' gab and rabble on the boat-bobbing river and sea and the cockles bubbling in the sand, scamper of sanderlings, curlew cry, crow caw, pigeon coo, clock strike, bull bellow, and the ragged gabble of the beargarden school as the women scratch and gabble in Mrs Organ Morgan's general shop where everything is sold" - First Voice.
"it's organ organ all the time with him" - Second Woman.
"Llareggub this snip of a morning is wildfruit and warm" - First Voice
"It is Spring in Llareggub in the sun in my old age, and this is the Chosen Land." - Mary Ann Sailors
"I love you until death do us part and then we shall be together forever and ever." - Mog Edwards
"He is a proper Christian." - Mog Edwards (on Rev Eli Jenkins).
"And then a little message with a rubber stamp. Shop at Mog's!!!" - Mrs Willy Nilly
"The music of the spheres is heard distinctly over Milk Wood." - Second Voice
"one darkly one plumply blooming in the quick dewy sun." - Second Voice
"The morning is all singing." - First Voice
"I always think as they do what they please/Of Tom Dick and Harry who were tall as trees/And most I think when I'm by their side/Of Little Willy Wee who downed and died." - Polly Garter.
"Praise the Lord! We are a musical nation." - Reverend Eli Jenkins
"When birds do sing hey ding a ding a ding/Sweet lovers love the Spring..." - Children.


The children are playing a game. The boys have to kiss a girl called Gwennie anywhere in Llareggub that she nominates. Billy and Johnnies Cristo do so, but Dicky's mother has said he mustn't, and he can't afford a penny. The girls chase him down the hill, and he runs for his mother. The girls run off to buy sweets from Myfanwy Price.

Gossamer Beynon leaves school. The Spring caresses her, and she walks past the Sailors Arms, and imagines Sinbad Sailors has his hands on her thighs. Gossamer doesn't care if he is common. Sinbad watches her pass and mourns her pride. She sits down to lunch.

Mr and Mrs Pugh are in School House. Mr Pugh is reading his Lives of the Great Poisoners, wrapped in a plain brown cover. She mutters about pigs. In his mind, Mr Pugh is mixing poisons for his wife, and tells her he is reading Lives of the Great Saints. Mrs Pugh uses the opportunity to talk about 'Saint' Polly Garter, who was 'martyred' with Mr Waldo. Polly Garter can't say no to anybody, but she had better learn, with all her babies.

Mrs Organ Morgan repeats the same story to her husband, but he is thinking of Bach. She begins to cry.

Lord Cut-Glass is in his kitchen, listening to his sixty-six clocks, all set at different hours. At some time, an enemy will come down on Llareggub, but he will not be napping - he has sixty-six different alarms.

Polly Garter is singing of the farm boys, and of little Willy Wee, who she loved best of all. The afternoon continues as the animals doze. Mr Pugh is nodding, and his wife snaps him awake.

Captain Cat is at his window, dreaming of fights, and sails, and of Rosie Probert - 'I Love You Rosie Probert' is tattooed on his belly. She speaks to him, but she is dead and is forgetting. They sing to each other of the seas, and the only sea Captain Cat saw was the one with Rosie riding on it. She tells him to knock at her grave, to remember her - she has forgotten him, forgotten she was born.

A child sees him, and tells her mother he is crying, but then she forgets, and tells her mother about how Nogood Boyo offered her three pennies, but she wouldn't take them.

Nogood Boyo catches a whalebone corset, and offers it to an imaginary Mrs Dai Bread Two, who won't take it. He calls up a geisha girl, and sighs about wanting to be good Boyo, but no one allows him.

Mae Rose Cottage is lying in the grass, dreaming of being bad, but there is no one with her in the grass. She plays 'Love me, love me not' with a puffball (dandelion).

Eli Jenkins is writing the town story in The White Book of Llareggub. He mourns his father, who lost a leg, lying with his 'weakness' in the corn, and died of lack of ambition. Utah Watkins swears at his cows, and one kisses him. He tries to get the dog to kill her, and the cow to sit on the dog. Bessie Bighead calls the cows, and dreams of Gomer Owen, who kissed her on a dare. Utah Watkins swears at his horse, and the horse reacts as if her gave it sugar.

"the triumphant bird-like sisters scream with buttons in their claws and the bully brothers hoot after him his little nickname and his mother's shame and his father's wickedness with the loose wild barefoot women of the hills" - First Voice
"It all means nothing at all, and, howling for his milky mum... he'll never forget as he paddles blind home through the weeping end of the world." - First Voice
"Eyes run from the trees and windows of the street, steaming 'Gossamer', and strip her to the nipples and the bees. She blazes naked past the Sailors Arms, the only woman on the Dai-Adamed earth." - Second Voice
"her salad-day deep self" - Second Voice
"the stripped and mother-of-the-world big-beamed and Eve-hipped spring of her self" - Second Voice
"the hungry hug of his eyes" - Second Voice
"She swallows a digestive tablet as big as a horse-pill" - First Voice
"Alone in the hissing laboratory of his wishes" - First Voice
"the voices of his sixty-six clocks that cataract their ticks" - First Voice
"The lust and lilt and lather and emerald breeze and crackle of the bird praise and body of Spring with its breasts full of rivering May-milk" - Second Voice
"The sunny slow lulling afternoon yawns and moons through the dozy town." - First Voice
"Donkeys angelically drowse on Donkey Down." - First Voice
"Mrs Pugh, sweet as a razor" - Second Voice
"He weeps as he sleeps and sails" - First Voice
"Let me shipwreck in your thighs." - Captain Cat
"Remember me. I have forgotten you. I am going into the darkness of the darkness for ever. I have forgotten that I was ever born." - Rosie Probert
"Captain Cat is crying." - Child/First Voice
"up the silences and echoes of the passages of the eternal night." - First Voice
"Lazy she lies alone in the clover and sweet-grass, seventeen and never been sweet in the grass ho ho." - Second Voice
"In her life-long love light, holily Bessie milks the fond lake-eyed cows" - First Voice

Evening and Dreams.

Night begins to fall in Llareggub. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard seals herself into her house and wills herself to sleep. Her husbands come to her in her sleep, fighting over who is last in the door. They hear love in her voice, and hope it is for the other, but it is for both. They recite their night-time tasks, the last of which is taking off their pyjamas.

Mae Rose Cottage draws rings of lipstick around her nipples, and denounces her imaginary sins.

The Reverend Eli Jenkins recites his night poetry. Jack Black goes out to spoil the fun of lovers in the dark wood. Lily Smalls is with Nogood Boyo in the wash-house. Cherry Owen heads off to the Sailors Arms. Sinbad Sailors dreams of Gossamer Beynon.

Babies and old men are put to bed. Young girls prepare for the dance. The drinkers abhor dancing as a sin, Cherry Owen denounces it. Eli Jenkins begins his next poem. Mr Waldo sings in the Sailors Arms of a housewife he slept with when he was a chimney sweep in the city.

Captain Cat goes to bed, and dreams of his drowned comrades, and Rosie Probert. Organ Morgan goes to play Bach, and runs into Cherry Owen, who is on his way home through the graveyard. Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price write their letters to each other. Mr Waldo lies on Polly Garter as she thinks of Willy Wee. Mary Ann Sailors says goodnight to her Eden.

"Now the town is dusk" - First Voice
"erect as a dry-dream on a high-backed hygienic chair and wills herself to a quick, cold sleep" - First Voice
"There is acid love in her voice for one of the two shambling phantoms. Mr Ogmore hopes it is not for him. So does Mr Pritchard." - First Voice
"We are not wholly bad or good/Who live our lives under Milk Wood,/And Thou, I know, wilt be the first/To see our best side, not our worst." - Reverend Eli Jenkins
"and pads out, torched and bibled, grimly, joyfully, into the already sinning dark." - First Voice
"And Lily Smalls is up to Nogood Boyo in the wash-house." - Second Voice
"And Cherry Owen, sober as Sunday as he is everyday of the week, goes off happy as Saturday to get drunk as a deacon as he does every night." - First Voice
"Dusk is drowned forever until tomorrow." - First Voice
"Unmarried girls, alone in their privately bridal bedrooms, powder and curl for the Dance of the World." - Second Voice
"flat, warm, thin, Welsh, bitter beer." - First Voice
"Through the voyages of his tears he sails to see the dead." - First Voice
"Rosie, with God. She has forgotten dying." - Rosie Probert
"Mr Mog Edwards and Miss Myfanwy Price happily apart from one another" - First Voice
"her own neat neverdull which Mr Mog Edwards will never enter." - First Voice
"And he hugs his lovely money to his own heart." - First Voice
"He smacks his live red lips." - First Voice
"Six feet deep that name sings in the cold earth." - First Voice
"little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead." - Polly Garter
"there is a Heaven on earth and the chosen people of His kind fire in Llareggub's land" - First Voice
"the suddenly wind-shaken wood springs awake for the second dark time this one Spring day." - First Voice