Last night while I am brushing my teeth, I hear on Radio 4 the recorded voice of Dylan Thomas reading his poem And death shall have no dominion. It takes me back 60 years. I remember attending a reading by Dylan Thomas of his and other poems at the the Institiute of Contemporary Arts in London. I was still at school. It is his voice, not so much resonant as resounding, lyrical, liquid. No Welsh accent as such, but the rhythms and intonations are Welsh. He also read, or chanted is a better word, when I heard him all those years ago, the War Song of Dinas Vawr from Thomas Love Peacock's The Misfortunes of Elphin.
"The mountain sheep are sweeter
But the valley sheep are fatter.
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter ..."
The Misfortune's of Elphin is a good humoured, ironic and witty romp in the Wales of the sixth century. It features magnificent, drunken revellers, war lords, and bards. This morning I go back to the book for the first time in 40 or 50 years and find that it is still as funny and charming as ever.
Here's an example at random:
Elphin and Teithrin stood some time on the floor of the hall before they attracted the attention of Seithenyn, who during the chorus was tossing and flourishing his golden goblet. The chorus has scarcely ended when he noticed them immediately and roared aloud: "You are welcome all four.
Elphin answered " We thank you. We are but two".
"Two or four," said Seithenyn, " all is one."
The sun picks out transparent wings as an insect dances on the window.
We are visited by the owners of a shop, which specialises in garden antiques and gardening and cookery books. They are interested in buying a jardiniere, for which we have no use. We agree a price and they say they will throw in an ancient but sturdy draw hoe, which I saw in their shop and had set my mind on. It will encourage me to keep my vegetables neat and weed free when this year's seeds appear.