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Welsh Wizards and Spies

September 6, 2013

A very long time after I should have done so, I have been reading for the first time The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. What a good book it is – intelligent, exciting, superbly written, entertaining from beginning to end, and above all, populated by characters you can believe in. Under instruction from Caroline, I have read it before watching the movie with Richard Burton – but I have allowed myself a sneak pre-listen to some of the soundtrack, such as this prelude by Sol Kaplan which I rather like.


He did not go gentle into that good night

It’s not such a leap from Richard Burton to Dylan Thomas. Via Under Milk Wood, if you like, or perhaps just from them being connected in my mind as hard-living Welshmen. I’m not a literary critic, any more than I am a music critic, but a decent poem can still get me right there. So here is a setting of Thomas’s And Death Shall have no Dominion, by Gwyneth Walker. It seems to me to catch the urgency of the text and intrude itself upon your notice as the words demand. It’s a modern setting, but in its strongly versified structure and rhythm is, deeply respectful of the poem. And for the words – on (an excellent site for poetry of all kinds) – why not click here.

And so – since this is a brief pre-weekend post – to other Welsh wizards. First, this brilliantly talented man – about whom comment is superfluous:

Second, the most famous bearer of that nickname: David Lloyd George. (Here, I wonder if you thought I might link to Lloyd George Knew My Father; well I haven’t because I couldn’t find a version online that didn’t make me want to screw my eyes up in agony; so instead here’s an amiable music-hall song about Lloyd George’s Beer which had a pop at the suspicion that in wartime (WWI) conditions, beer was being diluted, and at the temperance movement, both of which made ground under Lloyd George. There’s a fascinating article on the website of the Western Front Association, from which I learnt that it was made unlawful in some places to buy a round of drinks, which was seen as one of the leading factors in the spread of the evil Drink’s malign influence.

And finally a true magician of song, Tom Jones. Here with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, he promises you 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy.

As Sir Tom says: “This is it. This is it. Look what you get.”


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