Chapter 22

A postscript to the Mediterranean dream




- chapter index -
page 1 - The World Became | page 2 - The World

- page index -
The Mountain | Just Look Away
The World Became the World



site index


    Alta Vista Translations
  Translate from  



L'Isola di Niente

 

Neil Ingram:

What a difference a year makes. By the end of 1973, the world of 'progressive rock' had moved on, pushing the needle on the dial firmly towards 'overload'. Yes were telling us 'Tales from topographic oceans', the Who had 'Quadrophenia', Jethro Tull were in a 'Passion play', ELP were undergoing 'Brain salad surgery', Mike Oldfield had 'Tubular bells' and Rick Wakeman was dreaming of a 'Journey to the centre of the Earth'. Concept albums were definitely in vogue.

Peter Sinfield's popular reputation at the time was that of 'Chief Elf', dreamer of prog-rock dreams'. He had, after all, written 'Lizard' a mere three years earlier. What would he come up with for the long-awaited second English PFM album? Well on the surface, the lyrics were definitely for their time, but there was a darker undertow that was anything but contemporary.

'L'Isola di Niente' was the third Italian album by PFM. The band had toured extensively in Europe and were attracting critical acclaim from America. The third album was intended to present a more 'English' sound capable of being performed in larger venues in the United States. Patrick Djivas was brought in to strengthen the vocals. His voice was deeper and more forceful than the gentle melodious tenor voice of Franco Mussida. PFM were going for a place in the rock hall of fame.

Peter Sinfield was given the freedom to add new English lyrics to the already recorded Italian songs. Once again, the tempo and emotional tone had already been set by the band. The lyrics fit the Italian metres perfectly and enhance the harder edge to the music. Taken as a whole, however, they are personal stories of loss of innocence - of having to 'make do' living in a less-than-perfect world.


return to page index
site index








The World Became the World


The Mountain

Lo! There towers the lofty peak of Fuji
From between Kai and wave-washed Suruga,
The clouds of heaven dare not cross it,
Nor the birds of the air soar above it.
The snows quench the burning fires,
The fires consume the falling snow.
It baffles the tongue, it cannot be named
It is a spirit mysterious.

- Manyoshu

Thou art the God of the early mornings, the God of the late at nights,
the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea;
but, my God, my soul has further horizons than the early mornings,
deeper darkness than the nights of earth,
higher peaks than any mountain peaks,
greater depths than any sea in nature -
Thou Who art the God of all these, be my God.
I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths;
there are motives I cannot trace,
dreams I cannot get at -
my God, search me out.

- Psalm 139
Mount Fuji

"Mountains loom large in any landscape and have long been invested with sacredness by many peoples around the world. They carry a rich symbolism. The vertical axis of the mountain drawn from its peak down to its base links it with the world-axis, and, as in the case of the Cosmic Tree, is identified as the centre of the world. This belief is attached, for example, to Mount Tabor of the Israelites and Mount Meru of the Hindus.
In Ancient Greece the pre-eminent god of the mountain was Zeus for whom there existed nearly one hundred mountain cults. Zeus, who was born and brought up on a mountain (he was allegedly born in a cave, The Sacred Cave on Mount Ida on Crete), ruled supreme on Mount Olympus."

- Mountains and the Sacred
by Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe

'The mountain' begins with a choir singing in Italian. It feels more at home in the palaces of the Vatican in Rome than in a bread shop in Chiari.



After two minutes 15 seconds the powerful guitar-centred riff breaks the stillness leading into the tortured vocals of Djivas. This creates a new harder sound, but one still centred upon Italian culture.

Peter Sinfield's lyrics reflect the sombre tone of the music. A tale of a mountain, whose balance and harmony is destroyed by human activity - mining and deforestation.

Red Bellows of flame have blackened my stones
Convulsing my frame and cracking my bones.
Hell's dragons of steel who roar in their chains
Crawl into my caves to suck out my veins.





Jon Green:

This is very similar to a passage from the Doors' album, Strange Days.

"What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered,
And ripped her and bit her,
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn,
And tied her with fences and dragged her down."

- Jim Morrison
When The Music's Over





Neil Ingram:

The gentle second verse paints an idyllic picture of times past when the power of the mountain was pre-eminent over the primitive humans ('apes') who lived in the shadows. Gods lived in the mountains, feared and respected by the apes. Chief amongst the mountain gods was 'O-Yam-Tsu-Mi'.

I've split the sky ten million years
And I've been called a hundred different names.
I know the stories of the wind,
I've argued with the thunder and the rain ...
Till eagles flew from Urizen
Revealing how my mother's
face was horribly changed
By the apes ...

'Urizen' has echoes of William Blake's name for the Creator of the universe within his own belief system of the eternals.

Jon Green:

The name itself (Urizen) is thought to mean "Your Reason" and represents none other than the Thinking Function. Blake's cosmology included the four psychological functions (i.e. Blake's Four Zoas are the four functions). It's fascinating how Blake was the pre-Crimson (or Sinfield the post-Blake).
This is the same "mountain" (the Self) that was touched by the wind in Peace: A Beginning and the mountain is the self, the "centre of the world", as much as it is a symbol of the earth. As in the inaugural songs on In the Court of the Crimson King, In the Wake of Poseidon, Lizard, Islands and Still, what is happening inside (the person) is reflected, or seen to also be happening, outside in the world. Looking at the song psychologically, the self "knows the stories" of the Thinking function ("the wind") and "has argued" with the Feeling function ("the thunder and the rain") till "eagles", another symbol of Zeus, (conscious thought, or a new thought) "flew" from (your) reason (Urizen) revealing how my mother's (Earth's) face was horribly changed by the apes (humans). The mountain, or the Self, refers to humans as "apes" because the Self sees no distinction between man and nature. To God, the Self, we are not distinct from the natural world, we are a part of nature, a species of ape. This perspective was also expressed in the first song on Photos of Ghosts, River of Life, wherein the Self (the river) saw mechanical cranes as a part of nature (as birds feeding along the banks).

"Ships and barges
Dark rusty hearts
Feed cranes along your banks."






Neil Ingram:

The song ends with the mortals overthrowing their mountain god, who lies powerless and broken amidst the exploitation:
But "O-Yam-Tsu-Mi" lay broken and ill
By the plight and the pain of his mountains
and hills
By his waterfall weeps
Once again ...
Jon Green:

The rebellion of the apes against O-Yam-Tsu-Mi is equivalent to the rebellions of Prometheus and Lucifer against their respective gods. It is the rebellion of the ego against the Self (God) and with the internal division (of conscious thought against the unconscious, Thinking against Feeling) comes the outer division of "us against them", man against nature, man against himself etc. All of the neglect and abuse we see in the world follows from this (ongoing) event.

Neil Ingram:

The song fits comfortably into the 1974 prog-rock zeitgeist, even down to the final 'Steve Howe'-sounding guitar solo. The ecological base of the song fits in with 'River of life' that opened 'Photos of ghosts'. It goes further, however, by invoking the Japanese God. The idea that the planet suffers like a living organism (or a personified god) at the hands of ambitious humans is very reminiscent of the 'Gaia' hypothesis of James Lovelock, which began to emerge at the end of the 1970's, although obviously the idea of the Earth having protector gods goes back to the ancients.


return to page index
site index








Just Look Away


'Just look away' reflects the other side of PFM's music. A gentle melody is given a sad, rather angry, lyric by Peter Sinfield, which transforms the whimsy into something rather darker.

Scraping his bow
The old violinist plays out of tune,
Blues on his fingers.
The people hurry by
As he plays upon his corner,
Sometimes throw a coin
And if they see the pain in his eyes
They just look away

Old men in the park
Spitting at the world
Just count the hours
Faded flowers
Left up on the shelf,
Trying to keep warm
In an overcoat of memories,
Soon be dead.

The lyrics are a social commentary on what a young man thinks about growing old. In this respect it is the kind of folk song becoming fashionable by singer-songwriters (eg 'The street's of London' by Ralph McTell or 'Bookends' by Paul Simon).

Scraping for fuel
This crazy old world is quite out of tune,
Too many trumpets.
The people hurry by
All looking for a corner
And if they meet a friend
Who asks them to repay some old favour,
They just look away.


The last verse offers as bleak a view of humanity as ever left the pen of Peter Sinfield:

Old men in the dark
Sitting on the world
Play cards with words,
So absurd,
The devil's harmony.
Each man to himself
In a well cut suit of selfishness,
Just looks away.

In some respects, the final lines offer a commentary on all of the lyrics on the album: 'Each man to himself, in a well cut suit of selfishness, just looks away'. Powerful stuff, but it is carried away by the sweetest tune in all of Italy.

Jon Green:

I think "abuse" and "neglect" may just be the watchwords for this album. In The Mountain the "apes" abused nature (the mountain) making a hell out of their natural paradise. The neglect comes in the apes ignoring/neglecting their "better angels" (their higher selves), instead initiating and then perpetuating a path of destruction.

The theme of neglect continues in track two with the title, Just Look Away. If you see suffering despair, loneliness, pain, poverty, just look away. It's not your problem. Each man is an island with no connection to his fellow ape. And, again, we see the inner/outer theme developed. For, just as the people on the street look away at the sight of the impoverished old man, so too are the old men "selfish" and "to themselves". It could be that Just Look Away is an allegory of God as an old man "sitting on the world" and "playing cards (games) with words" (scriptures). We see God (the old man) as selfish and uncaring because we are selfish and uncaring. Yet God is right there on the corner playing "out of tune" with our way of life. It's the devil's harmony.

The relationship of the album's first two tracks is very similar to that of the first two tracks on In the Wake of Poseidon : Pictures of a City and Cadence and Cascade. Musically and thematically there is the obvious juxtaposition of loud/soft. But beyond that we have the first track of each album describing, in general (epic / global) terms, man's "hell' (his dystopia) while the second track of each album appears to be an allegory of the human condition disguised as a simple vignette. (respectively, about a menage a trois and an old man).


return to page index
site index




The World Became the World


Neil Ingram:

The World Became the World is a masterpiece at the centre of this album. In some ways it is a successor to The Song of the Seagoat, and in other ways it is a precursor to the ELP song Pirates. Peter Sinfield uses symbolic language to describe the role of the poet in the world, which becomes a device to make statements about the changes in his own personal circumstances. All of this is wrapped up within music that has a natural majesty and sense of creative development.






Outside my window in the courtyard
of the world
The gentle rain was falling.
No breath of wind, no cry of beast or bird
Too quiet, too still, I turned ...

To see the raindrops like a thousand
poet's words
splash their circles on the stones,
And seem to wash over everything with love
And for a moment the courtyard heard.

The gentle 'Italian-esque' opening of the song belongs to an earlier time, when PFM were recording their first album, Storia di minuto, for this is Impressioni di Settembre, the band's first single. The gentle autumnal atmosphere leads Peter into a idyllic reverie about the poet's words filling the silence with love. The sole purpose of the poet's words are to wash the dry stones with 'love'

Jon Green:

This is the poet, in the shelter of his courtyard "flying far away when all the world has stirred", dipping his "paintbrush in the silence" where he can be "in tune" with the eternal song.

Until the sun came bursting through the clouds
Hung up his rainbows in the sky
And with a laugh of flames said, "Now go
chase the gold"
And the world

Waves sweep the sand from my island

became the world ...

The World Became The World dust jacket image

Neil Ingram:

Fortune calls in the second verse, as the sun tempts the poet to go chase 'the gold'. And 'the world became the world'. At the end of Pirates, ' Sinfield would say, 'Gold drives a man to dream!' as an observation of life in the music business.

Jon Green:

Like the "eagles" that "flew from Urizen" in The Mountain, the "sun" in The World Became the World is a symbol of awakening, a realization of immediate circumstances. It is with (poetic?) irony (a laugh) that the poet (shaken from his reverie) realizes "Hey, I gotta eat!" I think that's what is meant by "hung up his rainbows in the sky". Put your dreams away. Life is too serious to while away the hours in dreams. Life is . . . life and death.
This passage also brings a personal dimension to the Promethean fall of the apes. The poet, and all of us, must fall (neglect the inner world) in pursuit of material well being (in the outer world). When this happens (as we can see from the above image from the album's dust jacket), eventually both the inner and the outer worlds are rendered a wasteland.

Neil Ingram:

These are subtle observations of the change in motives of those who choose to pursue fame. At the start of this song, we find the poet dreaming with no hope of reward (other than of being loved); then in the second verse the poet is tempted (by the sun of course!) to 'chase the gold'. By the end of Pirates, it is gold that is driving the men to dream.

For now, the race is on, and it involves leaving the courtyard (like being banished from Eden).

Jon Green:

As in the courtyard of the caravan hotel where the "sequin spell (of Maya) fell" :

"The caravan 'hotel' was called the caravan serai; the word SERAl is Persian for mansion hence the name, Saray Hotel. These old inns were quadrangular in shape. and always had an inner courtyard where merchants could gather with their donkeys and bundles of precious goods. It was like going into a small castle, and once inside, the merchants had safety and seclusion."

- The Aniquities of Turkish Nicosia




Now we're all travellers some seekers
and some sought
Who leave the courtyard to be caught
In nets of self, damned certainty and choice;
But do you believe our voice?

Neil Ingram:

The poet risks blunting his craft and losing his credibility ('But do you believe our voice?') because he has accepted the gold and is ensnared in 'nets of self, damned certainty and choice'.

Jon Green:

Self-interest as opposed to the interest of the community. The certainty of dogma or of the ideology of the marketplace. The artist has no choice but to follow his or her muse even if it leads to poverty. The businessman, on the other hand, can, and does, choose to use his talent/creativity to make a buck (or a pound, or a euro).

Neil Ingram:

The final verse is a powerful indictment of the world in which Peter Sinfield now inhabits. The clashing of powerful wealthy egos, making ever more excessive demands.

You ... you've got what must belong to me,
I need! I'll bleed for more possessions.
You ... you've got no right to disagree
Bow! Kneel! Or fear my aggressions.
Thank God if sometimes your oyster
holds a pearl
When the world remains the world ...



return to
chapter & page index
Earthbound and Beyond ~ Red The World Became the World ~ side two



Sign the Dreambook Dreambook Read the Dreambook

Chapter One The Metaphysical Record In The Court Of the Crimson King In The Wake Of Poseidon Lizard The King In Yellow The Sun King Eight
The Lake Which Mirrors the Sky In the Beginning Was the Word In the Beginning was the Word...side two Eros and Strife Dark Night of the Soul...Cirkus Dark Night of the Soul...Wilderness Big Top Islands
Islands Two Footnotes in the Sand Still Still 2
Works Lyrics
&
Poems
Gallery Guestbook
Archive
Links Discography E-mail:
Peter Sinfield
Jon Green
Page One



Return to the Song Soup On Sea Homepage


These Pages Created and Maintained using Arachnophilia
Copyright 1998 - 2002 ~ Jon Green /All rights reserved