Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
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Brain Damage - Eclipse [case says E] Sounds great. First, it doesn't quote just any old classical Chinese poetry, but a couple of incredible, even startling poets of the ninth century Tang Dynasty. One of the poets has always been popular, noted for his mysterious love poetry. Another, known as a 'daemonic genius', has been neglected for over a thousand years and only recently rediscovered. Moreover, some of the lines quoted refer even further back, to the oldest major poet in the Chinese tradition, born in the fourth century before Christ.
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In addition, ' Cirrus Minor ' from the album More also alludes to Chinese poetry, so we will also have a look at this song. As this site is devoted to Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, we'll take this as an opportunity not just to look at the source of Pink Floyd's lyrics, a humble but compelling Penguin anthology of Chinese poetry , but also to look at the original works — in Chinese.
Don't worry if your classical Chinese is a bit rusty. It's reasonably easy to understand in a word-for-word translation and we'll be providing the English version that Roger Waters read. The third song on Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets released on 29 June is a hypnotic paean to the sun with the sci-fi title of ' Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun '.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
The lyrics to this song, written by Roger Waters, are remarkably elusive. Since they're delivered in an almost unintelligible whisper, it's not surprising that several versions can be found on the Internet, some of them so off the track that they might have been lifted straight from Japanese liner notes. Little by little the night turns around, Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn. Lotuses lean on each other in yearning; Under the eaves the swallow is resting.
Set the controls for the heart of the Sun. Over the mountain, watching the watcher, Breaking the darkness, waking the grapevine. One inch of love is one inch of shadow. Love is the shadow that ripens the vine. Witness the man who raves at the wall Making the shape of his questions to Heaven.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Knowing the sun will fall in the evening, Will he remember the lessons of giving? The second Pink Floyd song to quote from the Penguin anthology is ' Cirrus Minor ', from the soundtrack to the film More. The words to this song are difficult to make out and versions vary. My take is as follows:. In a churchyard by a river Lazing in the haze of midday, Laughing in the grasses and the graze.
Yellow bird you are not long in Singing and in flying on, In laughing and in leaving.
Willow weeping in the water, Waving to the river daughters, Swaying in the ripples and the reeds. On a trip to Cirrus Minor Saw a crater in the sun A thousand miles of moonlight later. Although some of these lyrics have been called 'Zen' lyrics by at least one misguided soul, and Taoist by others, they in fact owe much to an anthology of Chinese poetry called Poems of the Late T'ang by A.
Graham, published by Penguin in After this anthology, Professor Graham went on to display his powers as an expert in ancient Chinese philosophy, including the works of Zhuang-zi Chuang-tzu , the Daoist Taoist philosopher who famously dreamt he was a butterfly — or was it a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuang-zi? Some of Professor Graham's work on ancient Chinese philosophy is so ground-breaking that it is recommended reading even for Chinese scholars doing research into their own philosophical tradition.
But for me, Professor Graham's most beautiful work remains these translations of a number of major and minor poets of the later years of the Tang dynasty the eighth and ninth centuries , the tail end of a period universally acknowledged as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. To check out the source, just click on the link. Reluctantly, I've used the modern pin'yin transliteration of the names of the poets for the sake of consistency, even though I personally much prefer the old transliteration 'Li Ho' to the pin'yin version 'Li He'.