- chapter index -
pg. 1 - Introduction | pg. 2 - Eight | pg. 3 - Eight | pg. 4 - Eight | pg. 5 - Eight | pg. 6 - Eight
pg. 7 - The Dharma Wheel | pg. 8 - Still | pg. 9 - Envelopes of Yesterday | pg. 10 - A Tumbling Kite
pg. 11 - An Empty Town | pg. 12 - The Piper | pg. 13 - A House of Hopes and Dreams
pg. 14 - The Night People | pg. 15 - River of Life | pg. 16 - Photos of Ghosts
pg. 17 - Promenade the Puzzle

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Charing Cross Bridge | The Jaws of Night

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The Night People

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their entrances and their exits,
And one man in his time plays many parts."

- Shakespeare
As You Like It

For The Night People , it sounds as though Pete Sinfield and Mel Collins got the brass section from Lizard together for a late night blowing session. The song features a stunning jazz arrangement including several tempo changes and the sort of high register playing that made Maynard Ferguson famous.

While all of this is going on, Peter Sinfield paints a richly detailed unforgettable picture of a night out in London. The song begins at dusk, with quiet dreamy music and Peter's wonderfully vivid imagery introducing the night.

"Blue neon clock fingers sneaking past the stars
extinguish the last fuse of day."

With the word "neon", we are, right away, put on notice that, though the verses here are pastoral, it is an urban scene that Peter Sinfield is painting. There is also significant symbolism in line one. "Neon" represents civilization and the "clock" consciousness, the Logos "sneaking past" getting by, over-shadowing "the stars" (the mystical, Eros, the unconscious). But line two, "extinguish the last fuse of day", connotes an opposite meaning. The day represents consciousness. And so a major theme, if not the major theme, of The Night People is the avoidance of consciousness or the night as a refuge from modern civilization, the crushing velocity of Mirrors , 42nd and Treadmill and Mr. 9 'Till 5 , modern life and its concomitant demand that we maintain, in order to survive, a hyper-vigilance, a hyper-consciousness.

"Through black rain-wet streets rush bleary-eyed cars
Stuffed with revellers drunk and blasť."

The streets (paths of civilization) are "black" (dark, offering little hope or direction for the spiritual traveler) and "rain" (pain)-wet". The "cars" are but a symbol of their inhabitants who, in their "Mr. 9 'Till 5" routines, "rush" about "bleary-eyed" (spiritually lost or confused). In the attempt to forget who they are and their responsibilities in the world, the people in the cars are already "drunk". As it is early yet, perhaps the "revelers" are drunk on civilization, asleep to reality. It is the soulless, spiritless demands of civilization that make us "blasť". "Every stale day is a haywire highway."

"In Soho stained waiters bang dustbins around,
Commissionaires yawn into tweed,
As empty and echo hose yesterday down
The night people slide inbetween."

Blasť executives "yawn" into their business suits (personas). The day was "empty" and the night will be an "echo" of that emptiness but "the night people", like Hermes, Dionysus or the transcendent function, will "slide inbetween".

"Sallow dudes with spotlight eyes
Pour laughter sauce on ice."

The "spotlight" says "Don't look there. Look here." The material world of Maya is a sleight of hand trick and laughter is a "sauce" that covers/conceals the true nature of the proceedings. And yet there is always a way to the right path. "Sallow" means unhealthy in appearance, pale and yellow (Hermes="the yellow jester"). Sallow is also a willow tree (see chapter eleven, Moonchild ) and the wood of this tree is used as a source of charcoal. (source: American Heritage Dictionary ) One way or another, sooner or later, we will all walk thorough the cleansing spiritual fire (see chapters thirteen through fifteen, Lizard ).

"Velvet dolls with brandied smiles
Lean close with mouths of dice."

Just as reality is covered over by "laughter sauce" the smiles are "brandied". The truth covered over by alcohol. "Mouths of dice" likens romance to a game of chance and also provides a connection with the previous song on the album ( A House of Hopes and Dreams ) wherein a relationship was built with "painted cards", "loaded dice" and "roulette wheels".

"The tunnel band plays studded drums
And spits electric spears
As the dancers kick like marionettes
Through the smokescreen atmospheres."

The "tunnel" band serves its purpose: inducing, for it's audience, tunnel vision in the "smokescreen atmosphere". "The dancers kick like marionettes", archetypically driven puppets.

"Dance on pale harlequins of night
Lest you scratch your gilded fears."

At this point, The Night People reverts to the quite dreamy introspective quality of verse one. As Neil Ingram pointed out regarding Still (the song): "Introverted verses give way to extroverted choruses leading to introverted verses to extroverted choruses. The alternating cycle of taking in and giving out. One could say that the verses are the introspections of the private man, and the choruses are the public pronouncements. Alternating stillness and movement."

So we see that The Night People , being structurally quite close to Still , is therefore something of its counterpart (mirror) on the album. And, like the the piper, we are "in and out of the spectral trees", in and out of unity with nature and ourselves, back and forth between the inner and outer worlds.

"The term dervish literally means "threshold," and that picturesque description itself provides the crucial clue: the dervish calling has something to do with the meeting of two worlds. For the hermit, reclusion is the bottom line: he or she leaves the world and lives apart as a sign of renunciation and poverty of spirit. The dervish is drawn, almost in spite of himself, back and forth across that threshold. He or she lives at the boundary between pure solitude and the need to spill back into the world, still pointing like a weathervane in the direction of that other. Try as one might, the tension won't collapse. The solitude drives one back into the world to communicate (not necessarily in words but in the quality of one's aliveness) some vestige of that divine intensity that aches for human expression."

- Sounding Solitude
by Rev. Cynthia Bourjeault
Raven's Bread
Vol: 2 No: 3 August 1998

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"The paint peeling tea stall by Charing Cross bridge
Attracts lonely moths to its lamps."

Just as Orpheus descended into the underworld to retrieve his dead wife (his anima), so was Charing Cross originally erected as a tribute to the dead wife of a king (Edward I). And, just as we were the "bleary eyed cars", so, too, are we the "lonely moths" who want to cross over the "bridge", attracted to the "paint-peeling" away of masks and the "lamp" of spiritual union with God, the Self.

"In corners of archways on a benches oak ridge
Lie newspapered wine-softened tramps;
Pushed on by policemen and queueing for soup
Evading the world's outstretched glove,"

All of us are searching for spiritual food ("queueing for soup", "A Song and a Bowl of Soup") while being "pushed on" by custom and dogma (law, "policemen"), "softened" by the word ("newspapered") to buy into the world and its deceptive message. The spiritual traveler (Dervish/Sufi) attempts to evade the world's outstretched glove (cloak).

"But one pain they share with the jewelled ghost troupe
Both searching for some kind of love."

And so back into the world . . . but not of it.

"Gargoyles chewing on dead cigars
Stack chips in crystal halls.
Sequinned starlets scent their breasts
Till the single finger calls."

"Sequinned starlets" cast a "sequin spell". Our enchantment by material reality, a "spell", becomes more powerful the further we travel (caravan) from the source, the psychological unity of the womb, infancy and early childhood.

"Rhinestoned strippers strut and peel
For the cochineal stockade."

Cochineal is a red dye produced from the crushed bodies of insects.

"When Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they were fascinated by the intense scarlet color of cochineal dye, which was brighter and better than anything in the Old World."

- Red Scales in the Sunset

Incidentally, saffron, woad and cochineal are all ancient dyes. Perhaps these several references are reflective of Peter's career as a fabric designer.

stockade -
A defensive barrier made of strong posts or timbers driven upright side by side into the ground.
A similar fenced or enclosed area, especially one used for protection.
A jail on a military base.

- Dictionary.com

And so the "cochineal stockade" is a red protected area, a (red light) district for those imprisoned by desire and seeking protection ("lest they scratch their gilded fears") from confrontation with the Self.

"...underlying all life is the ground of doubt and self-questioning which sooner or later must bring us face to face with the ultimate meaning of our life. This self-questioning can never be without a certain existential "dread"-- a sense of insecurity, of "lostness," of exile, of sin. A sense that one has somehow been untrue not so much to abstract moral or social norms but to one's own inmost truth. "Dread" in this sense is not simply a childish fear of retribution, or a naÔve guilt, a fear of violating taboos. It is the profound awareness that one is capable of ultimate bad faith with himself and with others: that one is living a lie."

- Thomas Merton, The Spiritual Exile

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"The gangster roars his crew applauds
At the punter's fun parade;
All worshiping the jaws of night
Where the piper is never paid."

These are the jaws of the same "night" who enfolded "her cloak of holes around the river meadow" in Dawn Song , Prince Rupert's Dark Night of the Soul.

"In Hindu mythology, the destruction of the "ego," whether as joy or terror, is represented by
the image of Kali, the goddess-mother who "prepares us for the oneness. Kali is she who
swallows the universe. She consumes smallness, your pain, your guilt, and finally your
ego...Kali is the Black Mother, the dark mother of the night. It is she who kills the ego dead.
(Bhagavati, 1998, p. 18)."

- Madness and Liberation

And yet, in the "night" of The Night People , the "piper is never paid". What is this price that must be paid?

"What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song?
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the withered field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain."

- William Blake, Vala or the Four Zoas

The denizens of The Night People are living symbolically, very much like the Smiths of Indoor Games who sought dream images without dreaming and spiritual awakening ("indoor fireworks") without truly paying the price. Just as Charon must be paid with a coin by those who wish to cross over the river Styx, the piper must be paid if we hope to retain our authenticity (as symbolised by our children).

"By the late Middle Ages the Piper had merged with the figure of Death as the leader of la danse macabre or the Dance of Death."

- The Pied Piper of Hamelin as a Motif in European Poetry

"Champagned freaks in denim shirts
Snort energy in spoons.
Laughing girls ask zodiac signs
But their eyes sing lonely tunes.
It's four o'clock the wine is flat
The coffee has long gone cold,

The rustlers pay their last respects
Then drive away blindfold . . . . . ."

Rustlers hope to obtain something they have not earned, something for which they are unwilling, or unready, to pay the price. Gangsters, freaks, rustlers. The night is inhabited by the illegitimate, the less than genuine, who "drive away blindfold", still refusing to see. This is a reflection of who, or where, we are.

"Dead the hollow dreams of night
Turn grey dissolve . . . .dissolve . . .

Leaves dervish dance on the coiled wind of dawn
Whisper . . . . The curtain lifts . . . . Day"

"Dervishes dissolved the surface consciousness by a technique
whereby they whirled around and around while doing an intense
mental concentration, a counting exercise which maintained their
point of awareness, while the surface consciousness was dissolved."

- The Allegory of Alchemy in King Lear

"News vans and lorries with oranges roar
From Fleet Street to Ealing Broadway.
The first bus with charladies stops in the Strand
Milk vans and post vans cruise by.
At Euston commuters, shop girls and striped suiters,
Are jostling and milling, cars hooting, brakes shrilling . . . . . ."

Mr. 9 'Till 5 . . .

"wakes up its Monday again . . ."

Still II ~ A House of Hopes and Dreams return to
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Still II~ River of Life

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
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