Released on the same day as
, Peter's work in the PFM album
continues and expands the themes found in his solo album.
River of Life
"The Self is the sun shining in the sky,
The wind blowing in space; he is the fire
At the altar and in the home the guest;
He dwells in human beings, in gods, in truth,
And in the vast firmament; he is the fish
Born in water, the plant growing in earth,
The river flowing down the mountain.
For this Self is supreme!"
- Katha Upanishad II.2.2
The first track on the album,
River of Life
, explores a question asked in
"Still I wonder how it is to be a stream,
From a dark well constant flowing,
Winding seawards over ancient mossy wheels
Yet feel no need of knowing?"
In the pastoral tradition, nature is explored as a means of exploring the self.
River of Life
is a profound expression of the inner world of Peter Sinfield.
"River of life
Rain was your birth
Beneath the earth.
Search and seep,
Issue and flow.
It's a long way to the sea."
"Hollow stone" is reminiscent of
"fingers of stone" and suggests that the individual ego (stone) should ideally
be an open (hollow) container allowing for the presence/action of Feeling or
unconscious content. Phrases such as "gathered deep", "search and seep" and
"virgin stream" are suggestive of the High Priestess, "the virgin daughter of
the Moon, the eternal feminine".
"The activity of the High Priestess is symbolized by the abyssal water -
impenetrably dark, infinitely deep,
always mixing, flowing, seeking its own level; by yielding she is as forceful
as the mighty river Ocean. Her tears
are the healing dew, always striving to restore wholeness when division has
gone too far."
So here we get a good idea of the healing nature of Peter's poetry. Verses
such as these enabled him to heal the split; to return to the center, the
source; to remind himself that . . .
"Rain was your birth"
Due to recent events, the division in Peter's life had "gone too far". Only a
"hollow stone" unencumbered by pre-conceived notions (messages from the outside
world) can allow the inner voice of the unconscious, the Self, to be his guide.
Only a person such as this can, despite apparent setbacks, "meander free". The
last line of the verse, "it's a long way to the sea", suggests "it's not over".
The "stark prison walls" of "caves and canyons" again conveys the idea that
"stone" (dogma, "the wall on which the prophet wrote") can be a problem. By
interfering with the flow of water (the flow of unconcious content), the stone
walls of pre-conceived ideas cause him to "swirl and hurl" in the turbulent
waters of inner conflict. In this state, he eventually "falls". "White"
suggests that, though the "fall" is painful, it is a cleansing process, a
sweeping away ("sweep your course") of false notions, a necessary
disillusionment. And once he has cascaded over the the falls, the chaos, he
finds himself again on level ground, the inevitable leveling-off period
following a personal crisis. On "the plain" the view is unobstructed by large
objects - as is the flow of water. The river "rolls" smoothly. Unhindered by
the "caves and canyons" of custom and belief, he is able to see further, to
more clearly plot his "course", to "follow his star", his inner guide.
The connotations of stone in this verse seem to be invariably negative but the
message here, as in verse one, is also that "stone" (dogma) serves as a
necessary vessel for water, Feeling.
The tone of verse three suggests a shamanic journey has taken place. The
"plain" was an open empty space where he gathered himself after having "gone
too far" into the world. Now he is back in the world, the "city" of objects
("ships and barges"). Able to see clearly (without prejudice), he notes their
presence without qualification. He seems to be saying "Oh, look at that", as
though he were on a sightseeing tour, simply enjoying life as it comes. The
"bridge" is not just a way back to the world. The "bridge" is a place where
nature and civilization merge. The inanimate creations of man ("ships and
barges") are given "hearts" (though "dark" and "rusty") and a place in nature.
The ships are living things, that "feed cranes" along the banks of the river.
Of course, these are cargo cranes that empty ships of their contents but the
important message here is that, within Peter Sinfield, man and nature, inner
and outer, conscious and unconscious are, for the moment, one.
"Waste and poison"
A necessary component of this inner acceptance is an acknowledgement of the
"waste and poison" of negative thoughts and feelings.
"Cloy where once men drank."
1. To fill or choke up; to stop up; to clog.
The duke's purpose was to have cloyed the harbor by
sinking ships, laden with stones. --Speed.
"After the middle of life . . . permanent loss of the anima
means a diminution of vitality, of flexibility, and of
human kindness. The result, as a rule, is...
resignation, weariness, sloppiness, irresponsibility,
finally a childish ramollissement [softening of
personality] with a tendency to alcohol."
- Jung 1954,
Until the next crisis (rain), he can "forget the pain". Life is a series of
journeys and it is hoped that this journey, which has been particularly
difficult, will soon be over.
"The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on.
A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years,
every day is a journey and the journey itself is home.
From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the
Still I have been drawn by windswept clouds into dreams of a lifetime of