- chapter index -
pg. 1 - Introduction | pg. 2 - The Song of the Sea Goat | pg. 3 - Aquarian Runes
pg. 4 - Shaking in the Dome | pg. 5 - The Smoke-Filled Road | pg. 6 - The Fallen Sun
pg. 7 - Under the Sky | pg. 8 - Still

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A Pointing Hand | The Best Foot Forward March | Take Your Stand

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Neil Ingram:

The season for the second verse of the song is autumn and possibly coincides with the time of its writing (autumn 1972). The rural imagery (flights of birds, ripe wheat) is certainly consistent with West Cranmore, Somerset, which is its likely place of conception.

This verse seems to have a personal element and is probably associated with the biography of Peter Sinfield, who in a very short time had written Islands , left King Crimson and retreated to Somerset to write Still . On the way he had formative experiences producing Roxy Music's first album, also co-writing and producing PFM's Photos of Ghosts .

"The sea goat reads the flight of birds and writes upon the sand"

Is this the flight of birds preparing for migration in autumn? The first hint that summer might be drawing to an end and it is time to make a change.

Jon Green:

Agreed. The second verse begins, as did verse one, with Peter telling us that he is preparing to offer a prophecy. Writing on the sand certainly suggests activity of a shamanistic nature. Reading "the flight of birds" is an ancient divination technique known as augury.

"They left no literature but the later Romans were indebted to the Etruscans for much of their knowledge of building, draining marshes, irrigating land and for their belief in foretelling the future by observing birds in flight and studying the organs of animals."

- History

"The fates warn, stars teach, and likewise the flights of birds, that I will soon be the hammer of the world. Rome, a long time wavering, having committed a multitude of errors, will collapse and cease to be the leader of the world."

- Frederick II

- Tarot and the Millenium
by Timothy Betts Ph.D. (p. 219)

Neil Ingram:

Any writing on the sand will be soon washed away by the tides. There is a sense of loss, too.

Jon Green:

Sand writing, while alluding to the temporal nature of everything in the material world (see: Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas) and to shamanism also suggests a sense of futility. Like writing on the beach washed away by the tide, in the "high bender trender" world of pop music, songs and their lyrics are quickly forgotten in deference to the latest fad. Given this milieu in which Peter worked and the general reception given his work by the critics and listening public, perhaps the deeper feeling here is one of despair, the sense that no one is listening to what he has to say.

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"Gold waterfalls of autumn wheat slip through a pointing

Neil Ingram:

The pointing hand might be Peter’s – (see below) and there is a sense that something valuable (wheat – food) is being lost. The autumnal image is strengthened.

Jon Green:

I asked Peter about this in December 98:


Jon: The reference to autumn wheat in the next verse also suggests the end of an era - the passage of fall into winter.

Peter Sinfield: "No - just about - politics of distribution...Famines! Are usually caused by politics?"


Note that it takes a "pointing hand" to write upon the sand. I think the "pointing hand" is indeed Peter's. It is the hand of the shaman or prophet, pointing in the direction of where we/society are going next. The wheat slipping through his hand suggests, again, a sense of futility. Perhaps he feels he is not being understood, valued, receiving the acknowledgement due him as an artist. And then there is the specter of “something valuable being lost”, the gift being wasted.

However there is another pointing hand and the next line gives away his identity. It is Capricorn in it's negative aspect as..."the need to serve the fatherland and to contribute to the maintenance and enhancement of paternalism within society. The means of enforcement, from police to the military. The "terrible Father" of this house is the all-powerful master of his domain whose harsh justice and quick sword immobilises his subjects. It is the wellspring of martial prowess and all worldly ambitions."

The pointing hand is that of UNCLE SAM on the poster UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU (the very example of advertising, perhaps?).

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I Want You for U.S. Army by James Montgormery Flagg

"Gold waterfalls of autumn wheat slip through a pointing
Whose fingers stiff with sentences still beckon to the
To play the "Best Foot Forward March" and deafen all
    the land.
With hollow words, it's so absurd!"

Neil Ingram:

It is the weary task of the writer who has to come up once again, with new tunes for the band to play. And a loud band, too! Notice the' Best Foot Forward march', is an injunction to make a change. The value of carrying on is being questioned.

A retreat, perhaps?

"Yes, I forget in Somerset, but now I've lost my silver spoon."

- Peter Sinfield, Hanging Fire

Jon Green:

  “Fingers stiff with sentences” recalls Islands' "fingers of stone". This phrase seems to express Peter's weariness (writer's cramp!) and the sense that he is being held back by ideas (ego-constructs, social mores/expectations) codified in words. Perhaps he is feeling constrained by expectations created by the "words" of his own artistic legacy. "How do I get out from under the crimson veil?" he may have asked himself. Note that it is also Uncle Sam's fingers that are "stiff with sentences" and that sentences are passed under the rule of law. Laws, custom and dogma define governments, societies and religions. They tend to lead us away from self-knowledge (gnosis) and toward identification with the group. It would seem, then, that, just as governments, under Capricorn, pass sentence under the law, Peter has, in a sense, passed sentence upon himself.

"still beckon to the
To play the "Best Foot Forward March"

As you pointed out, the "Best Foot Forward March" refers to the proper attitude to be adopted by a band of musicians, Peter's artistic and business partners. Curiously, it is both Peter, as lyricist, and Uncle Sam, as propagandist, who beckon to the band. A lyricist needs a band to set his words to music. A government needs a pack of "spring-eyed, tonguetied, wooldyed lads" to march off to war. However, I feel the most significant idea/feeling/image conveyed by this passage is that of the lyricist still tragically beckoning to the band he no longer has. In this context…

"and deafen all
the land.
With hollow words, it's so absurd!"

…takes on an added meaning. While he words of Uncle Sam "deafen all the land" the Sea Goat's song is similarly described as "shaking in the dome".
In light of his no longer being in the group, Peter’s Herculean efforts for King Crimson now appear "hollow" and "absurd".
Lines such as "the nonsense makes me numb" and "it's so absurd" are also meant as commentary on society and the music industry. The call to arms is usually "absurd" and composed of "hollow words" but, let's not forget, so are the "suave pirate" words of the commercial lyricist.
In verse one words "anoint" the eyes, creating an illusion, blinding us to the truth. In verse two words "deafen" all the land.

"They have ...eyes but cannot see and ears but cannot hear."

- Psalm 115: 5-6

"What hinders men from seeing and hearing God, is their own hearing, seeing and willing; by their own wills they separate themselves from the will of God. They see and hear within their own desires, which obstructs them from seeing and hearing God. Terrestrial and material things overshadow them, and they cannot see beyond their own human nature. If they would be still, desist from thinking and feeling with their own self-hood, subdue the self-will, enter into a state of resignation, into a divine union with Christ, who sees God, and hears God, and speaks with him, who knows the word and will of God; then would the eternal hearing seeing and speaking become revealed to them."

- Jakob Boehme
Man in the Restored Image

Incidentally, Jakob Boehme was said to have seen God in a bowl of soup. Peter's publishing company is called A Song and a Bowl of Soup Ltd.

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Neil Ingram:

The message of the Sea Goat (II)

"Take your stand" sang the sea goat "the night goes on
    and on."

This is the pivotal point of the song and sets the stage for the drama that follows:

Jon Green:

I also see this passage as a call to stand against negativity in several respects. Peter needs to "overcome" the sentence imposed upon him by society (the critics and listening public) and by himself. All of us need to overcome the suave pirate words of commercialism and governmental propaganda.

Neil Ingram:

In the first verse, the Sea Goat sounds resigned and exasperated ("Oh, cant you hear"…). In the second verse he sounds loud and angry:

"It fills the air! It fills the air!
The song of the sea goat shaking in the domes"

Now we must announce that it is time to move on:

"Unwrap your plans" sang the sea goat "tell everyone
    you've gone
To touch the earth and to see the birth
The smile, the style down an unspun mile of life."

Jon Green:

This is a beautiful passage. In the wake of Peter's departure from King Crimson, a new plan unfolded. The end is always a new beginning, whether we realize it or not. Peter had presided over the birth of progressive rock and he was also there to "see the birth" of Roxy Music, a band who, in the next decade, were to deeply influence the direction of pop music. "The smile, the style down an unspun mile of life" surely alludes to (or sets the stage for) the next song on the album, Under the Sky .

"The song of the sea goat as endlessly he roams,
Between the sunset's crimson veil
On smooth grey streets where the drunkard spins his

Neil Ingram:

But still the indecision remains. The author hovers between life in Crimson (between the sunset's crimson veil) and anonymity (the smooth grey streets where the drunkard spins his tale ).

Jon Green:

Good point. Note the streets are "smooth" - the easy way out.

Still ~ Aquarian Runes
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Still ~ The Smoke-Filled Road

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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