- 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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The Shaft of my Flail | The Still Point

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Neil Ingram:

In alchemy, a still is a container for distilling essences. Often the process is repeated many times before the desired preparation is synthesized. Still (the album) can be seen as a distillation of many of the essentials of Peter's earlier writing, as well as establishing a new, more personal, style. Still (the song) can be seen as a further distillation (refluxing?) of these essences.

Still (the album) is, perhaps, like a mandala, with Still (the song) at its centre. This is the point of unity with the 'Self'; a place where wholeness and integration are found. The 'stillness' and calm at the centre of the storm. It is 'the still point of the turning world' (Eliot). The relevant passage from Burnt Norton is quoted in an appendix at the end of this essay.

If Still (the album) is a masquerade (a masked ball) then Still (the song) goes behind the elaborate masks to a new personal simplicity.

Still: with little or no sound. ('O, still small voice of calm'). And, right on cue, comes the softly spoken narration.

"Still, I wonder how..."

This probably sums Peter up better than anything. The untiring questioning, looking at his life, wondering about 'his nature and nurture'. From 21st Century Schizoid Man through to the message on the home page of his website, here is the essence of the man. And every new song is a new chance to question, observe, comment and persuade. His (very English?) wry humour must not fool us into believing that he does not take this process seriously. His anger at being misconstrued (eg the Ranting Shaman ) is ample evidence of that.

Still: nevertheless. All the same. Even though the recent past was difficult, still he remains alive, well and at peace. 'but the roots came through alright'.

Still: increasingly. Even yet. Still greater songs are yet to emerge from the healing processes that are at work within him.

Still: even now. They still cannot understand the role that he played within Crimson, yet the song (and album) is an attempt to persuade us.

Still waters run deep. There is an ecology about the song: streams, trees, birds. There is a hierarchy - the tree depends upon the stream; the bird depends upon the tree and the stream. Yet the stream depends upon nothing. And still waters run deep. To mount up high, you first must sink down low. The ecology of the song is that water will be drawn into the tree and could (through the food chain) pass into the bird. The bird will breathe water back into the air, which will return to the stream. This is the water cycle. The water has healing, life-giving qualities.

Yet, there is a tension that questions the natural rhythm of the cycle:

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"Still I wonder why I wonder why I'm here
All my words just the shaft of my flail
As I race o'er this beautiful sphere
Like a dog who his chasing his . . ."

Unlike the tree, which cannot question its existence (Yet feel no need of knowing?), Peter questions his purpose, his niche in the ecosytem of life, his abilities. A 'flail' is a tool for threshing wheat, with a wooden staff (a shaft) with a short heavy stick swinging from it. To 'flail about' means to wave or swing wildly or erratically. Are his words so clumsy and erratic as this? I doubt it - but I can understand that, from time to time, to Peter they must seem clumsy instruments. How many times can one man bear to hear people mocking the lyrics of 21 Century Schizoid Man , as they did on TV the other week?

Instead of resting in the stillness, Peter is racing frenetically chasing his tail, flailing about.

The choruses are a distraction from the stillness. Funny and clever word plays:

"Tailors and tinkers, princes and Incas,
Sailors and sinkers, before me and like me . . ."

Charming and beautifully sung by Greg Lake.The choruses look outwards and draw us into the verses.

"Caesars and Pharoahs, prophets and heroes,
Poets and hobos, before me and after me all the
Painters and dancers, mountainside chancers,
Merchants and gamblers, bankers and ramblers,
Winners and losers, angels and boozers,
Beatles and Bolans, raindrops and oceans,
Kings, pawns and deacons, fainthearts and beacons,"

They are pairs of linked images, the second prompted by the first. Fizzy and powerful expressions of stereotypes (or archetypes?).

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.

"We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion."

- T. S. Eliot, East Coker

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Where to place Still on the album?

Jon Green believes the order of songs on In The Court Of The Crimson King fits the pattern of a mandala. I believe the order of songs on Still has a significance, too.

Side One Side Two
The Song of the Sea Goat Envelopes of Yesterday
Still The Night People

The album version places Still at the centre of the album. The Song of the Sea Goat uses themes from the elemental cycle of the previous King Crimson albums and establishes a link with the past. The Night People almost adopts a narrative style to emphasise themes of social justice. This points towards future songs. Still and Envelopes of Yesterday are personal songs that are transitional between the past and the future. Still (the song) is the still point of the turning world.

Stillusion is a further distillation of the album. Envelopes of Yesterday, The Song of the Sea Goat and Still close the CD. Placed together, they gain considerable power. This is especially true of Still , which becomes the final statement of inner peace and strength on the album.


The still point of the turning world
At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

- T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

Neil Ingram, April 2001

Still ~ Under the Sky
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Still II

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
Gallery Guestbook
Links Discography E-mail:
Peter Sinfield
Jon Green
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