Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage 1973

  1. Modern
  2. Wilhelmina
  3. The Lie (Bernini's St. Theresa)
  4. Forsaken Gardens
  5. Red Shift
  6. Rubicon
  7. A Louse Is Not A Home


    MODERN

    Jericho's strange, throbbing with life at its heart :
    people are drawn together, simultaneously torn apart...
    Foundations are shattered in the city
    inside the barricaded doors --
    hiding behind their walls, lonely as night falls,
    maybe the people are waiting for trumpets....
    
    Babylon's strange, seventh wonder of the earth :
    gardens ablaze in colour, slowly rotting in the dirt
    and, with your head on fire, you can't really see.
    The hanging gardens sing,
    but with a hollow ring :
    the life is false, its killing me....
    
    Don't look back, or you'll turn to stone;
    look around before your life is overgrown
         with concrete slabs!
    On your back the searching eyes that stab
    between chintz curtains, glinting, 
    but never owning to a name --
    like the inmates of asylums
    all the citizens are contagiously 
                      insane....
    
    Atlantis is strange, the explosion of an age :
    no-one really knows what to do, and the city
                                    is a cage.
    It traps in ashen hours and concrete towers,
    imprisons in the social order :
    the city's lost its way,
    madness takes hold today...
              I can't live under water.

    WILHELMINA

    Willie, what can I say to you to hold true in
    your changing life?  You've come into a cruel
    world : little girls can lose their way in the
    growing night -- I hope you'll be alright.
    
    Willie, try to stay a child sometime, for as long
    as you feel you can learn.  Babies all turn to
    people, and people can really be strange : they
    change and, changing, bring pain.
    
    Try to treat your parents well because they care,
    and what more can you do?
    When you find your lovers, be good to them as
    you hope they'll be to you --
    be honest,
    be true.
    
    Willie, you are the future; all our lives, in the end,
    are in your hands.  Life's hard now -- you know,
    it gets harder, and hope is but a single strand;
    we pass it on and hope you'll understand....
    
    We know that we do it wrong, we're not so strong
    and not so sure at all; groping in our blindness,
    we may seem big now but, really, we're so small
    and alone and searching for a home
              in the night.
    
    Meanwhile you're still a baby; you'll be a lady
    soon enough and then you will feel the burn.
    So hold my words : people all turn to children,
    spiteful children, and they're really so cruel...
            cruel fools!
    Just follow your own rules --
    don't think that I'm silly, Willie,
    if I say I hope that there is hope for you.

    THE LIE (Bernini's St. Theresa) *

    Genuflection / erection in church.
    Sacristy cloth / moth-eaten shroud.
    Secret silence / sacred secrets
    accumulate dust, aggravate the eye.
    
    Incautious laughter after confession.
    Benediction -- fictional fear
    Hidden faces ... Grace is a name,
    like Chastity, like Lucifer, like mine.
    
    You took me through the window-stain,
    drowned in image, inscence, choir-refrain
    and slow ecstasy --
    I'd embrace you if I only knew your name....
    
    The silent corner haunts my shadow prayers :
    ice-cold statue -- rapture divine,
                       unconscious eyes,
                       the open mouth,
                       the wound of love,
                       the Lie.
    
    You took me, gave me reasons for
    saints and missals, vigils, all the more
    holy martyrs --
    I'd embrace you and walk through
                      the one-way door...
    I'd embrace you, but it would be
                  just another lie --
    
    ( * which is to say that the statue is the inspiration, but not the Lie)
    

    FORSAKEN GARDENS

    Where are all the joys of yesterday?
    Where, now, is the happiness and laughter that we shared?
    Gone, like our childhood dreams, aspirations and beliefs --
    Time is a thief, and he ravages our gardens,
    stripping saplings, felling trees,
    trampling on our flowers, sucking sap and drying seeds.
    In the midnight candle-light of experience
    all colour fades, green fingers grey....
    
    Time, alone, shall murder all the flowers,
    still, there's time to share our plots and all that we call 'ours'.
    How much worse, then, if we all deny each others' needs
    and keep our garden's privately?
    
    Its getting colder, wind and rain leave gashes;
    looking back, I only see the friends I've lost.
    Fires smoulder, raking through the ashes
    my hands are dirty, my mind is numb,
    I count the cost of 'I' :
    "I need to get on, I've got to tend my garden;
    got to shut you out, no time to crave your pardon now".
    
    Now I see the garden that I've grown is just the same
                                       as those outside;
    the fences, erected to protect, simply divide....
    There's ruination everywhere, the weather has
                           played havoc with the grass --
    does anyone believe his garden's really going to last?
    In the time allotted us, can any man keep miserly his own?
    Is there any pleasure in a solitary growth?
    
    Come and see my garden if you will --
    I'd like someone to see it all before each root is killed.
    Surely now its time to open up each life to all --
    tear down the walls, if its not too late!
    
    There is so much sorrow in the world;
    there is so much emptiness and heartbreak and pain;
    Somewhere on the road we have all taken a wrong
                                         turn --
    how can we build the right path again?
    
    Through the grief, through the pain,
    our flowers need each others' rain....

    RED SHIFT

    Once, all the stars in the sky were bright,
                          now they're red and fading
    and all the colours we wore, the shades that we bore
                          have moved.
    And the gold turns to red with no time for changes : 
    Red Shift, all moving away from we.
    
    Once, constellations were holy, now darkness pervades
                         all the older ones
    and in the brunt of implosion, all yesterday's golden
                         now reddened suns ....
    and hope is a word with no space for blame in --
    Red Shift, displaced now in time and relativity;
    Red Shift, all moving away from we.
    
    So here I am, though I might well be with me :
    I'm falling down deep to the rim of the wheel.
    Is it sham?
    Does the world have a meaning?
    The more that we know , the greater confusion grows :
    stars are like atoms, and atoms are patterns
    and probably in the end :
    'Maybe its all been a dream ....'
    
    Time locked in negative matter, all theories shatter
                          beneath the weight.
    Happy is the man who believes that the world
                is a dream and all reason, fate.
    Time moves on with no time;
    the eye moves on with no rhyme,
    and I'm a song in the depth of the galaxies --
    Red Shift is taking away my sanity;
    Red Shift, all moving away from we ....

    RUBICON

    I lay down beside you : I am a unicorn, you a virginal maid,
    and I come in laughing play --
    but, maybe, to be saved.
    
    Peer through the backcloth : I am a character in the play,
    the words I slur are pre-ordained --
    we know them anyway.
    
    Don't change your mind, don't be a fickle friend;
    don't change your mind, don't pretend
                      to something false.
    
    Open the toy-box : you are Pandora, I am the World.
    If you cross the stream, you never can return;
    If you stay, you'll surely burn.
    
    Don't change your mind, don't come all orchid eyes;
    don't change your mind, don't disguise the fear
                      you feel :
    it's real, and you must
    guard your castle well, for I am the lone wolf,
                   and the boar at bay --
    grant me your Pax, you know we only live today,
    and on, and on, and into :
    "so Long" -- it takes so long to drown;
    it takes so very long to choke on the taste you'd spurned.
    If you cross the stream you never can return;
    If you stay you'll surely burn.

    A LOUSE IS NOT A HOME

    Sometimes it's very scary here; sometimes it's very sad;
    sometimes I think I'll disappear; betimes I think I have.
    There's a line snaking down my mirror :
    splintered glass distorts my face,
    and though the light is strong and strange
    it can't illuminate the musty corners of this place.
    There is a lofty, lonely, Lohengrenic castle in the clouds --
    I draw my murky meanings there,
    but seven years' dark luck is just around the corner
    and in the shadows lurks the spectre of Despair.
    A cracked mirror mid the drapes of the landing :
    split image, labored understanding --
    I'm only trying to find a place to hide my home ....
    
    I've lived in houses composed of glass 
    where every movement is charted,
    but now the monitor screens are dark
    and I can't tell if silent eyes are there.
    My words are spiders upon the page,
    they spin out faith, hope and reason --
    but are they meet and just, or only dust
                 gathering about my chair?
    Sometimes I get the feeling that there's
    someone else there :
    The faceless watcher makes me uneasy,
    I can feel him through the floorboards, 
             and His presence is creepy --
    He informs me that I shall be expelled ....
    What is that but out of and into :
    I don't know the nature of the door that I'd go through,
    I don't know the nature of the nature
                     that I am inside ....
    
    I've lived in houses of brick and lead
    where all emotion is sacred,
    and if you want to devour the fruit
    you must first sniff at the fragrance
    and lay your body before the shrine
    with poems and posies and papers --
    or, if you catch the ruse, you'll have to choose
    to stay, a monk, or leave, a vagrant.
    What is this place you call home?
    Is it a sermon or a confession?
    Is it the chalice that you use for protection?
    Is it really only somewhere you can stay?
    Is it a rule-book or a lecture?
    Is it a beating at the hands of your Protector?
    Does the idol have feet of clay?
    Home is what you make it, so my friends
                              all say,
    but I rarely see their homes in these dark days.
    Some of them are snails and carry houses
                                  on their backs;
    others live in monuments which, one day,
                               will be racks --
    I keep my home in place with sellotape
                                 and tin-tacks,
    but I still feel there's some other Force here :
    
    He who cracks the mirrors and moves the walls
    keeps staring through the eye-slits of the portraits
                                  in my hall;
    He ravages my library and taps the telephone --
    I've never actually seen Him,
    but I know He's in my home
    and if he goes away,
    I can't stay here either.
    I believe -- er -- I think --
    well, I don't know ......
    
    I only live in one room at a time,
    but all of the walls are ears, all the windows, eyes :
    Everything else is foreign, 
    'Home' is my wordless chant :
    mmmmmaah!
    Give it a chance!
    
    I am surrounded by flesh and bone,
    I am a temple of living,
    I am a hermit, I am a drone,
    and I am boning out a place to be.
    With secret garlands about my head
    unearthly silence is broken :
    the room is growing dark, and in the stark light
    I can see a face I know --
    could this be the guy who never shows
    the cracked mirror what he's feeling,
    merely mumbles prayers to the ground where
                                  he's kneeling :
    "Home is home is home is home is home is home is me!"
    All you people looking for your houses,
    don't throw your weight around, you might
                          break your glasses
    and if you do, you know you just can't see
    and then how are you to find the dawning
                               of the day?
    -- Day is just a word I use to keep the dark
                                   at bay,
    and people are imaginary, nothing else exists
    except the room I'm sitting in,
    and, of course, the all-pervading mist --
    sometimes I wonder if even that's real ....
    Maybe I should de-louse this place;
    Maybe I should de-place this louse;
    Maybe I'll maybe my life away
    in the confines of this silent house.
    Sometimes it's very scary here; sometimes it's very sad;
    sometimes I think I'll disappear; sometimes I think .....     "
    
    
    " Thankyou for getting this far, and I can only hope that it will get you as we (you and I together) venture into and across ..... THE SILENT CORNER and the EMPTY STAGE .... which comprises:- Side One MODERN * (cities) WILHELMINA * (children) THE LIE (Bernini's St Theresa) + (religion/sex) FORSAKEN GARDENS + (loss & hope) Side Two RED SHIFT (scientific alienation) RUBICON * (choice) A LOUSE IS NOT A HOME + (search....|?) All songs { composed by Peter Hammill { published by Stratsong/Carlin Arrangements are organic/human/undefinable- -------------------------------------------------------------------- Except for "RED SHIFT" [Island Studios, London; April 1973] The album was realised at -- * Sofa Sound, Sussex and + Rockfield Studios, Monmouthshire in September & October, 1973 Engineering : Rodney Sofa (Sofa) Pat Morahan (Rockfield).....best left back! --vox & mellotrons on "MODERN" & "WILHELMINA" were dubbed onto Sofa backing tracks at Rockfield-- The whole thing was mixed at -- Trident Studios, London in October 1973, starring David Hentschel on desk, machines, effects and all pts. in between.... PRODUCTION : JOHN ANTHONY & PETER HAMMILL (EGO EGO) with incidental intrusions from : Lizard Bizarre Rodney Sofa and The Dazzler..... GORDIANISATION : TROELLER ! COVER(including globetrotting):BETTINA HOHLS (is there more in this than meets The I?) ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Performers .... HUGH BANTON :- Foot and hand bass (+), organ and part-choir (F.Gdns.) GUY EVANS :- Drum, symbol & Aunapuma JAXON :- Altotenorandsoprano saxophones and routings; flute RANDY CALIFORNIA :- Pulsating lead guitar ("RED SHIFT") EGO :- Acoustic & electric guitars, assorted pianos, bass (*), harmonium, mellotrons, oscillator and vox -- Grateful acknowledgements/random information dept :- Run-ups : (Sofa) The Judge (Foel)->(Rockfield) Capt. Banana or Whatever Initial Integration Location : Clearwell Cuisine : (Rockfield & Sofa) Alice (Clearwell) Frogs & Toads "Smoky" O.S.A. Truck & Hwnp : J. Buonuomo & the other 2 (sorry, but names lost in the ensuing madness) Sofa bass presence : Red Max Hutchinson R.S. Film crew : Sparkes, Jeept, Overload Transatlantic co-ordination : Chris Konsczes..?? Comedy team : Dylan & Laddie Others (in order of disappearance) Dave Anderson & Reveried components Pancho, Bjorn Oird, The Big Girl, D.D. Tap-bat, picture-darts, golfwinks Jean-Pierre Bumdrop Meriuque, All Wards, "N." Down & the fly circus Several taxi drivers in search of N. Feltham Sue Jaxon Sebastian -- Peter Hammill DEC '73/JAN '74 ....but all of this ( ^ ) is only of cryptic semi-informational value, given at the turning of the years with appropriate arbitrariness; it has all been diverting to recall and to write, and so also (perhaps) to read. The songs, however, must speak -- or remain silent -- for themselves, so here follow their words and here 'I' disappear to make way for them.


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