Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Chapter 7: The Wind in the Willows

Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn
An excerpt from Chapter 7 of The Wind in the Willows where Syd took inspiration for naming the Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn album.

It should be noted that the two chapters of this classic that are most associated with Pink Floyd: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Wayfarers, have been left out of some editions of the book and excluded from most adaptations.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn finds two of the animal characters in pursuit of Portly, the son of their buddy Otter who is, you guessed it, an otter. The pup has been missing for days and so the duo set out on the river by the moonlight seeking him along the shore. And then a strange thing happens on their journey: a beautiful melody overcomes them, leading them forward to a small island where they find the small otter laying at the feet of a Pan-like being, playing his pipes in the morning light. Before they see him, they hear the music and feel an undesirable sensation, described by Grahame:

Then suddenly Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror - indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy - but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near.
(Grahame 134-135)

Then the sensation vanishes as the sun rises, and the memory of it is all but erased from the three friends' minds. Still, they retain a shred of emotional recall:

...Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties... (Grahame 138)

Possibly Syd was moved by this book, and specifically this chapter, because it's an excellent example of what excites people in art, the invoking of some sort of transcendence, a breaking-through into another realm of existence which cannot be described in words, only suggested.

Here is some discussion on this topic from the Laughing Madcaps Facebook Group:

Victor Reyes: What a magnificently, prophetic allegory...Syd was genius...Andre is indeed correct....RKB's talent lies in leaving so many little clues and delightful phantasmagorical detours.

Rick Kilgore: Many offerings from those years have fallen to the side, but Syd's creations remain for me veritable wonderlands of continually rewarding exploration. And I had mentioned previously that this passage was like an allegory for my journey into that world between worlds. I just wish the illustration actually had the oars in Mole's hands instead of Rat's.


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