Love is the shadow that ripens the wine

Little by little the night turns around
Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn

Lotuses lean on each other in yearning
Under the eaves the swallow is resting

Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Over the mountain
Watching the watcher
Breaking the darkness
Waking the grapevine

Knowledge of love is knowledge of shadow
Love is the shadow that ripens the wine

Set the controls for the heart of the sun
The heart of the sun
The heart of the sun

Witness the man who waves at the wall
Making the shape of his question to heaven
Whether the sun will fall in the evening
Will he remember the lesson of giving?

Set the controls for the heart of the sun
The heart of the sun
The heart of the sun

According to an interview with David Gilmour on the 2006 documentary «Which One’s Pink?», the song features minor guitar work both from Gilmour and Syd Barrett, making «Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun» the only Pink Floyd song that features all five band members.

The song’s recording commenced in August 1967, with overdubs recorded in October of that year and in January 1968. In an article reprinted in the book Pink Floyd – through the eyes of… by Bruno McDonald, Roger Waters admitted to «borrowing» the lyrics from a book of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty period (which was later identified as the book Poems of the late T’ang, translated by A.C. Graham).

Some of the borrowed lines were written by Li He, whose poem Don’t go out the door contains the line «witness the man who raged at the wall as he wrote his question to heaven», and Li Shangyin, whose poetry contained the lines, «watch little by little the night turn around», «countless the twigs which tremble in dawn,» and, «one inch of love is an inch of ashes.»

The song has been a staple in Roger Waters solo tours. Beginning with the 1984-1985 tours, Set the Controls has been presented in a radically rearranged rendition – with female backing vocals, saxophone solos and a guitar solo (and even a shakuhachi solo in 1985). A truncated version (just the three verses) of the song featuring a simple acoustic guitar part was performed on a handful of occasions during the Radio K.A.O.S tour of 1987. The song was included in the set list for Waters’ 2006-2008 tour, and previously his In the Flesh tour, featuring stills from the videos of Arnold Layne and Scarecrow projected on large screens. In June 2002, audiences enjoyed a surprise when the two nights at London‘s Wembley Arena saw the appearance, as guest drummer for the performance of the track, of Waters’ former Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason, the first indication of a reconciliation following the acrimonious split of the mid-1980s.

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