Above, the first of five tondi from the pen of Carole M Hassan. As we have only a photocopy, we cannot be sure of the medium in which it was executed: at a guess, a thin felt-tipped pen. The central image is of a young man, fashionably long-haired, and clean-shaven but for a lip-weasel, whose body takes the form of a beanstalk, bisected by a dashed meridian reminiscent of the line down the middle of a road. The knotty roots at the foot of the Beanstalk are drawn in a way that calls to mind the vegetation depicted in the bottom right-hand corner of the 1967 Procol Harum album cover ('The Black Album').
Various impressionistic pods appear to be opening above this
young man, whose eyes are shut; to the right stretch some stars and stripes, of
uncertain significance. Below those, in a field of alphabetical letters, appears
the word DOGODOGOD, repeating endlessly, morphing into bubbles, or perhaps
beans, which form the background from which a cross is protruding, two
disembodied hands apparently venerating it. Below the field of bubbles is a void
containing more stars and perhaps a planet, and below that again an enigmatic
vista of cone-shaped dwellings – perhaps termite hills – on which is standing an
etiolated naked human form, stretching up through the void into the realm of
God/Dog. All this broadly occupies the right-hand area of the tondo,
which, to judge from the photocopy, is about 148 mm across. The left-hand part is
taken up by Keith Reid's text (read below for variants).
about the origins of this
illustration | The text of the illustration (variants highlighted)
In the darkness of the night, only occasionally relieved by glimpses of Nirvana as seen through other people's windows, wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is in my own making ...
When everything around me, even the kitchen ceiling, has collapsed and crumbled without warning. And I am left, standing alive and well, looking up and wondering why and wherefore.
At a time like this, which exists maybe only for me, it is nonetheless real, if I can communicate, and in the telling and [the] baring of my soul anything is gained, even though the words which I use are pretentious and make me cringe with embarrassment, let me remind you of the pilgrim who asked for an audience with the Dalai Lama.
He was told he must first spend five years in contemplation. After the five years, he was ushered into the Dalai Lama's presence, who said, 'Well, my son, what do you wish to know?' So the pilgrim said, 'I wish to know the meaning of life, father.'
And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, 'Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?'
Right, the illustration as it appears on the photocopy sent to Procol Harum in 1971
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