Up in the hills
were wonderful wild flowers and tiny bees so industrious that they made you
ashamed. I blew on the pipe and certain notes rang on the air like drowned
bells. There are seven apertures on the pipe, unevenly placed, and the fingers
have to be as nimble as spiders. Also the breath must flow like a great, slow
bellows, and the head hold a discipline of harmony, both born and slowly
learned. The first pattern of music was a small, broken Moorish melody; it got
itself caught in the pipe on its way from Marrakesh or the tinkling market of
Tiznit. I played this tune over and over again and got stung by a bee.
This was not what
I sought. I craved the lilt of the early Galician days when Irish giants sat on
their thrones and the storytellers sat under the cedars. And at last, among the
wild lilies and the heather, a minute, gasping melody flowed from the pipe. I
do not know how. I don't necessarily believe in inspiration and wouldn't care
to state that there are obvious reasons for everything. We all have the secret
ground which is ourselves—it runs counter to so many orthodox arguments. For
me, writing is a certain craft which matures through repetition, but sometimes,
in painting, about which I know nothing, I can capture the whole of a small
world in a few seconds.
I repeated this
pattern of notes and lay back on the heather. A seagull floated over my head
but did not speak. About 10 minutes later I heard a flurry over the grass, a
rustling and a patter of horn and hoof, and looked around. I was surrounded by
sheep. There must have been about five hundred, which meant a thousand eyes,
perplexed, inquiring and cold with the cold doubt of sheep. They stood there,
ciphers of wool and mutton, with a blaze in their brains. I have never heard of
a man being attacked by sheep, but who could tell? I remembered about the
eagles and ghosts and stood up. Far away I could hear a man shouting, and
presently saw him, a black figure with a looming face. He was waving a pipe,
the same fluted shape as mine, and suddenly he sat down, put it to his lips and
blew. There was tremble in the wind, a spell of silver and sunlight, and the
sheep teetered on their hoofs, flickered their eyes and disappeared.
I sat down and
looked at the pipe. It held a fascinating power. It was impossible to resist
it. I put it to my lips and blew and the notes scampered over the heather like
hares on a bright morning. I hadn't long to wait. In another minute the sheep
were back, ringing me round with a wild, thin, staring hope. I was the new
messiah of a grassy salvation. Again I could not hear the man shouting, and I
got up and walked back to the village, and entered the inn and began drinking
at the bar.
day?" asked the proprietor, polishing the glasses.
day," I said. "I've learned to play a tune on the pipe."
it," said the proprietor with a laugh.
I lifted the pipe
to my lips and the notes fell out of it like dice.
heard a tune like that," said the proprietor, filling my glass.
It was about five
minutes later that the first sheep trotted into the inn.