Set the controls for the heart of the sun originally appeared on Pink Floyd's 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets. It was also performed live regularly between 1968 and 1973, which can be heard on the live disc of the 1969 album Ummagumma, and seen on the Live at pompeii video.

There has been a lot of discussion about the lyrics of this song, especially since it seems to differ somewhat between the studio recording and subsequent live performances. These are the lyrics as printed in the 1994 EMI remaster of A saucerful of secrets, with the differences from the Ummagumma remaster marked in italics:

Little by little the night turns around
Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn
Lotuses lean on each other in yearning
Over the hills a swallow is resting (Ummagumma: 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 (Ummagumma: One inch of love is one inch of shadow - see below)
Love is the shadow that ripens the wine
Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Witness the man who waves at the wall (Ummagumma: Witness the man who raves at the wall)
Making the shape of his questions 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
Set the controls for the heart of the sun

In the book "Pink Floyd - through the eyes of..." by Bruno McDonald, Roger Waters admits to "borrowing" the lyrics from a book of Chinese poetry from the T'ang period (which has later been identified as the book "Poems of the late T'ang", translated by A.C. Graham).

Some of the poetry came from 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 Shang-Yin, 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".

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