Mr Aleister Crowley’s previous work has been eccentric, and at
the best he has done more to provoke curiosity than to give
confidence. Now he chooses to handicap himself by printing
poems in a type that must inevitably impose restrictions upon
many readers, and we think that the diction, usually admirably
simple, of the principal piece in “Ahab and Other Poems” (Chiswick
Press, pp. 34, 5s. net) suffers from any interruption of the
fluency of its rhythms. Mr Crowley has amplified the Biblical
narrative, and, with an obvious revolt of sympathy, has given to
the savage figure of Ahab something of the nobility of reason
that rebels against the tyranny of his fate. There is a modern
self-consciousness in this tragic, brooding monologue—
I see him, a fantastic ghost,
The vineyard smiling white and plain,
And hiding ever innermost
The little shadows on his brain;
I laugh again with mirthless glee,
As knowing also I am he.
A fool in gorgeous attire!
An ox decked bravely for his doom!
So step I to the great desire.
Sweet winds upon the gathering gloom
Bend like a mother, as I go,
Foreknowing, to my overthrow.
Mr Crowley has some doubtful phrases, but most of his verse is
clear and moderate. Here is his picture of Naboth:—
The beast. A gray deceitful man,
With twisted mouth the beard would hide,
Evil yet strong; the scurrile clan
Exaggerate for its greed and pride,
The scum of Israel! At one look
I read my foe as in a book.
The beast. He groveled in the dust.
I heard the teeth grind as he bowed
His forehead to the earth. Still just,
Still patient, passionless, and proud,
I ruled my heavy wrath. I passed
That hidden insult, spake at last.
The other pieces include a grandiose sonnet on Rodin’s statue of
Balzac; “Melusine,” in which mannerisms and affectations
predominate; and “The Dream,” a smooth piece of verse that
leaves no very strong impression. There are an introduction and
an epilogue in verse by Count Vladimir Svareff.
Manchester Guardian, circa 1903.
Mr. Aleister Crowley, not content with the usual risk of the
neglect that threatens minor poets, has had his verse set up in
what is apparently German black-letter. Thereby tempting
the most conscientious reviewer to take his volume as read.
Glasgow Herald, date unknown.
"Ahab and Other Poems", by Mr. Aleister Crowley is a sumptuous
volume, delightful to eyes accustomed to mediaeval script, but
puzzling to such as are not. The prettiest poem in the book is
"The Dream," from which we give the opening lines:
"Bend down in dream the shadow-shape
Of tender breasts and bare!
Let the long locks of gold escape,
And cover me and fall and drape,
A pall of whispering hair!
And let the starry eyes look through
That mist of silken light
And lips drop forth their honey-dew
And gentle sighs of sleep renew
The scented winds of night."
In "Melusine" Mr. Crowley has caught something of the
trick of reiteration of metaphor, which is familiar to all
readers of Mr. Swinburne, e.g.
And like a devil-fish is ice,
And like a devil-fish is cruel,
And like a devil-fish is hate."
"Thule" is, in the same stanza, made to rhyme with
"cruel"! The title-poem, which occupies two-thirds of the book,
is a most unsatisfactorory performance, but it is superior in
technique to the rest.
Westminster Review, August 1903.
Ahab, and Other Poems. By Allister Crowley. With an
Introduction and Epilogue by Count Vladimir Svareff. London:
Privately Printed at the Chiswick Press.
There are not many pieces in this elaborately and handsomely
printed large quarto, about which the first thing that impresses
a reader is an odd typography, more luxurious than legible until
custom has made it easy to read. The chief piece is a monologue
in studiously simple verse, not unmusical, which sets forth the
reflections of King Ahab, firstly in his pride, and afterwards
in his humiliation after the affair of Naboth’s vineyard. Then
there is a sonnet to Balzac, inspired by Rodin’s statue; then a
piece of fine-spun verse-making about Melusine, that endeavours
to produce the exquisite shudder which some say is the last
effect of poetic art; then an irresponsible ecstasy about a
dream; while the book is rounded off by a sonnet from another
hand than its author’s. The whole thing is elegant and refines;
but it is the product of a polite accomplishment rather than
Scotsman, 8 June 1903.