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AMBERGRIS


 

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Title:

Ambergris.  A Selection from the Poems of Aleister Crowley.

 

 

Upper Cover

 

Upper Cover

 

Lower Cover

 

Cover/Spine

 

Spine

 

Interior Cover

 

Title Page

 

Frontispiece

 

Preface

 

Strangeways Printers

 

Catalog - Page 1

 

Catalog - Page 2

 

Print
Variations
:

Printed on laid paper.3
Top edges only are cut.1
Bound in brown boards.1
Upper cover stamped in gilt ‘AMBERGRIS | ALEISTER CROWLEY’.1
Spine stamped horizontally across in gilt ‘AMBERGRIS | ALEISTER | CROWLEY | ELKIN | MATHEWS’.1
7 3/8” x 5”.1
 
Publisher: Elkin Matthews, Vigo Street.3  
Printer: Strangeways Printers, Great Tower Street, Cambridge Circus, W. C.2  
Published At: London.3  
Date: 1910.3  
Edition: 1st Edition.  
Pages:

viii + 198 + 2 pages of advertisements.1

 
Price:

Priced at 3 shillings and sixpence.2

 

Remarks:

Tipped in as a frontispiece is a photogravure of Aleister Crowley, New York, 1906.1

Some copies have a erratum slip stating “Mr Crowley's Books are to be obtained at the office of the 'Equinox.' 124 Victoria Street, London, S.W.” tipped in facing p. 198.4

 
Pagination:1
Page(s)  
[  i] Half-title
[  ii] Blank
[  iii] Title-page
[  iv] Blank
[  v] Preface
[  vi] Blank
[vii-viii] Contents
[1-198] Text
[199-200] Advertisements for Mr. Crowley's Books, colophon:  London:  Strangeways Printers
 
Contents:

From ‘The Tale of Archais’
-  Song
-  In Hollow Stones, Scawfell
From ‘Songs of the Spirit’
-  The Goad
-  Astrology
From ‘Jephthah’
-  Chorus of Maidens
From ‘Mysteries’
-  De Profundis
-  Beside the River
-  Perdurabo
-  In the Woods with Shelley
From ‘The Fatal Force’
-  Chorus
-  Chorus
-  Chorus
From ‘The Temple of the Holy Ghost’
-  The May Queen
-  The Reaper
-  The Palace of the World
-  The Rosicrucian
-  The Athanor
-  A Death in Thessaly
From ‘Tannhäuser’
-  Shepherd Boys
-  Tannhäuser’s Song
From ‘Oracles’
-  The Hermit’s Hymn to Solitude
-  On Waikiki Beach
From ‘Alice:  An Adultery’
-  Margaret
-  Red Poppy
-  Alice
From ‘The Argonauts’
-  Chorus of Shipbuillders
-  At Waikiki
-  The Harbour
-  Vera Cruz
-  The Song of the Siren Leucosia
-  Hong Kong Harbour
-  At Prome
From ‘The Star and the Garter’
-  Song
-  Song
Rosa Mundi
Other Love Songs
-  Dora
-  Norah
-  Edith
-  Rose
-  Eileen
-  Helene
From ‘Gargoyles’
-  Song
-  Said
-  Prayer
-  The King-Ghost
From ‘Rodin in Rime’
-  Tete de femme (musee du Luxembourg)
-  Reveil d’Adonis
-  Acrobates
-  Faunesse
-  Balzac
From ‘Orpheus’
- The Hours
-  Autumn
-  Invocation of Hecate
-  The Regaining of Eurydice
-  The Maenads Invoke Dionysus
-  Orpheus Invokes the Lords of Khem
-  The Star-Goddess Sings of Orpheus Dead

 

Author’s
Working
Versions:

    

Other
Known
Editions:

   
 
Bibliographic
Sources:
1. Rivers, Dianne Frances, A Bibliographic List with Special Reference To the Collection at the University of Texas,  Master of Arts Thesis, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas, 1967, p. 92.
2.

The Equinox, Vol. I, No. 4, London, 1910, p. 344.

3.

Gerald Yorke, A Bibliography of the Works of Aleister Crowley (Expanded and Corrected by Clive Harper from Aleister Crowley, the Golden Dawn and Buddhism:  Reminiscences and Writings of Gerald Yorke, Keith Richmond, editor, The Teitan Press, York Beach, ME, 2011, p.46.

4. Weiser Antiquarian Books, Catalog # 26, “Aleister Crowley Rarities.  Books and Manuscripts.”
 

Comments by
Aleister
Crowley:

     In response to a widely-spread lack of interest in my writings, I have consented to publish a small and unrepresentative selection from the same. With characteristic cunning I have not included any poems published later than the Third Volume of my Collected Works.

     The selection has been made by a committee of seven competent persons, sitting separately.

     Only those poems have been included which obtained a majority vote.

     This volume, thus almost ostentatiously democratic, is therefore now submitted to the British Public with the fullest confidence that it will be received with exactly the same amount of acclamation as that to which I have become accustomed.

     — Preface, Ambergris, Elkin Mathews, 1910.

 

Reviews:

Judging from the elaborate sarcasm of his preface to “Ambergris,” Mr. Aleister Crowley would seem to be rather hurt in his mind that the British public should have mostly ignored his previously published writings.  But Mr. Crowley is by no means the only contemporary poet who is well worth reading and is yet not read.  It would, indeed, be rather surprising if Mr. Crowley’s books had created much stir in the reading world.  For one thing, he deals very largely in mystical and esoteric doctrines, of the kind likely to repel the majority of downright Englishmen as powerfully as they have attracted his few enthusiastic admirers.  These doctrines, too, are often expressed symbolically figured by the great names of ancient religions.  The average man does not much mind meeting with a miscellaneous host of heathen gods and demigods in poetry; but when he is forced to feel that these gods and demigods are all intensely alive in Mr. Crowley’s mind, the focal points, as it were, of doctrines which Mr. Crowley passionately holds for eternal and almighty truths, then the average man is apt to sheer off from such poetry with dubious and rather scared looks.  Nevertheless, in spite of this, Mr. Crowley’s name, if only as a vague rumour, has become known to most of those who are looking for a great contemporary poet.

And now, for the better information of such people, we have a selection from his works (some of which are not very obtainable), presented in a shape by no means formidable to the lean purse; and the poorest poetry-lover can now find out what sort of a poet Mr. Aleister Crowley really is.  He certainly is worth reading—not so much for the doctrines, some noble, some queer, which he inculcates, as for the poetry he sometimes manages to make out of them.  The man who loves poetry wisely is willing to accept from a poet any creed or doctrine he likes to air, from the materialism of Lucretius to the mysticism of Blake, provided always that he makes poetry of it.  Much of Mr. Crowley’s dogmatic poetry is mere mouthing, the primal obscurity of his theme still more darkened by studied eccentricity of image and extravagance of diction.  The emulation of Swinburne’s manner is at times too obvious to be satisfactory; and Shelley comes in for some sincere flattery.  But there are poems in “Ambergris” which are all Mr. Crowley’s own, fine poems in which (to quote from one of them),

 

There is music and terrible light

And the violent song of the seas;

 

intellectual passions wedded to melody that will not easily be forgotten.  There are plenty of such pregnant sayings as this:

 

Mere love is as nought

To the love that is Thought,

And idea is more than event.

 

There are poems, such as “The Rosicrucian,” which are daring experiments in philosophy and in psychological construction alike.  This is a noble verse:

 

No man hath seen beneath my brows

Eternity’s exultant house.

No man hath noted in my brain

The knowledge of my mystic spouse.

I watch the centuries wax and wane.

 

The descriptive poems, especially those descriptive of the tropics, are excellent of their kind; but the finest poem in the book is undoubtedly an “Invocation to Hectate.”  A large idea, rigorous verbal craftsmanship, and a spacious music, combine to make that one of the most notable magical poems ever written.  Here is a snatch of it:

 

I shall consummate

The awful act of worship.  O renowned

Fear upon earth, and fear in hell, and black

Fear in the sky beyond Fate!

I hear the whining of thy wolves!  I hear

The howling of the hounds about thy form.

Who comest in the terror of thy storm,

And night falls faster, ere thine eyes appear

                   Glittering through the mist.

 

 The Daily News, 16 May 1910.

______________________________

 

 

It is perhaps not uncharacteristic of the poet of these verses that he should give them a title which has really but little connection with them.  A certain perverseness or wilfulness is manifest in much of his work, and surprise and paradox are effects which seem dear to him.  For these poems are of Grecian rather than of Arabian or Persian origin, and the fragrance of Ambergris is a much lighter and more spiritual thing than the rich and arrogant perfume of Arabia. Maybe Mr. Crowley so entitled his poems, as one christens a child Rose or Wilhelmina or Théophile, without any descriptive or moral intentions at the back of one's mind.  Maybe, he just fell a victim to the charms of a pretty word, as any susceptible poet might, and made her forthwith the doorkeeper of his poetic seraglio.

Perhaps it was not worth writing, since he who can afford to be vain can afford to forego the demands of his vanity, yet there it is, and of itself it would make one wonder if the author of Ambergris and some thirty other volumes had any right to be piqued because he is not as well known and as well acknowledged as he would like to be.

A glance through his press notices convinces one that there is at least a chance that he has such a right

He has been roundly condemned, treated to impertinence, and in some cases extravagantly praised, but no one seems to have given him that deadly kind of appreciation which is the lazy critic's heart-felt thanks that there is nothing to criticise.  Nobody has called him a classical poet, or "one who is preserving the best traditions of our noble heritage of song," or assured him that he is " of the true succession," or anything of that kind.  This shows that there is, at least, a fair chance of his being a good poet, though of course it does not prove it, for it is possible for a man to be a very bad poet and yet not be praised by the Weary Willies of academic criticism.  A first glance at Ambergris shows Mr. Aleister Crowley as perhaps the most passionate disciple poet ever had.  Such imitation of Swinburne's manner, as is revealed in most of his early work, could only have been born of the strongest love for the champing colourous rhythms of the Victorian.  By itself, for the passion which inspired it, it commands respect.  But there is too much of such work included here. It prevents access to what is strong and personal in the book.  It shows a passion which was one day bound to define itself in letters of original flame.  It prophesied, but a sceptical world only believes such when they come true.  That something has come true in our poet's case will be admitted, I think, on reading Alice:

 

The stars are hidden in dark and mist,

The moon and sun are dead,

Because my love has caught and kissed

My body in her bed.

No light may shine this happy night—

Unless my Alice be the light.

 

This night—O never dawn shall crest

The world of wakening,

Because my lover has my breast

On hers for dawn and spring.

This night shall never be withdrawn—

Unless my Alice be the dawn.

 

Mr. Crowley is very successful in this kind of thing.  These love-songs of his have a wonderful ardour, an almost Sapphic fury.  They flash and shine with images that are like little streaks of flame.  Sometimes, though, he is more delicate and more ethereal as in the following verse from Red Poppy:

 

One kiss like snow to slip

Cool fragrance from thy lip

To melt on mine;

One kiss, a white-sail ship

To laugh and leap and dip

Her brows divine;
One kiss, a starbeam faint

With love of a sweet saint

Stolen like a sacrament

In the night's shrine.

 

The verse with which the book opens is a beautiful stanza.  It has all the hard brilliance and the lustre which are characteristic of the writer's work.  The opening picture breaks on the senses like a shaft of sudden sunshine.

 

Ere the grape of joy is golden

With the summer and the sun,

Ere the maidens unbeholden

Gather one by one,

To the vineyard comes the shower,

No sweet rain to fresh the flower,

But the thunder rain that cleaves,

Rends and ruins tender leaves.

 

Among many things that occur to one in reading Mr. Crowley's verses is their singular disseverance from the things of the day, their entire lack of what is called "the modern note" in poetry.  Of course such a devotion as in his early work he gave to Swinburne, Browning, and Shelley would not allow him to serve other masters.  We must think that he deliberately shut his eyes to the writings of the intimate, romantic, impressionist school, or else how could so susceptible an artist have escaped its infection?

Another thing that is apparent in this poet's work, despite the cumulative effect of his poems, is the fitfulness of his inspiration.  His gift, splendid as it appears at times, is unique and occasional rather than rich and sustained.  A journey through the garden of the poet's verses has all the excitement and the drawbacks of making one's way by means of the illumination of lightning.  There is a lot of darkness to a small proportion of extreme brilliance, though, perhaps, as with all rare and superfine things, this is necessarily the case. It is their price

I will now take some single images or metaphors from the poems and place them by themselves.  It is in these things and by their quality that the poet is shown. Is this not natural, for what is art after all but one vain adjective for ever seeking its impossible noun?  What is all poetry but one imperfect metaphor, an analogy made with one of the comparisons only half guessed at through Eternity's veil?

Observe the tremendous compression of thought in the lines, where the poet speaks of old love buried and seemingly forgot, rising up and breaking out from

 

. . . the untrusty coffin of the mind.

 

Again, what a delightful picture is suggested in the

 

winged ardour of the stately ships.

 

How closely those two words winged and ardour are bound!  Welded in the original passion of creation, they hold their idea with a noble security.  Criticism cannot sunder them. Beautiful, too, I fancy are the lines:

 

To some impossible diadem of dawn.

 

The trampling of his (the sun's) horses heard as wind.

 

My empire changes not with time.

Men's Kingdoms cadent as a rime

Move me as waves that rise and fall.

 

Of poetry Mr. Crowley says:

 

Thou art an Aphrodite; from the foam

Of golden grape and red thou risest up

Immaculate; Thou hast an ebon comb

Of shade and silence, and a jasper cup. . . .

 

This, of a lady:

 

So grave and delicate and tall—

Shall laughter never sweep

Like a moss-guarded waterfall,

Across her ivory sleep?

 

There are some noble and vigorous images scattered among Mr. Crowley's verses, whose invention alone marks him out as no inconsiderable poet.

For the rest, great metrical force, rhythms so violent as almost sometimes to exhaust themselves, and, in some of the later work, a curious employment in his philosophy of paradox—that Mr. Facing-Both-Ways of literary effects.

I will end on a lighter note, and quote the beautiful and tender song from The Star and the Garter.  Is there not in it a reminiscence of all the beauty of our lives that has passed like water through the helpless senses?  Is there not a certain very fairy and frosty note in this song, such as—to be ridiculously fanciful—an elf might make with a rose-leaf and a fretted mandoline of hoar-frost, something cold, yet warm at heart, like a very lovely yet unreachable lady, the lovelier for the pedestal of snows on which she is set?

 

Make me a roseleaf with your mouth,
And I will waft it through the air

To some far garden of the South,

The herald of our happening there!

 

Fragrant, caressing, steals the breeze;

Curls into kisses on your lips:—

I know interminable seas,

Winged ardour of the stately ships.

—The English Review, December 1910 by Edward Storer (An alias of Aleister Crowley?).

 

______________________________

 

     This book appeared in the summer of 1910.  Since that time Mr. Crowley has come into greater prominence, not so much as Frater Perdurabo, but more as the writer of some sound prose and fine commentary criticism.  He is outliving his inane attempts to reform the world by false magic, and his truer magic, his poetry, is gaining in influence.  The present collection is a good and for the most part pleasing one, but we are quite sure the committee of which each member sat separately for the making of this selection did not include any maiden aunts.  If so, the piece, The Reaper, would not have been reprinted, nor The May Queen.  Parents of impressionable young ladies, please note.  The Goad is a fine and inspiring piece, pleasantly reminiscent of Keats, and the first song is a splendid piece of word music.

The Poetry Review, January-June 1914.

______________________________

 

     “In response to a widely-spread lack of interest in my writings, I have consented to publish a small and unrepresentative selection from the same,” says Mr. Aleister Crowley in the preface to “Ambergris” (Elkin Mathews).  I surmise that one reason for the widely-spread lack of interest in Mr. Crowley’s admirable verse has been the price of it.  Thus “Rosa Mundi,” a quarto pamphlet of seventeen pages, is sold at 16s.  Perhaps I ought to say it is offered.  Happily “Rosa Mundi” is included in “Ambergris,” and a fine poem it is.  Mr. Crowley is one of the principal poets now writing.  Yet if any mandarin had to write an article on our chief living poets he would assuredly not mention Mr. Crowley.  I doubt if he would mention Lord Alfred Douglas, who has, I imagine, produced immortal things.  On the other hand he would not fail to speak at length about Mr. Laurence Binyon, with extracts!  Why are Mandarins thus?

—The New Age, 13 April, 1911.

______________________________

 

     A very casual glance at “Ambergris” will convince any one with understanding eyes that Mr. Crowley is as passionately possessed by his theme as any poet has been.  This must ensure a constant achievement of notable poetry. . . . Mysticism is Mr. Crowley’s theme.  Precisely what species of mysticism he professes, or rather, for all mysticisms are fundamentally the same, into what shape of metaphors and symbols Mr. Crowley has fashioned his mysticism, we do not stop to determine.  Its importance to him is immense; it is the hinge of his whole thought.  To us, its importance is simply that it carries him often into excellent poetry.  The main intellectual passions which move him will be familiar to all who have studied writers tinged or impregnated with mystical and transcendental thought. . . .

     Enough has been said to show that Mr. Crowley’s “Ambergris” is a volume containing notable poetry.

—The Nation, date unknown.

______________________________

 

     You may call the poem “Wedded,” and choose some stanzas:

 

The roses of the world are sad.

The water-lilies pale,

Because my lover takes her lad

Beneath the moonlight veil.

No flower may bloom this happy hour—

Unless my Alice be the flower

 

So silent are the thrush, the lark!

The nightingale’s at rest,

Because my lover loves the dark,

And has me in her breast.

No song this happy night be heard—

Unless my Alice be the bird.

 

The sea that roared around the house

Is fallen from alarms,

Because my lover calls me spouse

And takes me to her arms.

This night no sound of breakers be—

Unless my Alice be the kiss.

 

This night—O never dawn shall crest

The world of wakening,

Because my lover has my breast

On hers for dawn and spring.

This night shall never be withdrawn—

Unless my Alice be the dawn.

 

     This is extracted from “Ambergris, a selection from the poems of Aleister Crowley” (Elkin Mathews)—the most interesting volume of new English verse seen this year.  Crowley was met years ago in “The English Critical Review,” and has occurred here and there since, seeming always extraordinary.  He is extraordinary—in his work, in the fine portrait affixed to his work, and in his preface.

     The little volume of 200 pages, at 3s, 6d, is commended as a pleasure to every amateur of poetry.  One does not remember any verse so plastic as some in the earlier pages of “Ambergris.”  Crowley writes shapes, beautiful shapes, beautiful coloured shapes like chryselephantine statuettes.  All readers of verse know that there is ear-poetry and eye-poetry—poetry that sounds well and looks ill, and poetry that looks well and sound ill.  Crowley makes an unusual appeal both to eye and ear.  His ivory shapes go singing themselves golden tunes.  In particular he has a gift of good beginnings, he attacks admirably.  If form were all!  Crowley fails in emotion:  his verse does not yield that ecstasy that adds the last drop to the brimming vase.  He is always evident, never ineffable.  Nor, although original, is he highly, compellingly original; he does not lead us to unfooted fields of dream; at most he finds a new path in the familiar territory.  Yet to call him “minor” is to do him injustice; he has the voice, though not the great imagination; and his skill with lines and rhymes, words and phrases, is more than craft.  He is not “minor” because he has a pulse and a strong opinion; he does not flutter, he soars.  Soars best when closest earth:  his abstractions are empty:  he needs the living model to inspire his art.  Then with a puff from swollen Eros:

 

One kiss, like snow, to sip,

Cool fragrance from thy lip

To melt on mine;

One kiss, a white-sail ship

To laugh and leap and dip

Her brows divine;

One kiss, a sunbeam faint

With love of a sweet saint,

Stolen like a sacrament

In the night’s shrine!

 

One kiss, like moonlight cold

Lighting with floral gold

The lake’s low tune;

One kiss, one flower to fold,

On its own calyx rolled

At night, in June!

One kiss, like dewfall, drawn

A veil o’er leaf and lawn—

Mix night, and morn, and dawn,

Dew, flower, and moon!

 

     There are many Shakespearian touches in Crowley, and not so many Shakespearian lapses.  If you stress the lapses, he gives a line for maltreating—

 

Smite! but I must sing on.  .  .

What a motto for our Australian bards, ifray!

 

     Accept Crowley or refuse him, he brings his own atmosphere, and captivates you, and finally captures:  there is such a tide of life in him, though it does not rise through the finest poetic brain (nor did Shakespeare’s tide).  And for closing, let the Star-Goddess sing a stanza of Orpheus dead—and risen.

 

For brighter from age unto age

The weary old world shall renew

Its life at the lips of the sage,

It’s love at the lips of the dew.

With kisses and tears

The return of the years

Is sure as the starlight is true.

 

There is one that hath sought me and found me

In the heart of the sand and the snow:

He hath caught me, and held me, and bound me,

In the lands where no flower may grow,

His voice is a spell.

Hath enchanted me well!

I am his, did I will it or no.  .  .  .

—The Evening Post, 17 December 1910.

______________________________

 

     . . . There is life and vigour and reality in it, and a personality sincerely expressed in spite of what appears to be willful eccentricities.
Book-man, date unknown.

______________________________

 

          Ambergris. A Selection of Poems by Aleister Crowley. Elkin Mathews. 3s. 6d. Printed by Strangeways and sons, Great Tower Street, Cambridge Circus, W. C.

     We dont like books of selections, and you cant make a nightingale out of a crow by picking out the least jarring notes.

     The book is nicely bound and printed—as if that were any excuse!  Mr. Crowley, however, must have been surprised to receive a bill of over Six Pounds for “author’s corrections,” as the book was printed from his volume of Collected Works, and the alterations made by his were well within the dozen!

     [Yes; he was surprised; it was his first—and last—experience of these strange ways.—ED.]

     If poets are ever going to make themselves heard, they must find some means of breaking down the tradition that they are the easy dupes of every— [Satis.—ED.]

     Just as a dishonest commercial traveller will sometimes get a job by accepting a low salary, and look for profit to falsifying the accounts of “expenses,” so—— [Here; this will never do.—ED.]

     We have had fine weather recently in Mesopotamia—[I dare say; but Im getting suspicious; stop right here.—ED.]  All right; dont be huffy; good-bye!

The Equinox, Volume 1, Number 4, S. Holmes (Aleister Crowley), September 1910.

______________________________

 

You may call the poem “Wedded,” and choose some stanzas:

The roses of the world are sad,

The water-lilies pale,

Because my lover takes her lad

Beneath the moonlight veil.

No flower may bloom this happy hour—

Unless my Alice be the flower.

 

So silent are the thrush, the lark!

The nightingale’s at rest,

Because my lover loves the dark,

And has me in her breast.

No song this happy be heard—

Unless my Alice be the bird.

 

The sea that roared around the house

Is fallen from alarms,

Because my lover calls me spouse,

And takes me to her arms.

This night no sound of breakers be—

Unless my Alice be the sea.

 

Of man and maid in all the world

Is stilled the swift caress,

Because my lover has me curled

In her own loveliness

No kiss be such a night as this—

Unless my Alice be the kiss.

 

This night—O never dawn shall crest

The world of wakening,

Because my lover has my breast

On hers for dawn and spring.

This night shall never be withdrawn—

Unless my Alice be the dawn.

A Novel Preface.

 

This is extracted from “Ambergris, a selection of poems of Aleister Crowley” (Elkin Mathews)—the most interesting volume of English verse seen this year.  Crowley was met years ago in “The English Critical Review,” and has occurred here and there since, seeming always extraordinary.  He is extraordinary—in his work, in the fine portrait affixed to his work, and in his preface.

"In response to a widely spread lack of interest in my writings I have consented to publish a small and unrepresentative selection of the same.  With characteristic cunning I have not included any poems published later than the third volume of my collected works.  The selection has been made by a committee of seven competent persons, sitting separately.  Only those poems have been included which obtained a majority vote.  This volume, thus almost ostentatiously democratic, is therefore now submitted to the British public with the fullest confidence that it will be received with exactly the same amount of acclamation as that to which I have become accustomed."

 

"A Book of Verse."

 

The little volume of 200 pages, at 3/6, is commended as a pleasure to every amateur of poetry in Australia. If you would have more, the author flaunts his opulence in two pages of final advertisement, where twenty-eight published items are offered in Japanese vellum wrappers, and in green camel's hair wrappers and in blue wrappers and orange wrappers, at £2 2/ each or less—a poetical bargain counter.  Rosa Inferni, for instance, in 8pp. royal 4to and an orange wrapper costs only 16/—or 2/ per page—although a lithograph from a water-color by Rodin is added.  Crowley is a devotee of Rodin, and deserves to be.  One does not remember any verse so plastic as some in the earlier pages of Ambergris.  Crowley writes shapes, beautiful shapes, beautiful colored shapes like chryselephantine statuettes.  All readers of verse know that there is ear-poetry and eye-poetry that sounds well and looks ill, and poetry that looks well and sounds ill.  Crowley makes an unusual appeal both to eye and to ear.  His ivory shapes go singing themselves golden tunes. In particular he has a gift of good beginnings, he attacks admirably:—

 

Rain, rain, in May.  The river sadly flows . . .

 

 

Sing, happy nightingale, sing;

Past is the season of weeping . . .

 

In middle music of Apollo's corn

She stood, the reaper, challenging a kiss . . .

 

She fades as starlight on the stream,

As dewfall in the dell . . .

 

More Than Craft.

 

If form were all; Crowley fails in emotion:  his verse does not yield that ecstasy that adds the last drop to the brimming vase; he is always evident, never ineffable.  Nor although original, is he highly, compellingly original; he does not lead us to unfooted fields of dream; at most he finds a new path in the familiar territory.  Yet to call him "minor" is to do him injustice; he has the voice, though not the great imagination; and his skill with lines and rhymes, words and phrases, is more than craft.  He is not "minor" because he has a pulse and a strong pinion; he does not flutter, he soars.  Soars best when closest earth:  his abstractions are empty; he needs the living model to warm his art.  Then with a puff from swollen Eros:—

 

One kiss, like snow, to sip,

Cool fragrance from thy lip

To melt on mine;

One kiss, a white-sail ship

To laugh and leap and dip

Her brows divine;

One kiss, a sunbeam faint

With love of a sweet saint,

Stolen with a sacrament

In the night’s shrine!

 

One kiss, like moonlight cold

Lighting with floral gold

The lake’s low tune;

One kiss, one flower to fold,

On its own calyx rolled

At night, in June!

One kiss, like dewfall, drawn

A veil o’er leaf and lawn—

Mix night, and morn, and dawn,

Dew, flower, and moon!

Crowley has travelled, and writes harmonious stanzas for Hawaii, for Egypt, even for Hong Kong.  Perhaps after Verhaeren (for we catch an echo here and there) he cries:—

 

To sea!  Before us leap the waves;

The wild white combers follow.

Invoke, ye melancholy slaves,

The morning of Apollo! . . .

 

The ship is trim; to sea! to sea!

Take life in either hand,

Crush out its wine for you and me.

And drink, and understand!

 

Or.

 

The spears of the night at her onset

Are lords of the day for a while,

The magical green of the sunset,

The magical blue of the Nile.

Afloat are the gales

In our slumberous sails

On the beautiful breast of the Nile.

 

Exulting Vitality.

 

A little precious, Crowley must not be deemed to pose, despite his preface:  often it is the excess of exulting vitality that is called a pose by timid little people.  Admit, though, that this excess here and there arouses the comic spirit, as when the poet reviles his Muse in face of his Lady:—

 

Ye unavailaing eagle-flights of song!

Of wife! these do thee wrong.

 

Thou knowest how I was blind;

How for mere minutes they pure presence

Was nought; was ill defined;

A smudge across my mind,

Drivelling in its brutal essence,

Hog-wallowing in poetry,

Incapable of thee.

 

Yet, a few lines below:

 

O thou! didst thou regret?

Wast thou asleep as I?

Didst thou not love me yet

For, know!  The moon is not the moon until

She hath the knowledge to fulfil

Her music, till she know herself the moon.

 

There are many Shakespearian touches in Crowley, and not so many Shakespearian lapses. If you stress the lapses, he gives a line for maltreating—

 

Smite! but I must sing on. . .

 

What a motto for Australian bards, Ifray!

Accept Crowley or refuse him, he brings his own atmosphere, and captivates you, and finally captures: there is such a tide of life in him, though it does not rise through the finest poetic brain (nor did Shakespeare’s tide). And for closing, let the Star-Goddess sing a stanza of Orpheus dead—and risen.

 

For brighter from age unto age

The weary old world shall renew

Its life at the lips of the sage,

Its love at the lips of the dew.

With kisses and tears

The return of the years

Is sure as the starlight is true.

 

There is one that hath sought me and found me

In the heart of the sand and the snow:

He hath caught me, and held me, and bound me,

In the lands where no flower may grow,

His voice is a spell.

Hath enchanted me well!

I am his, did I will it or no. . .

Daily Herald, 10 December 1910.

 

 
       
   

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