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SONGS OF THE SPIRIT


 

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Title:

Songs of the Spirit.

 

 

Upper Cover: State (b)

 

Lower Cover: State (b)

 

Spine: State (b)

 

Turned-In Cover Detail: State (b)

 

Title Page: State (b)

 

Limitation Page: State (b)

 

Upper Cover: State (c)

 

Lower Cover: State (c)

 

Spine: State (c)

 

Interior Cover: State (c)

 

Title Page: State (c)

 

Chiswick Press: States (a) and (b)

 

Print
Variations:

State (a):

1 copy printed on vellum.1
 

This copy currently resides in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, (Call No. PR 6005 S6 1898 - Copy 1). 

Bound  by Zaehnsdorf in 1898 in panelled red morocco leather.4
‘BOUND BY ZAEHNSDORF’ stamped at bottom of inside upper cover.5

Upper and Lower covers have a double frame stamped in gilt.5
Spine with five raised bands stamped in gilt |
[rule] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [single frame stamped within SONGS | OF | THE SPIRIT | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [single frame stamped within ‘CROWLEY’ | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] |  [double frame] | [single frame stamped within ‘1898’ |5

Interior has doublure-border with dentelles stamped in gilt surrounding a panel of beige silk which faces a half-lining of the same material.5
Double lines stamped in gilt on all outside edges of upper and lower covers.  A series of short double lines stamped in gilt in a semi-circle along the top and bottom of spine, following the curvature of the spine.5

Top edges gilt.2

6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

State (b):

50 copies printed on hand-made paper.1
Pages are uncut.
2
Bound in white turned-in wrappers of Japanese vellum.
1
Upper cover lettered in gilt
SONGS OF THE SPIRIT’.3 
Copies are signed and numbered.  (Carelessly done or not done at all)
1
6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

______________________________

 

Three of these copies currently reside in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, (Call No. PR 6005 R7 T33 - Copies 2, 3 & 4). 

 

Copy #2 of 50 was rebound  by Zaehnsdorf in 1898 in panelled blue morocco leather.4
‘BOUND BY ZAEHNSDORF’ stamped at bottom of inside upper cover.5

Upper cover stamped in blind SONGS OF THE SPIRIT’.5

Upper and Lower covers have a double frame stamped in gilt.5
Spine with five raised bands stamped in gilt |
[rule] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [single frame stamped within SONGS | OF | THE SPIRIT | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [single frame stamped within ‘CROWLEY’ | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] | [double frame] | [raised band with a series of dots horizontally through the center] |  [double frame] | [single frame stamped within ‘1898’ |5
Interior has doublure-border with dentelles stamped in gilt surrounding a panel of beige watered silk which faces a half-lining of the same material.5 

Double lines stamped in gilt on all outside edges of upper and lower covers.  A series of short double lines stamped in gilt in a semi-circle along the top and bottom of spine, following the curvature of the spine.5

Top edges cut and gilt.3

6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

  

Copy #4 of 50 was rebound in limp vellum with original wrapper bound in.4

Green silk ties.5

Top edges cut and gilt.5

Spine stamped in gilt horizontally across spine ‘SONGS | OF THE | SPIRIT | ALEISTER | CROWLEY’5

6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

 

Copy #8 of 50 is in its original binding, per above State (b).4

6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

State (c):

300 copies printed on machine-made paper.1
All edges untrimmed.
Bound in gray cloth boards.1
Upper cover stamped in red ‘SONGS OF THE SPIRIT’3
Spine stamped horizontally across spine in red ‘SONGS | OF THE | SPIRIT | [rule] | ALEISTER | CROWLEY | 1898’.3 

6 3/8” x 3 7/8”.2

 
Publisher: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.1  
Printer: Chiswick Press, Charles Whittingham and Co., Tooks Court, Chancery Lane, London.1  
Published At: London.1  
Date: 1898.1  Dr. Richard Kaczynski places the publication date as December 1898.6, 9  
Edition: 1st Edition.  
Pages: x + 110 for States (a) and (b).5  x + 109 for State (c).5  

Price:

Copies printed on machine-made paper were priced at three shillings, sixpence.1  Copies were later sold for seven shillings, sixpence.8

Copies printed on hand-made paper sold for seven shillings, sixpence.9

 
Remarks:

Dedicated to Julian L. Baker.1
Title page printed in red and black.1

Crowley was disappointed with Kegan Paul's management of his book sales and closed his account with them in May of 1904.  Between 1902 and 1904, Kegan Paul had not managed to sell even one copy of Songs of the Spirit.7

 

Pagination:

Applies to States (a) and (c)2

Page(s)  
[  i] Half-title
[  ii] Quotation from “The Tale of Archais”
iii] Title-page
[  iv] Biblical quotation
[v - vii] Dedication
[  viii] Blank
[ix - x] Contents
[  1] Fly-title
[3 - 109] Text
[110] Chiswick Press colophon
 

Pagination:

Applies to State (b)5

 

Page(s)  
  Blank
  Limitation page ‘Fifty copies only printed of this Edition on handmade paper, all of which are numbered and signed.’
[  i] Half-title
[  ii] Quotation from “The Tale of Archais”
iii] Title-page
[  iv] Biblical quotation
[v - vii] Dedication
[  viii] Blank
[ix - x] Contents
[  1] Fly-title
[3 - 109] Text
[110] Chiswick Press colophon
 
Contents:

- In Memorium A.J.B.; Amsterdam, December 23rd, 1897
- The Quest
- The Alchemist
- Sonnets to Night
- The Philosopher’s Progress
- Sonnet
- An Ill Dream
- The Student
- The Priest Speaks
- Passover
- The Violet’s Love-Story
- The Farewell of Paracelcus to Aprile
- A Spring Snowstorm in Wastdale
- In Neville’s Court, Trinity College, Cambridge
- Succubus
- A Rondel
- Nightfall
- The Initiation
- Isiah. A Sonnet
- The Storm
- Wheat and Wine
- A Rondel
- The Visions of the Ordeal
- Power
- Vespers
- By the Cam
- Astrology
- Daedulus
- Epilogue

 

Author’s
Working
Versions:

1.

Bound holograph manuscript with revisions in the hand of Aleister Crowley.  Pages:  88.  Dated:  1898.  Box 9, Folder 4.  Harry Ransom  Center, Austin, TX.

 

Other
Known
Editions:

+

Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness, 1905.

+

The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Vol. I, page 29, Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness, 1905.  NOTE:  This version omits two items, “The Student” and “Passover.”

+ Gordon Press, New York, 1974.
+ Mandrake Press, England, 1992.
 
Bibliographic
Sources:
1.

L. C. R. Duncombe-Jewell, Notes Towards An Outline of A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose and Verse of Aleister Crowley, The Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume III, Appendix A, Gordon Press, New York, 1974, p. 234.  

2.

Dianne Frances Rivers, 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. 7.     

3. Ibid., p. 8.
4. University of Texas, Austin, Texas.  Library catalog entry for call number PR 6005 S6 1898 - Copies 1, 2, 3 & 4.  
5. Personal observation of the item.
6. Richard Kaczynski, Ph.D., Perdurabo:  The Life of Aleister Crowley, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2010, p. 582, note 15.
7. Ibid., p. 131.
8. Aleister Crowley, Konx Om Pax, Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth / Walter Scott Publishing Co., Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness / London, 1907, Walter Scott publishing catalog (bound in back of book), p. 1.
9. The English Catalogue of Books, 1898-1900, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London, 1901, p. 157.
 

Comments by
Aleister
Crowley:

     Again, I wrote a poem on the death of my Aunt Ada, which I thought good enough to include in my Songs of the Spirit, and is entirely irreproachable on the score of piety. It seems as if I possessed a theology of my own which was, to all intents and purposes, Christianity. My satanism did not interfere with it at all; I was trying to take the view that the Christianity of hypocrisy and cruelty was not true Christianity. I did not hate God or Christ, but merely the God and Christ of the people whom I hated. It was only when the development of my logical faculties supplied the demonstration that I was compelled to set myself in opposition to the Bible itself. It does not matter that the literature is sometimes magnificent and that in isolated passages the philosophy and ethics are admirable. The sum of the matter is that Judaism is a savage, and Christianity a fiendish, superstition.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 73.

______________________________


     A certain amount of conscious aspiration is, however, evident in Songs of the Spirit. This book is a collection of lyrics which reveal an ill-defined longing for spiritual attainment. The background is vividly coloured by observation and experience. The atmosphere of the old streets of Amsterdam, of the colleges of Cambridge and of the mountains, lakes, forests and rivers, among which I wandered solitary, is evident in every stanza. The influence of my reading is almost negligible. The “wish-phantasm” of the book is principally that of a wise and holy man living in a lonely tower, master of the secrets of nature. I had little conscious aspiration to that ideal. In practice, I was living for pleasure.
     The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 138.

______________________________


     My poetry at this time is charged to the highest point with these aspirations. I may mention the dedication to Songs of the Spirit, “The Quest”, “The Alchemist”, “The Philosopher’s Progress”, “A Spring Snowstorm in Wastdale”, “Succubus”, “Nightfall”, “The Storm”, “Wheat and Wine”, “Vespers”, “Astrology” and “Daedalus”. In “the Farewell of Paracelsus to Aprile”, “The Initiation”, “Isaiah” and “Power”, I have expressed my ideas about the ordeals which might be expected on the Path. All these poems were published in 1898. In later volumes, Mysteries Lyrical and Dramatic, The Fatal Force, The Temple of the Holy Ghost and Tannhäuser, these ideas are carried further in the light of my practical experience of the Path.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 146-147.

 
Reviews:

     By a young author, as we guess, musical and mystical, full of too vivid reminiscences of Swinburne, with sweeter inspirations of Hood, the “Songs of the Spirit,” by Aleister Crowley (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co.) disclose much grace in thought and in versification.  They give hope that whenever he has learnt a message fully worth delivering the author will speak it with beauty and effect.  The prettiest and most intelligible of the collection of artistic little poems is, perhaps, “The Violet’s Love-story.”

Jewish Chronicle, 30 December 1898.

______________________________

 

     We imagine Mr. Aleister Crowley, author of Songs of the Spirit (Kegan Paul), to be a young man; evidently he is just passing through the Swinburnian epoch.  His verse is full of the influence of “Poems and Ballads”; it contains a riot of words without much thought at the back of them.  We seem, for example, to have heard this sort of thing a good many times before:—

 

     The garland I made in my sorrow

          Was woven of infinite peace;

     The joy that was white on the morrow

          Made music of viols at ease.

     The thoughts of the Highest would borrow

               The roar of the seas.

 

     And yet, despite a good deal of bombast about “lust being one with love,” and the like, Mr. Crowley has many poetical qualities and a great deal of promise.  His muse is windy, and boyish in over-emphasis, but he has a true sense of musical sound, and metrically, he has scarcely a bad line.  He should mature and live to write very respectable verse.  We doubt if he will ever be original; but in the middle way of discipleship he ought to do well enough.

Literature, 6 May 1899.

______________________________

 

     In the epilogue to his “Songs of the Spirit,” Mr. Crowley tells us that

 

     The garland I made in my sorrow

        Was woven of infinite peace,

 

and he prays that “for an hour Let my rhyme be not wholly unsweet.”  Nor shall it be, seeing how rich and melodious are many of his poems, besides being full of powerful and original thought.  Their tendency is that of the occult philosophy, of a wild and lurid colouring enough it may be, but in no instance devoid of the marks of a true poetic imagination.

The Bookseller, 3 February 1899.

______________________________

 

     This modest little volume contains many beautiful thoughts expressed in delicate phrases: daring verses too, which cannot lightly be overlooked.  “The Farewell of Paracelcus to Aprile,” “The Initiation,” “The Philosopher’s Progress,” are finely-wrought images from Mr. Crowley’s vivid mind.  Little lyrics of sunshine and wind; “Vespers,” with its chant-like march:

 

          The censer swings to slower time,

               The darkness falleth deep;

          My eyes, so solemn and sublime,

               Relent, and close, and weep:

          And on the silence, like a chime,

               I heard the wings of Sleep.

 

“The Quest” is another poem to ponder over, and to understand with difficulty:

 

          Now backwards, inwards still my mind

          Must track the intangible and blind,

          And seeking, shall securely find

               Hidden in secret places

          Fresh feasts for every soul that strives,

          New life for many mystic lives,

               And strange new forms and faces.

 

Each page is impressed with the stamp of an individual mind.  Facing the title-page is a verse from The Tale of Archais.

The Oxford Magazine, 29 November 1899.

______________________________

 

     We shall be sorry if anyone who cares much for verse in itself, who is curious of new tendencies in contemporary poetry, and values the articulate expression of an individuality, should miss a little book of unusual quality, called “Songs of the Spirit,” by Aleister Crowley (Kegan Paul and Co., 8vo., pp. 109, 3s. 6d.).  We have read it with admiration for its intense spirituality, as well as for its technical superiorities, and with sympathy for its spontaneous reflection of certain moods—byways of poetry, no doubt, that Mr. Crowley pursues almost without variation except in the movement of his rhythms, now swift as desire and now slow as remorse, with an utterance at once mysterious and vivid.  Visions of temptation and of beatitude, wavering aspirations to serenity and knowledge, hymns and rhapsodies of a devout mysticity, emotional descriptions illustrating that saying of Amiel’s, ‘Les paysages sont des états d’éme’—such are the contents of this volume, in which we are sure of having heard an impressive and an original voice dominating diverse echoes that we hesitate whether to ascribe to literary influences or to coincidence of temperament.  For there are things that suggest the names of Goethe and of Baudelaire; others such as “The Quest” and that strange “Philosopher’s Progress” which begins

 

That which is highest as the deep

Is fixed, the depth as that above;

Death’s face is as the face of Sleep;

And Lust is likest Lust,

 

share at least Blake’s impenetrable simplicity of form, and their symbolism is, like his, curiously seductive, even where it sems turned to obscurantism; elsewhere Mr. Swinburne is (if only superficially) recalled; and “Vespers” is by no means unworthy of Rosetti.  Similar preoccupations, again, direct the muse of Mr. Francis Thompson; but the verse of “Songs of the Spirit”—essentially intimate , introspective if you like—is also free from obvious artifice and eccentricity, it is fiery and clear-measured and easy of phrasing.  We venture to quote from a poem dated “Amsterdam” some lines exemplifying Mr. Crowley’s talent:

 

Let me pass out beyond the city gate,

Where I may wander by the water still,

And see the faint few stars immaculate

Watch their own beauty in its depth, and chill

Their own desire within its icy stream.

Let me move on with vacant eyes, as one

Lost in the labyrinth of some ill dream,

Move and move on, and never see the sun

Lap all the mist with orange and red gold,

Throw some lank windmill into iron shade,

And stir the chill canal with manifold

Lays of clear morning; never grow afraid

When he dips down beyond the far flat land,

Know never more the day and night apart,

Know not where frost has laid his iron hand,

Save only that it fastens on my heart;

Save only that it grips with icy fire

These veins no fire of hell could satiate;

Save only that it quenches this desire.

Let me pass out beyond the city gate.

 

We should like to give other examples, but we can only name some of those pieces that seem to us most remarkable.  Such are “An Ill Dream,” of which the glowing imagery seizes and holds fast the vagueness of shifting impressions; a “Farewell of Paracelsus to Aprile,” containing some fine lyric flights; “The Initiation,” and “Succubus,” a record of fearful obsessions in a metre which, in spite of a few unaccountable lapses, we think extremely effective.

—The Manchester Guardian, date unknown.

______________________________


     “Songs of the Spirit,” by Aleister Crowley, ascend, as the motto on the title-page—“Sublimi feriam sidera vertice”—indicates, to higher regions, which seem peopled with an unusual number of gory phantoms.  They are difficult to read, and where they touch definite things more sensual than sensuous.  A poet’s dreams are not often so persistently full of “miasmal pestilence-light” as these.  We do not like “dawny” and “frondage,” and cannot say these verses deserve to be read—sung they could hardly be.
—The Athenaeum, date unknown.

______________________________


     Ambitious verse, which, if we are right in supposing it to be the work of youth, enables us to predict excellent work from Mr. Crowley when his philosophy of life has been matured.
—The Church Times, date unknown.

______________________________

 

     Though we cannot identify ourselves with the sentiments expressed in its pages, we must acknowledge that the poems show very considerable literary merit.
—The Granta, date unknown.

______________________________


     Mr. Crowley (who should drop the dreadful fore-name with which he has been afflicted) sings almost melodiously, if not always intelligibly and sometimes nonsensically.  There is too much of the cant of a contest between earthly and heavenly love in his pages.  Why any such contest?  Cannot the rose and the lily bloom side by side?  A book of wandering cries such as this we cannot regard as of much significance.  But we may hope that the author’s indubitable singing power may gain an assured note with his further development.  We would advise him to be less introspective and subjective and more objective and dramatic, to seek less to express directly his own thoughts than to present man and world in the light of his thoughts.  This Spenserian stanza is not unworthy of the author of “Adonais”:

 

So I press on, fresh strength from day to day

Girds up my loins and beckons me on high,

So I depart upon the desert way,

So I strive ever toward the copper sky,

With lips burnt black and blind in either eye.

I move for ever to my mystic goal,

Where I may drain a fountain never dry,

And of Life’s guerdon gather in the whole,

And on celestial manna satisfy my soul.

—The Literary Gazette, date unknown.

______________________________

 

 We have received for review a little book of poems entitled “Songs of the Spirit,” by Aleister Crowley, whose initials “A. C.” are not unknown to readers of “The Cantab” and “The Grants.”  Though we cannot identify ourselves with the sentiments expressed in its pages, we must acknowledge that the poems show very considerable literary merit.  Here is a description of the Cam:

 

The corpse-lit river, whose dank vapours teem

Heavy and horrible, a deadly steam

Of murder’s black intolerable might.

 

—The Cantab, date unknown.

______________________________

 

Mr. Aleister Crowley has merits as well as faults, although the latter are the more patent.  He lacks a sense of humour, but on the other hand he has a high seriousness, which is full of promise, even if it be a trifle ludicrous and monotonous.

—The J. C. R., date unknown.

______________________________

 

“Songs of the Spirit” proves that Mr. Aleister Crowley has read his Swinburne.

 

Like snows on the mountain, unlifted

By weather or wind as it blows,

In hollows the heaps of it drifted,

The splendour of fathomless snows;

So measure and meaning are shifted

To fashion a rose.

 

Mr. Crowley has a large vocabulary and considerable metrical skill.  At present he does not seem careful to consider the meaning, and some of his pieces are nearly akin to verbiage.  He has imagination, however; and, not infrequently, the poet’s touch.

—The St. James’s Gazette, 2 March 1899.

______________________________

 

A volume of very unequal verse.  There are exquisite stanzas here and there, and as a whole, the book is above average, but there are many poor pieces and many faults.

—The Bookman, date unknown.

______________________________

 

Mr. Aleister Crowley (“Songs of the Spirit”) has a remarkable mastery of form:

 

Like snows on the mountain, unlifted

By weather or wind as it blows,

In hollows the heaps of it drifted,

The splendour of fathomless snows;

So measure and meaning are shifted

To fashion a rose.

 

It is the very sound of Mr. Swinburne; and the whole book is full of it.  But Mr. Crowley seems to have it by nature; his style would have been as it is supposing Mr. Swinburne had never written; at any rate, that is suggested by the ease and fluency of the measure.

—Mr. John Davidson in The Speaker, date unknown.

 

 
       
   

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