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THE SOUL OF OSIRIS


 

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Title:

The Soul of Osiris.  A History.

   

Upper Cover: State (a)

 

Lower Cover: State (a)

 

Spine: State (a)

 

Interior Cover: State (a)

 

Title Page: State (a)

 

Upper Cover: State (b)

 

Lower Cover: State (b)

 

Cover/Spine: State (b)

 

Interior Cover: State (b)

 

Spine: State (b)

 

Title Page: State (b)

 

Chiswick Press:  All States

 

 

Print
Variations
:

State (a):

6 copies printed on India paper.1
Bound in quarter linen with brick red boards.1
Spine has a paper label that reads ‘CROWLEY | THE | SOUL | OF | OSIRIS | KEGAN PAUL, | TRENCH, | TRÜBNER & | CO. LTD.’3

The thin India paper used in State (a) provided for a very thin binding which resulted in the lettering on the paper label applied to the spine to overlap the upper and lower covers.3

9” x 5 5/8”.2

State (b):

500 copies printed on machine-made paper.1
Bound in quarter linen with brick red boards.1
Spine has a paper label that reads ‘CROWLEY | THE | SOUL | OF | OSIRIS | KEGAN PAUL, | TRENCH, | TRÜBNER & | CO. LTD.’3

9” x 5 5/8”.2

 
Publisher: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.1  
Printer: Chiswick Pres:  Charles Whittingham and Co., Tooks Court, Chancery Lane, London.1  
Published At: London.1  
Date: 1901.1  Dr. Richard Kaczynski places the publication date as March 7, 1901.4  
Edition: 1st Edition.  
Pages: x + 132.2  
Price: Priced at five shillings.1  
Remarks:

The Soul of Osiris is the second half of The Mother's Tragedy which was so long that Kegan Paul suggested splitting it into two separate books.4

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 only managed to sell seven copies of The Soul of Osiris.5

Crowley had the original holograph manuscript for The Soul of Osiris bound in crushed levant morocco by Zaehnsdorf with a half morocco slip case.6

 
Pagination:2
Page(s)  
[   i] Half-title
[   ii] Blank
[   iii] Title-page
[   iv] Imprint ‘CHISWICK PRESS:  CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. | TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.’
[v-vi] Contents
[vii-ix] Prologue
[   x] Blank
[   1] Divisional title ‘THE COURT OF THE PROFANE.’
[3-49] Text
[   50] Blank
[   51] Divisional title ‘THE GATE OF THE SANCTUARY.’
[   52] Blank
[53-81] Text
[   82] Blank
[   83] Divisional title ‘THE HOLY PLACE.’
[   84] Blank
[85-100] Test
[  101] Divisional title ‘THE HOLY OF HOLIES.’
[  102] Blank
[103-129] Text
[  130] Blank
[  131] Divisional title ‘THE EPILOGUE IS | SILENCE.’
[  132] Colophon ‘CHISWICK PRESS: CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. | TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.’
 
Contents:

- Prologue:  

- Fame

- The Altar of Artemis

- To Richard Wagner

- “The Two Emotions”

- Asmodel

- “The Sonnet”

- Jezebel

- Wedlock

- Love at Peace

- Lot

- Sonnet for Gerald Kelley’s Jezebel

- The May Queen

- A Saint’s Damnation

- “Many Water Cannot Quench Love”

- Love, Melancholy, Despair

- “The Two Minds”

- The Nameless Quest

- “A Religious Bringing-Up”

- “The Law of Change”

- Synthesis

- The Neophyte

- The Name

- Cerberus

- The Evocation

- “The Rose and the Cross”

- Happiness

- The Palace of the World

- The Mountain Christ

- To Allan Macgregor

- The Rosicrucian

- The Athanor

- The Chant to be said or Sung unto our Lady Isis

- A Litany
 

Author’s
Working
Versions:

   

Other
Known
Editions:

+

Gordon Press, New York, 1974.

+

Mandrake Press, London, 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. 235.  

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, pp. 18-19.     

3. Personal observation of the item.
4. Richard Kaczynski, Ph.D., Perdurabo:  The Life of Aleister Crowley, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2010, p. 89.
5. Ibid., p. 131.
6. Ibid., p. 280.
 

Comments by
Aleister
Crowley:

     However, my surface reaction was to shake the dust of Colombo from my feet and to spend my two days in Kandy in writing Why Jesus Wept.
     The title is a direct allusion to the ladies in question. I prefaced the play with five dedications to (1) Christ, (2) Lady Scott, (3) my friends (Jinawaravasa, whom I had met once more in Galle, and myself), (4) my unborn child, and (5) Mr. G. K. Chesterton. (He had written a long congratulatory criticism of my The Soul of Osiris.)
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 384-385.

 
Reviews:

     Mr. Crowley is a disciple of Swinburne, Rossetti and Symons—especially Symons.  The burden of his song is “desire.”  He appears to be one of those anæmic creatures who find an embrace unsatisfactory unless accompanied by bites.  “All my limbs were bloody with your mouth.”  This may be mayhem, but is it poetry?  This occurs in “The Gate of the Sanctuary” and “The Holy Place” to “The Holy of Holies,” we shall, of course, escape this sort of thing.  Shall we?  Not if the author knows himself.  For even here we have “libertine touches of small fingers,” and a “beloved mouth that beats and bleeds.”  Beyond this “Holy of Holies” comes an epilogue; and this is all there is of it:  “The epilogue is SILENCE.”  Paresis, more likely!

—The Critic, September 1901.

______________________________
  

     Many swallows do not make a nightingale; but weather for swallows is weather for nightingales.  So, when minor poets are in season, we may hope an occasional major one.  (We use the term “minor poet” in the sense given it by modern journalism, though with protest that the title borne by Crashaw, Vaughan, Collins and Gray should be put to such unworthy use.)  Nor is the minor poet without his own value.  We have heard of Single-speech Hamilton—who made several speeches.  But the minor poet often does flower capriciously in one or more poems unforgettable, or which deserve not to be forgotten:  Wolfe’s “Burial of Moore” is the best-known example.  Unfortunately, he usually lives on that success, writing reams of unnoticeable poems on the strength of it.  One would like a legal enactment for muzzling all such poets once they had fulfilled their natural function.  But it is impossible to resist the plea that they might do it again; though you know they will not, any more than a man can regain the pleasant climax of intoxication by persevering drinks.  Their repeated indulgence in “blushful Hippocrene” has mush the same steadily deteriorating effect.  But, though long experience plentifully chastens any over-sanguine expectation, we always approach a fresh “catch” of minor verse with the hope that it may contain at least one specimen of fortuitous and fortunate perfection.

     We can hardly say that such hope is fulfilled by the array of volumes before us.  Yet we are far from disappointment.  For at least one writer shows a promise, in certain qualities, above any recent poets we have seen.  Mr. Crowley, in his Soul of Osiris, has what hardly any of them have—a forceful, if narrow inspiration, both in respect of imagination and emotional power.  It is forceful rather than forcible, influent rather than affluent; not broad and opulent, but straight and intense.  It is a geyser rather than an ample and irresistible river.  For he is, alas! often tense instead of intense, and always more or less troubled by violence; but it is, on the whole, not the violence of weakness, but of somewhat anarchic strength.  There is no necessity that this Nazarene should be shorn, but he would be the better for having his hair combed.  For (dropping all metaphor), apart from his violences, Mr. Crowley has defective technique.  Strange as it appears in one with such evident force and glow, it would seem as if “the sweet trouble” of the poet were too often a burden of spirit to him and the bands of rhyme too strong for him.  Those flowery shackles clearly cut into the flesh of his expression in more than one place.  Thus—

 

          A mystic mortal and a maid,

          Filled with all things to fill the same,

 

shows an awkwardness of diction which can only be explained by the supposition that he found it uneasy to fill up the rhyme to “name” and “flame.”  Another instance of poor technique follows directly after:

 

          To overflow the shores of God,

          Mingling our proper period.

 

     Few will discern at first sight that the sense of the last line is—“Confusing our natural limits.”  The obscurity is caused by the ungrammatical use of “mingling” with a singular noun.  We do, indeed, say “he has mixed the idea,” or, “he has mixed the whole business.”  But these are sufficiently loose colloquialisms, and should have no place in literature.  Moreover, in the second case, “business” is regarded as a collective noun.  “Period” here is not.  We might point, also, had we space, to cases of grammatical ambiguity, which would be easily neglected in an easy poem, but in abstruse poetry (like Mr. Crowley’s) are swiftly resented by the strained attention.  And the reader does well to be angry.  A broken round in the ladder makes small odds when we are mounting the garden wall:  it is quite another thing in the rope ladder whereby we are scaling a precipice.  The harder the theme the more severely should a poet close up every rivet in the expression.  But from this same poem (“Asmodel”) may be quoted stanzas showing Mr. Crowley at his best.  It describes a dream-woman, the woman of his “star”:

 

          Only to me looks out for ever

             From her cold eyes a fire like death;

          Only to me her breasts can never

             Lose the red brand that quickeneth;

          Only to me her eyelids sever

             And lips respire her equal breath;

          Still in the unknown star I see

          The very god that is of me.

 

          The day’s pale countenance is lifted,

             The rude sun’s forehead he uncovers;

          No soft delicious clouds have drifted,

             No wing of midnight’s bird that hovers;

          Yet still the hard blind blue is rifted,

             And still my star and I as lovers

          Yearn to each other through the sky

          With eyes held closed in ecstasy.

 

     But the poem, like all the poems, must be read entire to appreciate it.  It will be obvious, even from this specimen, that they are mystical and therefore difficult.  Strength and emotional intensity are what distinguish Mr. Crowley from a score of others with far greater gift of technique.  They are what excuse—and cause—much that needs excuse.  They are what should bring him to a prominent place among later poets, when he has learned to possess instead of being possessed by them, and to master technique, instead of suffering his inspiration violently to break open the gates of speech.

—The Academy, 15 June 1901.

______________________________
  

     Verses similar to these have been often written before, but have not the words, simple as they are, the ring of genuine poetry?

     Religious poetry is not always poetic.  This cannot, however, be said with regard to the volume of verse entitle The Soul of Osiris, by Aleister Crowley.  There is much in the volume which will excite admiration, and much that will perplex and irritate the unintiated reader.  The poet is, indeed, a mystic, and veils a morbidly exaggerated Catholicism under an ultra-Egyptian passion for death.  Take as an example of the sickly mysticism of these poems the following:

 

               “I stood within Death’s gate,

                   And blew the horn of Hell;

               Mad laughter echoing against fate,

                   Harsh groans less terrible,

     Howled from beneath the vault; in night the avenging thunders swell’d.”

 

     This is the opening of a poem called “Cerebus.”

 

                “Nature is one with my distress,

                   The flowers are dull, the stars are pale,

               I am the Son of Nothingness.

                   I cannot lift the golden veil.

               O Mother Isis, let thine eyes

                   Behold my grief, and sympathise!”

 

     There is a lack of virility in poetry of this sort, but it cannot be denied that Aleister Crowley is a true poet—a poet of the school of Baudelaire and Poe.

The Westminster Review, October 1904.

______________________________
 

This is one way into Dreamland.  Aleister Crowley, in “The Soul of Osiris” (London:  Kegan Paul), reveals what seems to him an even more excellent way.  He calls his volume with its four books “a History”—the history, evidently, of a very modern spirit as it has passed from the rule of the bodily senses and Baudelaire to the most exalted moods of mysticism.  “Man’s approach to God is regulated by the strictest laws, and follows a true mathematical curve”—these words from Mr. Thorold Roger’s Introduction to the ‘Dialogue of St, Catherine’ might well serve as a motto for “The Soul of Osiris;” and the rationale of the transformation might be summed up in these other words of Mr. Rodgers:

The desire for ecstasy is at the very root and heart of our nature.  Human life is informed at every stage by this desire for ecstasy, of self-escape into something higher.  Mysticism alone affords to those favored beings who are competent in brain and will for its ardors a true and lasting realization of this desire.  Neither the sensual nor the sentimental life can do so, for nature or society constantly throws us by illnesses or laws on the hither or farther side of its perfect realization.

“The Soul of Osiris” begins with a prologue, “Obsession,” addressed to Charles Baudelaire.  Book I., “The Court of the Profane,” is given over to more or less symbolic portrayal of a life of surrender to the senses.  Book II., “The Gateway of the Sanctuary,” portrays the struggle between the senses and the spirit.  Book III., “The Holy Place,” describes the soul’s earliest moments of triumph.  Book IV., “The Holy of Holies,” is the imaginative record of typical phases of mystical ecstasy.  The depth and volume and the passionate intensity of the feeling in many of these poems are unmistakable, as are also the frequent richness and visionary splendor of the imagery and the aptness and transfiguring of the rhythms.  But equally clear is the fact that the usual faults of the mystical imagination are already hurting the poet’s work.  We all know what happened to the transcendently beautiful lyrical genius of Blake.  Aleister Crowley should keep a copy of the “Prophetic Books” next to the whipcord scourge in his anchorites cell.  Already the world he bodies forth in his verse is too often merely a clotted mass of willful emotional symbols.

That this need not be so, such stanzas as the following from “Jezebel” prove beyond cavil:

 

“A lion’s mane, a leopard’s skin

Across my dusty shoulders thrown:

A swart, fierce face, with eyes where sin

Lurks like a serpent by a stone.

A man driven forth by lust to seek

Rest from himself on Carmel’s peak.

 

“A prophet with wild hair behind,

Streaming in fiery clusters!  Yea,

Tangled with vehemence of the wind,

And knotted with the tears that slay;

And all my face parched up and dried,

And all my body crucified.

 

“Ofttimes the Spirit of the Lord

Descends and roods me with his breath

My words are fashioned as a sword,

My voice is like the voice of death.

The thunder of the Spirit’s wings

Brings terror to the hearts of kings.”

 

This is plastic enough, and so is the entire long narrative poem of which it is a part—plastic and immensely dramatic.  Other poems show the same qualities.  Of the mystical ardor that finds often beautiful are often wearisomely vague and wordy expression in the later poems, the following stanzas may stand as representative:

 

“O guardian of the pallid hours of night!

O tireless watcher of the smitten noon!

O sworded with the majesty of light.

O girded with the glory of the moon!

Angel of absolute splendor!  Link of mine

Old weary spirit with the All-Divine!

 

“Ship that shalt carry me by many winds

Driven on the limitless ocean!  Mighty sword

By which I force that barrier of the mind’s

Miscomprehension of its own true lord!

Listen and answer, and behold my brow

Fiery with hope!  Bend down and touch it now!

 

“Press the twin dawn of thy desirous lips

In the swart masses of my hair:  bent close

And shroud all earth in masterless eclipse,

While my heart’s murmur through the being flows,

To carry up the prayer, as incense teems

Skyward, to those immeasurable streams!”

 

No one who reads such poems as these, and in addition the strangely visionary “Nameless Quest,” the sonnet to Allan MacGregor” and “The Rosicrucian,” can doubt that this poet is authentic and will reveal to the world much new beauty.

 Deseret Evening News, 26 October 1901.

______________________________
 

     Mr. G. K. Chesterton also writes a column anda quarter in praise of this book in the Daily News;  we quote the following:
     To the side of a mind concerned with idle merriment [sic!] there is certainly something a little funny in Mr. Crowley’s passionate devotion to deities who bear such names as Mout, and Nuit, and Ra, and Shu, and Hormakhou.  They do not seem to the English mind to lend themselves to pious exhilaration.  Mr. Crowley says in the same poem:

     The burden is too hard to bear;
     I took too adamant a cross ;
     This sackcloth rends my soul to wear,
     My self-denial is as dross.
     O, Shu, that holdest up the sky,
     Hold up thy servant, lest he die !

     We have all possible respect for Mr. Crowley’s religious symbols and we do not object to his calling upon Shu at any hour of the night.  Only it would be unreasonable of him to complain if his religious exercises were generally mistaken for an effort to drive away cats.
     Moreover, the poets of Mr. Crowley’s school have, among all their merits, some genuine intellectual dangers from this tendency to import religious, this free-trade in Gods.  That all creeds are significant and all Gods divine we willingly agree.  But this is rather a reason for being content with our own than for attempting to steal other people’s.  The affectation in many modern mystics of adopting an Oriental civilization and mode of thought must cause much harmless merriment among actual Orientals.  The notion that a turban and a few vows will make an Englishman a Hindu is quite on a par with the idea that a black hat and an Oxford degree will make a Hindu an Englishman.  We wonder whether our Buddhistic philosophers have ever read a florid letter in Baboo English.  We suspect that the said type of document, is in reality exceedingly like the philosophic essays written by Englishmen about the splendours of Eastern thought.  Sometimes European mystics deserve something worse than mere laughter at the hands of Orientals.  If ever was a person whom honest Hindus would have been justified in tearing to pieces it was Madame Blavatsky.
     That our world-worn men of art should believe for a moment that moral salvation is possible and supremely important is an unmixed benefit.  If Mr. Crowley and the new mystics think for one moment that an Egyptian desert is more mystic than an English meadow, that a palm tree is more poetic than a Sussex beech, that a broken temple of Osiris is more supernatural than a Baptist Chapel in Brixton, then they are sectarians.  .  .  .  But Mr. Crowley is a strong and genuine poet, and we have little doubt that he will work up from his appreciation of the Temple of Osiris to that loftier and wider work of the human imagination, the appreciation of the Brixton Chapel.
The Daily News, date unknown.

______________________________
 

     The power . . . which is undeniable, cannot hide from us either its extreme unpleasantness or the gratuitously offensive treatment. . . . There is a wearisome occurrence of all the ugly machinery with which the fleshly school of poetry has made us too familiar.
—Date unknown.

______________________________
 

     We are compelled to read even where the subject matter fails to attract, and we venture to think that in Aleister Crowley we have found a poet, whose genius has yet to unfold. . . .
—The Western Morning News, date unknown.

______________________________
 

     The Soul of Osiris, by Aleister Crowley (Kegan Paul, 5s. net.), is a volume of ambitious verse, exhibiting considerable technical skill and a blatant disregard of good taste.  What shall be said of a writer who puts into the mouth of Elijah such lines as these:—

 

Now let me die, to mix my soul

With thy red soul, to join our hands,

To weld us in one perfect whole

To link us with desirous hands.

Now let me die, to mate in hell

With Thee, O harlot Jezebel!


The Church Times, 31 May 1901.

 
       
   

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