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THE SWORD OF SONG


 

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Title:

The Sword of Song.  Called by Christians The Book of the Beast.

   

Inscription

State (a) - Copy 3
 

Title Page

State (a) - Copy 3


 

Example of vellum pages

State (a) - Copy 3

 

Cover (Upper)

State (b)
 

Cover (Lower)

State (b)
 

Spine

State (b)
 

Cover (Upper)

State (c)
 

 

Cover (Lower)

State (c)
 

Spine

State (c)
 

Interior (Upper Cover)

State (c)

 

Interior (Lower Cover)

State (c)

 

Dedication

 

Title Page

1st Edition

 

Title Page

2nd Edition

 

Title Page

3rd Edition

 

Printer

 

Red & Black Print

Example #1

 

Red & Black Print

Example #2

 

Red & Black Print

Example #3

 

Red & Black Print

Example #4

 

 

Hanging Notes

Example (CUNT)

 

Print
Variations
:

State (a):

3 copies printed on vellum.3
10 1/2” x 8”.

______________________________


One copy re-bound by Zaehnsdorf in full blue crushed levant morocco.7
Upper cover in gilt squares.7

Original blue wrappers bound in.7

Originally in the John Quinn collection, the current location of this copy is unknown.

______________________________


The second copy currently resides in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, in the Aleister Crowley archive, subseries A., Magical Works, 1898-1947, box 4, folder 7.
Re-bound in limp white vellum with black ribbon ties.6
Spine stamped in gilt horizontally across spine ‘THE | SWORD | OF | SONG’.6

Original blue wrappers bound in.6

______________________________


The third copy was presented by Crowley to Edmund Saayman on his twenty-sixth birthday
—“1.31 a.m.  Have been working with A.I. [Eddie Saayman]  Gave him a Vellum Sword of Song —1 of 3.  Some present!”.12

Bound in original navy blue wrappers as in state (c).13

Inscribed by Crowley ‘An XIX ¤ in 8° 15’ d  in 0° a City of Tunis.  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law   I, the Beast 666 9°=2 A\A\ give this third vellum copy of The Sword of Song (the other two being in my possession and that of John Quinn) to Edmund Saayman on his 26th birthday and his day of reception as a probationer of A\A\ with the Motto of  הוח אזנ  There the scribe knew the narcissus in his heart with all good Will for his Attainment of the Summum Bonum True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.’13

State (b):

10 of 100 copies printed on a glazed foreign paper.3
Pages unopened.2
Bound in red wrappers.3
First issue [of four].  No edition stated on title page.  The remaining copies are stated as being
second, third, and fourth editions.4
Upper cover lettered, in black, ‘THE SWORD OF SONG | CALLED BY CHRISTIANS | THE BOOK OF THE BEAST | ALEISTER CROWLEY | SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH | BENARES | 1904’.2
Spine is lettered in black vertically up the spine ‘THE SWORD OF SONG.’2
Lower cover has a vignette ornament in Louis Seize design, with initials of designer ‘L.M.’.2
10 1/2” x 8”.2
At least one copy consists of the original navy blue wrapper covered with a detachable red wrapper.  A copy currently resides in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas (Call No. PR 6005 R7 S88 - Copy 2).2

This appears to also be documented in Keith Hogg's 1966 Bibliotheca Crowleyana.8

State (c):

90 of 100 copies printed on a glazed foreign paper.1
Pages unopened.2 
Bound in navy blue wrappers.1
These copies are divided into "second", "third", and "fourth" editions, as stated on their title page.4
Upper cover lettered in gilt ‘Ye SWORD | ‘666’ repeated three times on golden square | OF SONG’.  Spine lettered in gilt ‘[across] THE | [down] SWORD | [across] OF | [down] SONG’.
Lower cover has, lettered in gilt, the author’s name in Hebrew letters adding up to 666.1
Interior of both upper and lower covers have advertisements.1
10 1/2” x 8”.2

 
Publisher: Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth (S.P.R.T.).1  
Printer: Philippe Renouard, 19 , rue des Saints-Pères, 19, Paris.1  
Published At: Paris.1  
Date: August, 1904.1  
Edition: 1st Edition.  
Pages:

viii + xii + 196.5

 
Price:

Priced at ten shillings for state (b).1

 
Remarks:

Apparently Crowley had planned to publish a popular edition of The Sword of Song as indicated in an S.P.R.T. catalog:  The Sword of Song.  It is offered at cost price, in order to clear the first five editions in a month or so, to leave room for the popular editions at a still lower price, printed in a simpler form, and considerable condensed and abridged, this because much of the contents is of a very abstruse character, not suited for the mass of the people.’  Unfortunately, this publication never materialized.14

 

Dedicated to Bhikkhu Ananda Maitriya (Allan Bennett)2
Text
printed in red and black.1
“Ascension Day” and “Pentecost” were written at Madura in 1901 on November 16th and 17th respectively.11
Berashith”, originally titled “Crowleymas Day”, was written at Delhi on March 20 and 21, 1902.11
In keeping with Crowley’s interesting sense of humor, the initials of some of the hanging notes of ‘Ambrosi Magi Hortus Rosarum’ spell out the words “quim,” “arse,” “puss,” and “cunt.”

______________________________


It is said that Crowley sent a copy of The Sword of Song to everyone referenced in the book along with the following pro forma letter:10

 

Letters and Telegrams:  BOLESKINE FOYERS is sufficient address.
Bills, Writs, Summonses, etc.:  CAMP XI, THE BALTOR GLACIER, BALTISTAN.
 
O Millionaire! My lord Marquis,
Mr. Editor! My lord Viscount,
Dear Mrs. Eddy, My lord Earl,
Your Holiness the Pope! My lord,
Your Imperial Majesty! My lord Bishop,
Your Majesty! Reverend Sir,
Your Royal Highness! Sir,
Dear Miss Corelli, Fellow,
Your Serene Highness! Dog!
My lord Cardinal, Mr. Congressman,
My lord Archbishop, Mr. Senator,
My lord Duke, Mr. President,

   
(or the feminine of any of these), as shown by underlining it, Courtesy demands, in view of the
(a) tribute to your genius
(b) attack on your (1) political
  (2) moral
  (3) social
  (4) mental
  (5) physical character

(c) homage to your grandeur
(d) reference to your conduct
(e) appeal to your better feelings
on page _____ of my masterpiece, “The Sword of Song,” that I should send you a copy, as I do herewith, to give you an opportunity of defending yourself against my monstrous assertions, thanking me for the advertisement, or – in short, replying as may best seem to you to suit the case.
     Your humble, obedient servant,
                                                 ALEISTER CROWLEY.

 
Pagination:5
Page(s)  
[i-ii] Blank
[   iii] Half-title
[   iv] Parody of passage from Through the Looking Glass
[   v] Title-page
[   vi] Dedication
[vii-viii] Introductory poem ‘Nothung’
[   I] Divisional title ‘ASCENSION DAY | AND PENTECOST’
[   II] Blank
[III-IX] Introduction to ‘Ascension Day and Pentecost’
[   X] Blank
[   XI] Divisional title ‘ASCENSION DAY’
[  XII] Blank
[1-29] Text
[   30] Blank
[   31] Divisional title ‘PENTECOST’
[   32] Blank
[33-62] Text
[   63] Divisional title ‘NOTES TO | ASCENSION DAY AND PENTECOST’
[   64] Blank
[65-91] Text
[   92] Blank
[93-105] Appendix (I)
[  106] Blank
[107-121] Appendix
[  122] Blank
[  123] Divisional title ‘Berashith | AN ESSAY | IN | ONTOLOGY | WITH SOME REMARKS ON | CEREMONIAL MAGIC’
[  124] Blank
[125-148] Text
[  149] Divisional title ‘SCIENCE AND BUDDHISM’
[  150] Blank
[151-194] Text
[  195] Index
[  196] Colophon ‘PRINTED | BY | PHILIPPE RENOUARD | 19, rue des Saintes Pères, 19 | PARIS’
 
Contents:

- Ascension Day
- Pentecost
- Berashith.
- Science and Buddhism

 

Author’s
Working
Versions:

1.

Holograph manuscript and typescript versions, bound together, with revisions in the hand of Aleister Crowley.  Pages:  171.  Dated:  1903.  Box 4, Folders 6-7.  Harry Ransom Center, Austin, TX.

 

Other
Known
Editions:

+

The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Vol. II, Page 140, Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness, 1906. 

+ Gordon Press, New York, 1974.
 
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. 238.  

2.

Personal observation of item.  

3. Timothy d'Arch Smith, The Books of the Beast,  Mandrake, Oxford; 1991, p. 120.
4. Ibid., p. 13.
5. 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. 34.
6. Ibid., p. 227.
7. Complete Catalog of the Library of John Quinn, Sold by Auction in Five Parts, Volume one, ABB-MEY, the Anderson Galleries, New York, 1924, p. 227.
8. Keith Hogg, Bibliotheca Crowleyana, Sure Fire Press, Edmonds, Washington, 1989, p. 7.
9. Tobias Churton, Aleister Crowley:  The Biography, Watkins Publishing, 2011, pp. 108-109.
10. Aleister Crowley, The Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume II, Gordon Press, New York, 1974, p. 198.
11. Ibid., p. 201.
12. Aleister Crowley, Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley:  Tunisia 1923, Stephen Skinner, Editor, Red Wheel/Weiser, Boston, Massachusetts, 1996, pp. 207-208.
13. Online auction catalog.  Keys Fine Art Auctioners, Palmers Lane, Aylsham, Norwich, NR 11 6JA, United Kingdom, Lot 105, sold 19 November 2015.  Last accessed on 19 November 2015.
14. “Excerpt A - From the Catalogue.  The Works of Mr Aleister Crowley” Bound in at the rear of Oracles: the Biography of an Art, Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, circa 1905, p. 9
 

Comments by
Aleister
Crowley:

     I had made a point from the beginning of making sure that my life as a Wanderer of the Waste should not cut me off from my family, the great men of the past. I got India-paper editions of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Browning; and, in default of India paper, the best editions of Atalanta in Calydon. Poems and Ballads (First Series), Shelley, Keats and The Kabbalah Unveiled. I caused all these to be bound in vellum, with ties. William Morris had re-introduced this type of binding in the hope of giving a mediaeval flavour to his publications. I adopted it as being the best protection for books against the elements. I carried these volumes everywhere, and even when mu alleged waterproof rucksack was soaked through, my masterpieces remained intact.
     Let this explain why I should have been absorbed in Browning’s Christmas Eve and Easter Day at Tuticorin. I was criticizing it in the light of my experience in Dhyana, and the result was to give me the idea of answering Browning’s apology for Christianity by what was essentially a parody of his title and his style. My poem was to be called “Ascension Day and Pentecost”.
     I wrote “Ascension Day” at Madura on November 16th and “Pentecost” the day after; but my original idea gradually expanded. I elaborated the two poems from time to time, added “Berashith”—of which more anon—and finally “Science and Buddhism”, an essay on these subjects inspired by a comparative study of what I had learnt from Allan Bennett and the writings of Thomas Henry Huxley. These four elements made up the volume finally published under the title The Sword of Song.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Pages 256-257.

______________________________


     The twentieth and twenty-first were great days in my life. I wrote an essay which I originally gave the title “Crowleymas Day” and published under the title “Berashith” in Paris by itself, incorporating it subsequently in The Sword of Song. The general idea is to eliminate the idea of infinity from our conception of the cosmos. It also shows the essential identity of Manichaeism (Christianity), Vedantism and Buddhism. Instead of explaining the universe as modifications of a unity, which itself needs explaining, I regard it as NOTHING, conceived as (illusory) pairs of contradictories. What we call a thought does not really exist at all by itself. It is merely half of nothing. I know that there are practical difficulties in accepting this, though it gets rid so nicely of a priori obstacles. However, the essay is packed with ideas, nearly all of which have proved extremely fertile, and it represents fairly enough the criticism of my genius upon the varied ideas which I had gathered since I first came to Asia.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Pages 275-276.

______________________________


     One incident became immortal. I wrote in The Sword of Song that I “read Lévi and the Cryptic Coptic”, and lent the manuscript to my fiancé, who was sitting for Gerald Kelly. During the pose she asked him what Coptic meant. “The language spoken by the ancient Copts,” replied Kelly and redoubled his aesthetic ardours. A long pause—then she asked, “What does cryptic mean?” “The language spoken by the ancient Crypts,” roared the rapin and abandoned hope of humanity.
     — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 356.

______________________________


     I had completed The Sword of song before I left Paris and left it to be printed with Philippe Renouard, one of the best men in Paris. I intended to issue it privately. I had no longer any ideas about the “best publisher”. I felt in a dull way that it was a sort of duty to make my work accessible to humanity; but I had no idea of reaping profit or fame thereby.

     The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 359.

______________________________


     I have never lost sight of the fact that I was in some sense or other The Beast 666. There is a mocking reference to it in “Ascension Day”, lines 98 to 111. The Sword of Song bears the sub-title “called by Christians the Book of the Beast”. The wrapper of the original edition has on the front a square of nine sixes and the back another square of sixteen Hebrew letters, being a (very clumsy) transliteration of my name so that its numerical value should be 666. When I went to Russia to learn the language for the Diplomatic Service, my mother half believed that I had “gone to see God and Magog” (who were supposed to be Russian giants) in order to arrange the date of the Battle of Armageddon.
    
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 387.

______________________________


     My activities as a publisher were at this time remarkable. I had issued The God-Eater and The Star & the Garter through Charles Watts & Co. of the Rationalist Press Association, but there was still no such demand for my books as to indicate that I had touched the great heart of the British public. I decided that it would save trouble to publish them myself. I decided to call myself the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, and issued The Argonauts, The Sword of Song, the Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King, Why Jesus Wept, Oracles, Orpheus, Gargoyles and The Collected Works.

    
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  New York, NY.  Hill and Wang, 1969.  Page 406.

 
Reviews:

     Mr. Crowley has always been, in my opinion, a good poet;  his “Soul of Osiris,” written during an Egyptian mood, was better poetry than his Browningesque rhapsody in a Buddhistic mood;  but this also, though very affected, is very interesting.  But the main fact about it is, that it is the expression of a man who has really found Buddhism more satisfactory than Christianity.
     Mr. Crowley begins his poem, I believe, with an earnest intention to explain the beauty of the Buddhistic philosophy:  he knows a great deal about it;  he believes in it. . . . But Mr. Crowley has got something into his soul stronger even than the beautiful passion of the man who believes in Buddhism;  he has the passion of the man who does not believe in Christianity.  He adds one more testimony to the endless series of testimonials to the fascination and vitality of the faith.  For some mysterious reason no man can contrive to be agnostic about Christianity.  He always tries to prove something about it—that is unphilosophical or immoral or disastrous
which is not true. . . . A casual carpenter wandered about a string of villages;  and suddenly a horde of rich men and sceptics and Sadducees and respectable persons rushed at him and nailed him up like vermin;  then people saw that he was a god.  He had provided that he was not a common man, for he was murdered.  And ever since his creed has proved that it is not a common hypothesis;  for it is hated.
     Next week I hope to make a fuller study of Mr. Crowley’s interpretation of Buddhism . . . suffice for the moment to say that if this be indeed a true interpretation of the creed, as it is certainly a capable one, I need go no further than its pages for example of how a change of abstract belief may break a civilization to pieces.  Under the influence of this book earnest modern philosophers may, I think, begin to perceive the outlines of two vast and mystical philosophies, which if they were subtly and slowly worked out in two continents through many centuries, might possibly, under special circumstances, make the East and West almost as different as they really are.
—The Daily News, G. K. Chesterton, date unknown.

______________________________


     Mr. Crowley’s poetry, if such it may be called, is not serious, at any rate, in its form.  It is more colloquia, than the Ingoldsby Legends, and his matter, or rather his way of expressing it, is distinctly, though quite needlessly, calculated to irritate, not only the Christians to whom it is directly addressed, but even every serious-minded man of any religion whatsoever. . . . And yet Mr. Crowley’s book shows wide reading.  If the form and tone of his work prevent his being read, Mr. Crowley will only have himself to thank.
—The Yorkshire Post, date unknown.

______________________________

 

     The Sword of Song, called by Christians the Book of the Beast. By Aleister Crowley. 10s. Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, Benares.

     The most remarkable thing about this volume is the luxury of its material appointment—thick, glazed paper, head-lines and side notes on every page printed in red, while the main body of the book, verse and prose, is in handsome black. This is always something, but it handicaps the poet, and a reader naturally expects something tremendously fine in the way of afflatus to fill all this typographic sail. Well, the poetry here is disappointing. It is not so much that it is absolutely unintelligible; for a poet may talk consummate nonsense, if only he do charm; but the truth is, it is metaphysical, mystical, not to say esoteric; and (to make no bones about it) dull. The one idea of both the verse and the prose essays in the appendix seems to be to discredit Christianity and exalt Buddhism. But when the author annotates one of his lines thus—“This and the next sentence have nineteen distinct meanings,” and the reader is not able to make out any of the same, it is almost twenty to one he won’t enjoy the book. Sometimes the rhyme and the rhythm suggest an imitation of Browning; but, so far as the thought is concerned, Browning, in comparison with this author, is positively pellucid.
—The Scotsman, 17 October 1904.

______________________________


    
Ye Sword of Song, by Aleister Crowley (Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, Benares), is appropriately dedicated to fools.  The plan of the poem is described as "Conspuez Dieu."  It is a jumble of cheap profanity, with clever handling of metre and rhyme.  Christianity will survive—but the author's reputation may not be so fortunate..
— The St. Jame’s Gazette, 20 January 1905.

______________________________


     “The Sword of Song” is a masterpiece of learning and satire.  In light and quaint or graceful verse all philosophical systems are discussed and dismissed.  The second part of the book, written in prose, deals with possible means of research, so that we may progress from the unsatisfactory state of the sceptic to a real knowledge, founded on scientific method and basis, of the spiritual facts of the Universe.
     It is not easy to review Mr. Crowley.  One of the most brilliant of contemporary writers. . . . Mr. Crowley’s short poems in particular reveal the possession of a beautiful and genuine vein of poetry, which, like the precious metals, is at times scarcely discernible among the rugged quartz in which it is embedded.  With a true poetic feeling allied to remarkable learning, and with a pretty with of his own, Mr. Crowley is well equipped for producing a work of permanent value. . . . Good work may be found in “The Sword of Song,” but there is even more which will arouse in the average reader (to whom, however, Mr. Crowley obviously does not appeal) no other feeling than one of sheer bewilderment.  Sometimes an oasis of beauty will reveal the author’s power to charm, the good-humoured egotism will tickle the fancy, the quaint allusiveness of the notes will raise the eyelid of wonder. . . . With regard to the prose portions of the volume, the essay on “Science and Buddhism” reveals some penetrating touches; but we have to confess that the discourse on “Ontology” baffles our comprehension.  The poetical epilogue is beautiful and contenting.
—The Literary Guide, date unknown.

______________________________


    
“The Star and the Garter,” by Aleister Crowley. - The poems of Aleister Crowley are “caviare to the general,” popular editions notwithstanding.  “The Star and the Garter” is a peculiar dissertation on love, which, so far as we understand it, appears to be a justification of fleeting passions leading up to the “star” of a pure attachment, which, however, is in no wise injured by the lesser loves, symbolized by a “garter.”  “Ye Sword of Song” (called by Christians “The Book of the Beast”) is full of erudition and satire.  In it all religions are discussed and discredited, and a great agnostic conclusion is stated and proved.  The second part of the book is written in prose, and “deals with possible means of research so that we may progress from the unsatisfactory state of a sceptic to a real knowledge founded on scientific method and basis of the spiritual facts of the Universe.”  “The Star and the Garter” has been called “the greatest love poem of modem times,” and a scheme is on foot to furnish every free library, every workman’s club, every hotel, every reading-room in every English speaking country in the world with a copy of “Ye Sword of Song.”  All particulars can be obtained from the Secretary S.P.R. T., Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness.
—The Bath Chronicle, 24 November 1904.

 
       
   

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