Red Poppy, by Aleister Crowley

Cicely Mary Barker - Fairy-Rings: The Poppy Fairy
Cicely Mary Barker – Fairy-Rings: The Poppy Fairy

From the collection Alice: An Adultery, a beautiful love poem for Mary Alice Rogers, a married woman with whom Crowley had a passionate affair in Hawaii. In the privately published 1903 edition, there was an 11th stanza , I reproduce it below. In the 1905 edition published by the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, it was titled “The Poem”, so in the 1906 edition of Crowley’s Collected Works, there was a footnote to the title, indicating “The poem in question.”

by Aleister Crowley

I HAVE no heart to sing.
What offering may I bring,
Alice, to thee?
My great love’s lifted wing
Weakens, unwearying,
And droops with me,
Seeing the sun-kindled hair
Close in the face more fair,
The sweet soul shining there
For God to see.

Surely some angle shed
Flowers for the maiden head,
Ephemeral flowers!
I yearn, not comforted.
My heart has vainly bled
Through age-long hours.
To thee my spirit turns;
My bright soul aches and burns,
As a dry valley yearns
For spring and showers.

Splendid, remote, a fane
Alone and unprofane,
I know thy breast.
These bitter tears of pain
Flood me, and fall again
Not into rest.
Me, whose sole purpose is
To gain one gainless kiss,
And make a bird’s my bliss,
Shrined in that nest.

O fearful firstling dove!
My dawn and spring of love,
Love’s light and lure!
Look (as I bend above)
Through bright lids filled thereof
Perfect and pure,
Thy bloom of maidenhood.
I could not: if I could,
I would not: being good,
Also endure!

Cruel, to tear or mar
The chaliced nenuphar;
Cruel to press
The rosebud; cruel to scar
Or stain the flower-star
With mad caress.
But crueller to destroy
The leaping life and joy
Born in a careless boy
From lone distress.

More cruel then art thou
The calm and chaste of brow,
If thou dost this,
Forget the feeble vow
Ill sworn: all laws allow
Pity, that is
Kin unto love, and mild.
List to the sad and wild
Crying of the lonely child
Who asks a kiss.

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!

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 noon, and dawn,
Dew, flower, and moon!

One kiss, intense, supreme!
The sense of Nature’s dream
And scent of Heaven
Shown in the glint and gleam
Of the pure dawn’s first beam,
With earth for leaven;
Moulded of fire and gold,
Water and wine to fold
Me in its life, and hold!—
In all but seven!

I would not kiss thee, I!
Lest my lip’s charactery
Ruin thy flower.
Curve thou one maidenly
Kiss, stooping from thy sky
Of peace and power!
Thine only be the embrace!—
I move not from my place,
Feel the exultant face
Mine for an hour!

The 1903 edition included the following 11th stanza:

Mine, and for ever mine;
Dim glory in the shrine
Of Artemis
Endymion-lured to wine,
And dove-looks Erycine,
Flower-scented bliss!
O sweet! O saint! I swoon
Beneath the guiding moon;
In thine embrace, the tune
Of that one kiss

Source of the poem: Alice: an Adultery, in The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume II (1906). See the digitisation of the original on David Moews’s home page, and the simple text online version by The Hermetic Library.

This is a revised version of a post previously published on Agapeta, 2017/07/14.

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