“On January 7th 1904 [in Hambantota, Southeast Ceylon], whilst Rose [his newly wed wife] was suffering an attack of fever, Crowley sat at a camp table and composed Rosa Mundi, the highwater mark of his achievements as a lyric love poet. The title, which translates as Rose of the World, is a play upon the Rosicrucian symbol. Through his Golden Dawn training, the blossoming rose on the Cross had become, for Crowley, a prominent symbol of spiritual awakening from the elemental world unto eternity. but in this poem, the esoteric is blended with the erotic. The first of the nineteen stanzas is the most rhythmically admirable;
Rose of the World!
Red glory of the secret heart of Love!
Red flame, rose-red, most subtly curled
Into its own infinite flower, all flowers above!
Its flower in its own perfumed passion,
Its faint sweet passion, folded and furled
In flower fashion;
And my deep spirit taking its pure part
Of that voluptuous heart
Of hidden happiness! “
The 22 petals of the rose then later became – by the hand of Lady Frieda Harris – symbols of the 22 Trumps in the Hermetic Rose Cross.