Monday, October 22, 2012

Richard Crashaw

Richard Crashaw (c.1613—1649) was greatly inspired by the posthumous publication of The Temple (1633) by George Herbert. He is, however, often not included in lists of the metaphysical poets, because of the influences of Italian and Spanish mystics and of continental poets on his verse.

Although Crashaw's father, the Puritan divine William Crashaw, was opposed to the Catholic church, his personal library contained many volumes by Catholic writers. Some feel this was for the purpose of exposing their errors; he translated, however, several Jesuit hymns from the Latin, so he seems to have appreciated their devotion. Well after his father's death, when he had travelled to Paris to avoid the conflict of the Civil War, Richard Crashaw officially embraced Catholicism.

Crashaw's reputation has not remained as strong as that of some of his contemporaries. Maureen Sabine, of the University of Hong Kong, says, “Present-day readers need to appreciate once more that Crashaw's poetry was first admired as an extension of his prayer life and as the testimony of one who dwelt in the presence of God.”

A Song

Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace
Sends up my soul to seek thy face.
Thy blessed eyes breed such desire,
I die in love’s delicious Fire.
O love, I am thy Sacrifice.
Be still triumphant, blessed eyes.
Still shine on me, fair suns! that I
Still may behold, though still I die.

Though still I die, I live again;
Still longing so to be still slain,
So gainful is such loss of breath.
I die even in desire of death.
Still live in me this loving strife
Of living Death and dying Life.
For while thou sweetly slayest me
Dead to myself, I live in Thee.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca