Richard Crashaw: A Study in Style and Poetic Development

By Ruth C. Wallerstein | Go to book overview
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Crashaw's epigrams and the formal rhetoric which is so bound up with them are the subject of this chapter.

To define any specific influence in Crashaw's work is not easy. For the many influences are blended and superimposed upon each other in a synthesis, at various stages, and we have few actual dates to go upon. We know, for instance, that a large body of Latin and Greek epigrams and some English ones, often translations of the former, constitute Crashaw's earliest work. But in the epigrams as they are published, there are, among some which seem almost surely to have been school exercises, a very large number which Mr. Warren has shown to be written during Crashaw's three years at Pembroke and still others which are certainly translations from Marino and which, hence, were also written in Crashaw's undergraduate days. Or The Weeper well illustrates the complexity of the problem. That poem is one which, as we reflect casually upon Crashaw's poetry, we think of as a notable example of Marinism. In fact, however, the principal source for the poem is an epigram of the Jesuit Franciscus Remondus; but besides this, there are analogues in an epigram of Bauduinus Cabilliavus and in Hugo Pia Desideria, a further source for one line in a stanza of Marino La Maddelena ai piedi di Christo, and important analogues for the general theme in other of Marino's poems on the Magdalen.1 Thus the "Marinism" of that characteristic poem rests only in small measure directly upon Marino, though the diffused and general influence upon it of the Italian poet is large. Nor does our only problem lie in the synthesis of the two influences in Crashaw. For the two groups whose impulse lies behind his poem, Marino and the Jesuit epigrammatists, though they are sig

Any one working in this field is immeasurably indebted to the extensive and minute work of Mr. L. C. Martin in his edition of Crashaw Poems ( Oxford: 1927). Other source work is only gleaning after him.


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