THREE METAPHYSICAL POETS

I
RICHARD CRASHAW

Poet and Saint! to thee alone are given The two most sacred Names of Earth and Heaven.

THUS, seven years after his friend's death, Cowley apostrophized Richard Crashaw. A writer in 1657 named Crashaw in the same breath as the 'refined witts' of Bacon, Sidney, Ben Jonson, Donne, and Shakespeare; and thirty years later another critic was acclaiming him as 'the Darling of the Muses . . . charming the ear with a holy Rapture'. During the next hundred years Crashaw's reputation suffered the inevitable decline. But the nineteenth century found Coleridge declaring: 'Where he does combine richness of thought and diction nothing can excel.' Lines 43-64 of Crashaw's A Hymn to the Name and Honor of the Admirable Sainte Teresa had, he added, been constantly with him while he was writing the second part of Christabel: 'if indeed, by some subtle process of the mind they did not suggest the first thought of the whole poem.' Today Crashaw has less general appeal than Donne and Herbert; although Mr T. S. Eliot finds him 'sometimes more profound and less sectarian' than either Herbert or Vaughan.

Born in London in 1612, the poet was the only son of a then famous father, the Puritan preacher and controversialist, William Crashaw. He was educated at the Charterhouse School, where he had a thorough grounding in the classical poets and in writing verse exercises in imitation of their style. To this, no doubt, he owed something of the ability attributed to him in the Preface to his Steps to the Temple: of having, 'under locke and key in readinesse, the richest treasures of the best Greeke and Latine Poets, some of which Authors hee had . . . at his command by heart'.

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Three Metaphysical Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • I - Richard Crashaw 7
  • II - Henry Vaughan 19
  • III - Thomas Traherne 31
  • A Select Bibliography 43
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