CHAPTER VII
RICHARD CRASHAW

THE LIFE of the poet Crashaw may perhaps be thought to embody something of the paradox so dear to the Seicento culture of which his poetry is, as we shall see, so perfect an expression. For the singer of Catholic devotion, in its most exotic and Latin form, was the son of a minister of North Country birth, remarkable for his virulent hatred of popery--a hatred which, not satisfied with pouring out a flood of controversial abuse, found final utterance in William Crashaw's will, in which he writes: "I account poperie (as nowe it is) the heap and chaos of all heresies. I believe the Pope's seat and power to be the power of the great Antichrist and the doctrine of the Pope to be the doctrine of Antichrist." But we must not think of Richard Crashaw's religion as simply a reaction to his father's. The author of a Manual of Devotion and the translator of Catholic hymns did not confine his religion to the hatred of Rome. His heart was filled by a strong and, one would gather, a tender love for God and Christ. Nor was William Crashaw a Puritan if by a Puritan we mean one who regarded the Anglican liturgy and Church government as insufficiently Reformed. On the contrary, as I shall show in the following study, he was a convinced, even a zealous adherent of the Anglican Church and her practice and teaching, as they were in his lifetime. Richard Crashaw inherited from his father his devotional temper, his bent towards religious poetry and his aptitude for learning.

William Crashaw was twice married, but both wives died shortly after marriage. Richard, born 1612 or 1613, son of the first marriage and the only child, was therefore brought up almost entirely without a mother. To this Dr. Praz ascribes the craving for a mother's love, which for its satisfaction attracted the poet to his "mother" Mary Collet, to Madre Santa Teresa, to Our Lady and finally to Mother Church.1 That the poet felt this strong longing for a mother's care and love is shown, I think, by the peculiar

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1
Secentismo e Marinismo in Inghilterra, pp. 152, 188.

-136-

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