STYLE AND SPIRIT FUSED
At twenty-four or twenty-five, Crashaw had mastered the Spenserian manner, with its tender sentiment, its sensuous richness. Nor, though he flashed it only in fragments and did not command it for any large whole, was his manner a mere sympathetic reflection of Spenser. A single line of two from those already quoted is enough to make us feel how preëminently he, among the Spenserians, had been touched with the very spirit of Spenser; this of the Erinnys coming by night to the palace of Herod,
And with soft feet searches the silent roomes, or this of the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, And life it selfe weare Deaths fraile Livery.
He had also, at moments, in some of his details a profound gift of naturalistic interpretation, radiant and intense, which is suggestive of the young Shakespeare, as in that line of the wings,
Which like two Bosom'd sailes embrace the dimme Aire.
And yet, strangely, when he was already master of such powers, he deliberately eschewed and withdrew from these beautiful modes of expression, which were so perfected in their simplicity, so concentrated and so mature; choosing rather to seek his way in a technique that dissolved their achieved unity. He spent himself on technical exercises that, certainly in effect at least,--in their power, that is, of communicating to us--cease to deal with what is central and engage the imagination in surface ingenuities and trivialities.
To many readers of Crashaw it will seem that he turned from Spenser and from direct interpretativeness because he could not face the intellectual and imaginative endeavor necessary to sustain and fill with substance Spenser's manner, and that in him