THE CONCEPT of quantity is basic to Crashaw's poetry. It underlies in one way or another poems early and late, and it constitutes for Crashaw perhaps the readiest method of praise. The most conspicuous -- and most baroque -- aspect of quantity is abundance; God's plenty is found in the poetry, as in Nature, everywhere. But God is to be admired not only in extension but in contraction also; Crashaw discovers infinite riches in little rooms. His baroque spirit sets up highly restricted limits and confines and then bursts through them magnificently.1 God's abundant majesty in greatness and smallness ought to be praised, but man should consider his significance in comparison with that majesty. God's abundance, God's infinitesimalness, and man's insignificance are the three symbolic approaches by which Crashaw attempts to express the quantities of God.
Some of the most striking symbols in Crashaw's poetry represent the abundance and supreme generosity of God. The source of these symbols lies in the primordiurn of the Judaeo-Christian cosmogony. God fulfills Himself most completely in His creative giving throughout the Bible; but this is evidenced first in Genesis in the creation of the world. The generosity of the creative gift effects the astonishing copiousness and complexity of the liber creaturarum. The abundance of this creation is paralleled by an abundance of destruction. The Noachic Deluge ( Genesis 7) offers a second example of the amplitude of God's power and majesty. But the abundance bears a symbolic interpretation even here. For the flood is, like the fortunate fall, a paradoxical opportunity for the Divine Being to show His grace through the death of the corrupt members of the race and the election of a single family to preservation on earth. Both the creation and the flood are more than simple functions of abundance; they are also indications of good and grace. The unlimited variety and number of created beings and the over-____________________