Image and Symbol in the Sacred Poetry of Richard Crashaw

By George Walton Williams | Go to book overview

VI.
OTHER SYMBOLS AND IMAGES

1. Animal Symbolism

THE MOST IMPORTANT of the animal symbols is the Lamb. Christ is the Lamb of God, the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover victim1 Crashaw uses the word in a nonsymbolic sense to mean a sacrificial animal,2 but he is more concerned with its Christian significance. In the "Hymn for the Blessed Sacrament" he translates closely Aquinas' typological verses:

Lo, the full, finall, SACRIFICE
On which all figures fix't their eyes.
The ransom'd ISACK, & his ramme;
The MANNA, & the PASCHAL Lamb.3
(xii)

Miss Tuve has pointed out that little Isaac who was to be a sacrificial victim and who carried the wood for his own burnt offering was a type of Christ who was a sacrificial victim and who carried the cross for his own death, and that manna, the heavenly food with which Jehovah fed His children in the desert, was a type of Christ, the heavenly food of the New Covenant.4 Christ is "The LAMB whom his own loue hath slain,"5 to be sure, but he is also the Shepherd of the sheep. The relationships between the shepherds who adore the Babe at His Nativity and the Good Shepherd,6 between their flocks and the Lamb's flocks,

____________________
1
Isaiah 53.7; John 1.36. Cruden, Concordance, "Lamb," "Passover"; Major, Mission and Message, p. 718.
2
Martin, p. 251, 11. 103-105.
3
Ibid., p. 296. Crashaw's original: "In figuris praesignatur, / cum Isaac immolatur, / Agnus Paschae deputatur, / Datur manna patribus. See 2 Esdras 1.19.
4
Reading of George Herbert, pp. 51, 121-122, 162, 198. One of Miss Tuve's sources for the parallel is a pair of "magnificent and beautiful windows of King's College, Cambridge, . . . which we can be entirely certain Herbert [or Crashaw] himself saw." The richness Herbert found in these parallels fills this stanza of Crashaw's, too, but the thought and words are all Aquinas'. The fascination with typology that inspires, complicates, and enriches many of Herbert's poems does not seem to have been a part of Crashaw's response to his religion.
5
Martin, p. 279 [viii].
6
For epigrams on the Good Shepherd, ibid., pp. 70, I (Latin and Greek), 357, V; another allusion, p. 300, viii.

-105-

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Image and Symbol in the Sacred Poetry of Richard Crashaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - The Poet-Saint and the Baroque 1
  • II - Quantity 12
  • III - White and Red 33
  • IV - Light and Dark 57
  • V - Liquidity 84
  • VI - Other Symbols and Images 105
  • Bibliography 137
  • Indices 146
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