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This article is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

Crashaw 400, Part II
Legacy A Quatercentennial Celebration
Alex Wong
One cannot get away from the fact that Richard Crashaw is unique. And still we might well want to ask: four hundred years later, where should we look for a Crashavian legacy? Rummage in the sacred verse of the later seventeenth century, and you come up with little or nothing, besides Joseph Beaumont, bearing a clear stamp of Crashaw. Perhaps his flamboyant ecstasies were a little beyond the pale of sober Anglicanism.

Then what of his innovations in verse form? Again you find little to compare. Cowley's 'Elegy to Crashaw' is as near as the former ever gets to the latter, but without rising to his entheous pitch; and his Pindarics are politely staid beside Crashaw's hectic polymetrics. Beaumont, too, can never quite bring himself to shake the restraints of an established metre. Though Herbert mattered a great deal to Crashaw, the former's metrical variety and inventiveness is entirely different from the comparative wildness of his successor, as is his range of moods. Scholars have noted the prevalence of 'sweetness' in both; but if Herbert is sweet, fresh spiritual well-water, Crashaw is something sticky, luscious and botrytised. Herrick is a wonder with metrical shifts, but he is frolicsome, never incandescent like Crashaw at his most idiosyncratic; never, like him, so lissomely torrential. He doesn't have Crashaw's anguished exuberance, his bucking energy; and while they share many things, he surely has nothing to match the Saint's enamelled extravagance.

Francis Thompson thought that Crashaw's innovations in unbridled metrical form ...


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