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JUN 24 1914


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"POET and Saint" is how Cowley, Crashaw's elegist, salutes the dead poet; and in this case there is more truth in the words than in many similar compliments. That Crashaw was a poet is too obvious to need comment: that he was a saint is true in the broader sense that Crashaw's was a most holy, humble and genuine soul. Born in 1613 and dying in 1649, the poet lived but thirty-six years, most of which were spent in quiet and reflective retirement as a Fellow at Cambridge. Into the last six years of his life is crowded really all the incident that it contains; and during these years were written, following upon the great crisis of the poet's life, almost all the poems with which in this book we are concerned.


Richard Crashaw was born in London, where his father, William Crashaw, was a Puritan preacher of some note. About the poet's father not much is known beyond that he cherished a quite special grudge against the Pope, and inveighed against his son's future "chief shepherd " to the extent of some dozen volumes. He seems, however, to have been a man of some education, for we hear of him addressing some Latin verses to his son's tutor, while the poet was at school. What is most important to know about him, we do know, namely that he was a good father; and had his son's present welfare at heart no less than the Pope's future.

About the poet's mother, not even the efforts of the most indomitable editors have availed to discover anything beyond that she died in her son's infancy, and was replaced by William Crashaw a few years later. His second wife appears, however, by no means


to have followed in the fairy-tale tradition, but to have been a kind stepmother to her husband's child.

Richard Crashaw was sent to school at Charterhouse, but of his progress at that institution nothing is known. In 1631, being by this time eighteen years of age, the poet was entered at Pembroke College, Cambridge; but did not matriculate until some little time later, owing to a dearth of scholarships or some such cause. The poet, in the time-honoured manner of poets, was not well-off; and his father, by this time dead, had not apparently been able to leave him provided for. At Pembroke College, then, Crashaw passed his undergraduate days. Of them little is known, but we may infer that he was deeply studious.

It may be as well to mention at this point that the Cambridge of Crashaw's day was largely under the influence of Laud's reaction, which was at that time what the modern Catholic" movement in the Church of England is to-day. The Reformation had by this time fulfilled itself in the Puritans. The strong national impulse lent to English Protestantism by the threat of invasion from without had subsided with the removal of that danger. Thus, those Englishmen, who, while caring for religion, yet lacked the fiery dogmatism of the Puritan, had leisure to look around them and wonder where they stood. To meet this need came Laud with his doctrine of a semi-divine king to replace the authority of the Pope, and his attempt to restore to the English Church some part at least of Catholic practice. Laud's attempt, in fact, was the first of a long series of efforts on the part of English Churchmen to give basis and theory to that compromise hastily jobbed together at the accession of Queen Elizabeth. For expediency cannot justify for ever: and at the Universities at least some


theory was welcome.

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Whether Puritanism can ever have had any influence on Crashaw, it is not possible to say. It is most

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