Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Sacred Poets > The secular and the sacred poems compared
  A large proportion of his work translation His defective powers of self-criticism  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

II. The Sacred Poets.

§ 8. The secular and the sacred poems compared.


Crashaw did better work when he relied upon himself, as in Loves Horoscope and Wishes. To his (supposed) Mistresse. It is only this last-named example which makes one’s faith waver in Crashaw’s own judgment that his secular was inferior to his sacred verse. The airy metre of Wishes, with its lengthening lines, is exactly fitted to its graceful humour. But, delicate as this poem is, it cannot sustain a comparison with his Hymne to St. Teresa. The one is intense with passion, the other is playful and superficial. “The very outgoings of the soule” are in the divine poems; there is grace and dainty trifling, but no more, in the love poems. Nowhere in the secular poems do we find the élan, the surrender to an inspiration, the uprush of feeling which carries all before it. Crashaw’s passionate outbursts, with their flaming brilliancy, and their quick-moving lines, are hard to parallel in the language, and it is his ardent religious emotion which sets them on fire. He may borrow too freely, for some tastes, from the language of amorous poetry; but it was natural to him to call St. Teresa “my rosy love” or the Virgin a “rosy princess,” and he serves them with a noble chivalrous devotion.   18
  There are as serious faults in his sacred, as in his secular, poems. Indeed, the faults are more apparent, because they occur in a finer setting. Crashaw’s failures are peculiarly exasperating, because they spoil work which had greater potentialities than that of many poets who have maintained a better level. There are inspired moments, when he outdistances all his rivals, as in the lines which he added to his first version of The Flaming Heart, or in the fuller version of the poem To the Countess of Denbigh. Vaughan may disappoint by long stretches of flatness, but Crashaw more often gives positive offence by an outrageous conceit, by gaudy colour, by cloying sweetness or by straining of an idea which has been squeezed dry.   19

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  A large proportion of his work translation His defective powers of self-criticism  
 
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