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Following these little rills, he sinks into
The lute's light genius now does proudly rise,
Vibrat acuta sonum, modulisque interplicat æquis;
We might seek in vain in the Latin text for the vigour, the fancy, and the grandeur of these lines. These remain with Crashaw, of whose obligations to Strada we may say, as Hayley remarked of Pope's debt to Crashaw, that if he borrowed anything from him in this article, it was only as the sun borrows from the earth, when drawing from thence a mere vapour, he makes it the delight of every eye, by giving it all the tender and gorgeous colouring of heaven.
Crashaw is one of a class of poets who have obtained the appellation of the metaphysical school, though for what reason it is difficult to determine. It was, I believe, first bestowed on them by Dryden, who desired to charac
addresses our mese writers the waring ofte
terize by the epithet a style directly opposed to the freedom of his own. Petrarch and Marino were the founders of this sect, which in the reigns of James and Charles the First, boasted some of the most illustrious names. The poetry of Crashaw offers an admirable exemplification of this corrupt system. Writing in his native tongue, his manner is evidently foreign. He is not descriptive, but picturesque; we look in vain for images of rural simplicity, and touches of domestic feeling. He contemplates nature, as it were, through a painted window, from which | every object takes its particular hue. Thus, the rose he describes is not the rose of our gardens, or our hedges; his flowers have never cheered our eyes in the field-paths; they are natives of a land visited only by the poet's imagination. He fails in arousing our sympathy, because he addresses our memory instead of our heart. We have also to object to these writers the want of symmetry in their compositions ; their richest colouring often darkens into a daub; their choicest music closes in discord. When reading them we think of the Centaur of Zeuxis, which began in loveliness and ended in deformity.
“ Crashaw, in his poems," is the observation of Coleridge, “ seems to have given the first ebullience of his imagination unshapen into form, or much of what we now term sweetness. In the poem, Hope, by way of question and answer, his superiority to Cowley is self-evident. In that on the name of Jesus, equally so; but his lines on St. Theresa, are the finest; where he does combine richness of thought and diction, as in the lines you so much admire; these verses were present to my mind whilst writing the second part of Christabel; if, indeed, by some subtle process of the mind, they did not suggest the first thought of the whole poem*.” The exceeding richness and vivacity of Crashaw's versification could not have escaped the
* Letters and Conversations of Coleridge, vol. i. 196.
notice of so great a master of harmony. Read the Paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm.
Pleasure sings my soul to rest,
Come now all ye terrors, sally,
A shady arm above my head. The faults of Crashaw are those of his school; and it has been truly said *, that the strength of his thoughts sometimes appears in their distortion. When released from his self-imposed fetters, he uttered his lays with a softness, that, like the melody of the nightingale he sang, seems to come from a silver throat. How full of pastoral sweetness is the “Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the shepherds !"
GLOOMY night embraced the place
Where the noble Infant lay;
In spite of darkness it was day.
Bright dawn of our eternal day!
And chase the trembling shades away :
* By Mr. Campbell.
She sings thy tears asleep, and dips
Her kisses in thy weeping eye;
That in their buds yet blushing lie.
Shall bless the fruitful Maia's bed,
To kiss thy feet and crown thy head.
Of simple graces and sweet loves ;
Each his pair of silver doves *. And what a bright vein of imagination runs through his Hymn to the Morning :
..... 0 Thou
- So my wakeful lay shall knock
* Several lines are omitted.
I have already extracted largely from Crashaw's poetry, or it would be easy to multiply instances of new and pleasing similes, and metaphors most ingeniously constructed. He was not always the stringer of pretty beads. His character of true poetic genius, contrasted with his own, is very noble:
-No rapture makes it live
And trace eternity Between his Latin and English poems there is very little difference. In the versification he appears to have imitated the epigrammatic turns of Martial :
In S. COLUMBAM AD CHRISTI CAPUT SEDENTEM. ,
Hunc nive plus niveum cui dabit illa pedem?
Quà ludit densæ blandior umbra comæ-
(Murmure mortales non imitante sonos-)"
Solus nidus hic est hac bene dignus ave. TO THE SACRED DOVE ALIGHTING ON THE HEAD OF CHRIST*.
On whom doth this blest bird its wings outspread ?
Where will it suffer its white feet to rest ?
Within thy hair's sweet shade, it seeks a nest.
A melody unlike all earthly sound;
IN ČETUM OMNIUM SANCTORUM.
Jam potuit vestris inseruisse polis.
Spesque per obstantes expatiata vias. * In these translations I have endeavoured to be as litera as possible.