Richard Crashaw—A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa
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“Blest powers forbid thy tender life
Should bleed upon a barbarous knife;
Or some base hand have power to rase
Thy breast’s chaste cabinet, and uncase
A soul kept there so sweet; oh no,
Wise Heav’n will never have it so;
Thou art Love’s victim, and must die
A death more mystical and high;
Into Love’s arms thou shalt let fall
A still-surviving funeral.”
Richard Crashaw was a 17th-century English poet and Anglican priest who later in life converted to Catholicism. He taught at Cambridge and served as curate of the Church of St. Mary the Less, where he became known for his High Church Anglicanism. Puritan detractors cited him for his “Mariolatry” (excessive devotion to the Virgin Mary) and found fault with his adornment of his church with Christian art and use of Catholic vestments.
Under Oliver Cromwell, Crashaw was expelled from his parish and forced to flee the country. It was during this exile that Crashaw converted to Catholicism, eventually ending up in Rome under the employment of a Catholic cardinal. This same cardinal would appoint him to be canon of the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, where Crashaw died a few short months later.
Crashaw is known for his religious poetry with distinct mystical themes. He was inspired by the works of St. Teresa of Avila, despite the fact that in England she had yet to be translated and was largely unknown. Crashaw wrote three poems about St. Teresa, of which “A Hymn to the Name and Honour of Saint Teresa” is the first. In it, Crashaw traces a development from the child Teresa’s desire for physical martyrdom to the adult Teresa’s mystical conquest of the inner self.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!
“A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa” full text: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44057/a-hymn-to-the-name-and-honour-of-the-admirable-saint-teresa
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