Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Custom-house, sent to the Pope as a new year's gift, from England, this year of Jubilee, 1625, and faithfully published out of the old latin copie, with observations upon the Romish textby William Crashaw, Bachelor of Divinity, and Pastor of Whitechapel, 1625, 4to."

The father of the poet, Crashaw, it will have been perceived by the titles of his works, was no slight opponent of Roman Catholic doctrines, and there can be but little doubt, that he early instilled into his son's mind as much of his own gloomy zeal against them as he possibly could. At an early age, he sent him for education to the Charter-house, where having been put upon the foundation, Richard Crashaw improved in an extraordinary degree under the celebrated Dr. Brook,* of that establishment. He was afterwards sent to Cambridge, and in

years took a bachelor's degree in Pembroke Hall. His application to his studies at the University were unabating, and he appears in the course of them to have displayed great talent, and to have advanced rapidly in the sciences. Whilst at Cambridge, he published some Latin poems in the year 1634, which being chiefly devotional, exhibit traits of that religious feeling, by which he was afterwards led to seek for truth in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Cf this collection of poems many have been deservedly extolled, for their purity of style and language, · and for the “ Ovidian graces” with which they abound.-An examination of his productions as they appeared, would extend our remarks to a length unsuited to the character of this Miscellany, they may form matter for a separate insertion, while we confine this to the incidents of the poet's life. It may how

a few

* Upon the death of Dr. Brook, Cra aw wrote the following epitaph, which is published in his Works, it has deservedly been styled a “ quibbling epitaph," and the conceit it contains, appears to accord little with the depth of feeling such a subject might be supposed to inspire.

“ A Brook whose stream so great, so good,
Was lov’d, was honour'd as a flood,
Whose banks the Muses dwell upon,
More than their own Helicon,
Here at length hath gladly found
A quiet passage under ground;
Meanwhile his loved banks, now dry,
The Muses with their tears supply.

ever be worthy of notice, while upon the subject of this volume of his poetry, that among the latin poems of which it consists, is to be found a line which contains the original idea of the well known verse on our Saviour's miracle at the marriage-feast at Canaan, which has been attributed to various poets, and among others, to Dryden ;

" The conscious water saw its God and blush'd."

If there is any merit in the idea, which is, perhaps, a conceit little adapted to the dignity of the subject, it belongs exclusively to Crashaw, who first broached it in the following line upon the same subject :

“Nympha pudica vidit Deum et erubuit.” Richard Crashaw took a degree at the university, in 1641, and being soon after ordained, became engaged in the duties of the Protestant ministry. He is described, upon his first entry upon his function, as having made himself very popular by his preaching, which evinced, in style and delivery, great warmth and energy, not unmixed with enthusiasm; and he appears to have possessed considerable zeal in the cause of his religion. There is one remarkable circumstance in this part of his life, to the instrumentality of which, under heaven, may be attributed in some measures, his conversion to the Catholic faith. He had a great veneration for some of the saints in our calendar, which he displayed even then in some parts of his poems; and the life and virtues of St. Theresa, attracted in particular his attention and gained his admiration. This feeling he evinced in a marked manner in a poem he wrote in honour of that saint before his conversion.* After he had embraced the Catholic religion, his admiration became a more hallowed feeling of devotional respect, and he celebrated the virtues of the Saint in another poem, in which he laments the errors in which he was involved at the time he had written the former.

His conscientious scruples would not allow him to accede to the covenant submitted to the members of the universities in 1644, and he was consequently expelled upon his determination to adhere to the line of conduct, his principles of moral integrity pointed out to him. Thus ejected from the means of support in this country, he was induced to go to France, where he had an opportunity of comparing his prejudices against the Catholic religion, with its real doctrines and the lives of its professors. His misfortunes too working upon a mind naturally sincere and religious, had the effect of making him think seriously upon the great truths, so effectual in exciting a desire of happiness eternal.* In France he became a Catholic, and meeting in Paris with his friend Cowley, with whom he had long maintained a close intimacy, he procured through him an introduction to the Queen Henrietta, the widow of Charles the First of England. Being strongly prepossessed in his favour, she gave him letters of recommendation to several distinguished personages in Italy, whither he meant to travel. Upon bis arrival at Rome, he was enabled through these to procure the notice of many individuals of distinction, and he eventually became secretary to one of the Cardinals-with whom he lived in tranquil retirement from the turmoils of the world for some years.

* See the life of St. Theresa in “ Lives of the Saints," by Alban Butler, in which mention is made of, and some lines extracted from, this latter poem.

At the instance of his patron, who appreciated the spirit of religious devotion that characterized him, he was appointed a canon in the church of Loretto, whither he retired, and where at length he died of a fever in the year 1650. Of the latter part of his life little is known; he appears to have been deeply impressed with a contempt for worldly enjoyments, and anxious to secure, by retirement, the great object for which he had sacrificed the allurements of life. His friend Cowley, who became disgusted with the world, and who witnessed the contentedness and placid happiness of Crashaw, wished to attain them also by the same means, and withdrew himself from the bustle of the metropolis to spend his days in retirement in the country. Cowley, however, as appears from his Life by Dr. Johnson, still regretted the attractions of the “Great Babel,” and finding nothing in retirement but restlessness of mind and discontent, he longed to mix again with society, and to court the admiration and the company of those who were delighted with his wit, and his literary accomplishments.*

* From some accounts it appears that Crashaw was a Catholic before he left England, but we have no reason to believe that he publicly professed himself one in this country.

The conversion of Richard Crashaw to the Catholic faith has been attributed by his biographers, to the influence of a gloomy and bigoted disposition. His abilities as a preacher, however, had he possessed such a disposition, would bave led him at a period when puritanical zeal was at its height, to have pursued a course in which it would have been gratified, and his temporal interests advanced. We can perceive, too, a consistency. in his conduct, from the knowledge of his veneration for some of the Saints, whom the Catholic Church honours; and his life after his conversion is no slight proof of the reality of his feelings which led him to seek in the religion of Christ, truth and justification.

That Crashaw possessed considerable literary attainments is acknowledged by all who have mentioned his name, and his amiable qualities, as well as his genius, ensured him the esteem and admiration of his cotemporaries. Besides his native tongue, he was well versed in the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian and Spanish languages, and his knowledge of music and of painting was certainly not below mediocrity. Selden, the most distinguished literary character of his day, appears to have personally regarded him, and makes mention of him in his “ Table Talk,” in the article “ Poetry.” It is surely no mean recommendation of the scientific accomplishments of Crashaw, as his biographer, Mr. Hayley, observes, that he was “the companion of Selden, and the idol of Cowley.”

Mr. Peregrine Phillips, who published a judicious selection from his works in 1775, has the following observation in the preface. “ Crashaw was an object of resentment to the Protestants, for having changed his religion, in the puritanical times, from the Church of England to that of Rome. His book containing some Church services, and doctrinal per

* Cowley, in a preface to one of his productions, announced his intention of retiring to the American plantations and forsaking the world for ever;" he soon appears to have relinquished this idea, but under the influence of the same feeling he retired to Chertsey, in Surrey, from whence, in his letters to his friends, which are noticed in his life, he complained bitterly of the “ irksomeness of solitude.” He however continued at Chertsey till his death.

suasives to the Countess of Denbigh and others, was in great measure suppressed ; and as he finished a short studious life, in the year 1650, the latter end of which was wholly devoted to solitude and religious offices in the Church of Loretto, it

may not seem extraordinary, that no friend or relation should have attempted to rescue his name from oblivion.”—This insertion cannot be better concluded than by copying a 'remark made upon the poet by one of his cotemporaries, and which does justice to the religious turn of mind that he exhibited. “ Crashaw had too much religion to devote his whole strength to poetry, he trifled for amusement, but never wrote for fame.” His earnestness and sincerity while a protestant, guided him eventually to the paths of truth,--and he thus verified the words of the Psalmist, “ Initium sapientiæ timor Domini.”

CATHOLIC MISSIONS.

LETTER OF FATHER BOUCHET,

(Concluded from p. 442.)

The fidelity with which these new Christians observe in their villages, all the exercises of piety which are practised in the principal churches of the Mission, contributes not a little to preserve them in this innocence. I will not enter into a detail of the exercises, which are practised every day in the place, where the Missionary resides. Besides, its being too long for this place, you must have learned it before from some of our letters, which have been collected together. I shall content myself with saying, that these exercises of piety are redoubled on Sundays and Festivals. The greatest part of the people spend nearly the whole day in prayer in the churches. Besides listening very attentively to the sermon of the Missionary, they answer with surprizing docility to the questions which the Catechists ask them upon the chief articles of faith. These articles are contained in the catechism which they all ought to know by heart; and it is to refresh their memory, that we repeat it so often. After leaving the church, those, who are at law, choose

« НазадПродовжити »