George Herbert and Richard Crashaw: Two Versions of the Christian Paradox

Robert Ellrodt

in Seven Metaphysical Poets

Published in print May 2000 | ISBN: 9780198117384
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670923 | DOI:
George Herbert and Richard Crashaw: Two Versions of the Christian Paradox

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With George Herbert as with John Donne, the awareness of the two natures of Christ and of man's amphibious nature commanded his vision of the world and his poetic inspiration as if it were a structure of his mind. Herbert's conception of the Eucharist sheds light on his essential mode of religious sensibility. His main point is that body and soul have parallel, though not identical, activities and enjoyments, closely linked, yet never confused. His most deeply felt paradoxes bring together but never confuse contrary notions, indissolubly connected in human experience: the finite and the infinite, time and eternity, life and death. With Richard Crashaw, who joined the Roman Church, transubstantiation seems to become a model for an imaginative interfusion of the sensible and the spiritual which melt into one another. The relation between the spiritual and the sensible evident in the poetry of Donne and Herbert appears to be of a different nature in the poetry of Crashaw, and a similar difference obtains in the interrelation between the abstract and the concrete.

Keywords: George Herbert; Richard Crashaw; Christ; body; soul; paradoxes; poetry; abstract; concrete

Chapter.  7525 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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