Herbert’s Influence: Vaughan and Crashaw

One of the best ways to understand and evaluate the work of a poet is to consider the influence and impact of his or her work on contemporaries. Here, undergraduate Duana Chan focuses on the impact George Herbert made on Henry Vaughan, a seventeenth-century Welsh Protestant poet, and on Richard Crashaw, a Catholic devotional writer of the same period.


The work of George Herbert was beloved by both Renaissance readers and writers. Herbert adulation is documented in the wave of imitations which emerged in the wake of The Temple. Herbert's anthology was the first of its kind to incorporate various religious poems in a single body of poems in a method reminiscent of Philip Sidney's secular sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella (written c. 1580). Inspired by The Temple, subsequent Renaissance religious poets like Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw and Christopher Harvey produced anthologies such as Silex Scintillans, Steps to the Temple, and The Synagogue respectively. The poet Christopher Harvey was so moved by Herbert's materially-inspired poems such as 'The Altar', 'The Church Floor' and 'The Windows', that he made them structural blueprints for The Synagogue. Extemporising on a theme derived from Herbert's 'The Church Porch', Harvey's variations included 'The Church Gate', 'The Church Wall' and 'The Church Stile'. Although Harvey did not enjoy the fortune of his predecessor's success, a few of Herbert's imitators did. Henry Vaughan and Richard Crashaw are particularly prominent among those who went on to achieve literary renown.

Herbert inspired Vaughan and Crashaw to different degrees and to different ends. Vaughan was fascinated by how Herbert made the poem an object for the eye as much as it was an object for the ear. This was revolutionary for its time. At the time of Herbert's publishing, the technology of movable type printing (developed by Gutenberg in 1450) was still relatively new. Publication and typography were new domains. Writers of the time (poets in particular) were still exploring the yet un-codified typographical possibilities of the page. Unlike manuscripts (which were handwritten and often circulated within a select circle), printed poems were able to reach wider audiences. Printed poems were also able to exploit typographical effects. The full range of these possibilities was of particular interest to Henry Vaughan. Like those of Herbert, Vaughan's poems require the reader to be acutely aware of the poem's physical existence as a page. Under the influence of Herbert's highly visual poems, Vaughan exploited the poem's corporeal and spatial dimensions to forge meaning through shape. Vaughan, does not, however, exalt the physical world in these highly sensate 'shape poems'. Instead, he decries it and calls the world as understood by the senses mortal, tainted, and inherently duplicitous - 'False life! A foil and no more, when / Wilt thou be gone?' ('Quickness').

Whilst Richard Crashaw also wrote under Herbert's influence, his poems were inspired in a demonstrably different way. While Vaughan casts aspersions on the veracity of the physical world, Crashaw, by contrast, celebrates the physical world's materiality. He views nature as something which is God-affirming, and his poems are thus grounded in material motifs more frequently than Vaughan's are. It is thus correspondingly unusual that it is not Vaughan but Crashaw who inherited Herbert's poetic musicality. This might be considered striking as music appears to be at odds with physical matter: sound is incorporeal and abstract, while matter is corporeal and has both form and substance. Like Herbert, Crashaw often conceives of poetry as sound - the rarest and most refined of the physical senses. Poems are not merely words but songs. Crashaw shared Herbert's awareness of music inhered in verse. Poems are songs through which the poet can praise the divine. Crashaw's aesthetic values are thus unusual if not paradoxical, for they result in an apparent disjunction between poetic method and poetic themes. The motifs in Crashaw's poems are often physical. Crashaw's poetic world is a material, if not quasi-natural, physical universe; one in which he constructs 'New similes to nature' ('A Hymn'). Conceptually, however, Crashaw equates his poetry with sound - the most abstract, immaterial and incorporeal of aesthetic forms.

Henry Vaughan

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) led an extraordinarily diverse professional life. He received a legal education in Oxford and the , but went on to a career in medicine when his legal studies were interrupted by military service and the Civil War. Although a practising physician, Vaughan also wrote poetry. He was widely recognized for the Welsh cultural influences in his work, and was known as 'The Silurist' (after the ancient Welsh tribe of the Silures), a name he adopts in his first printed poetical anthology Olor Iscanus, or The Swan of Usk. His use of alliteration, assonantal rhymes, and dyfalu or Welsh similes (which involve the multiplication of comparisons held ), are distinct features of his poetry.

Some critics, however, claim that whilst Vaughan's poems are Welsh, they are also a 'tissue of echoes' which allude to works ranging from Donne and Jonson to Habington and Carew. Nevertheless, it is the poems of George Herbert which Vaughan personally cites as the single, most significant influence on both his artistic vision and temperament after his conversion to Anglicanism. In the preface to Silex Scintillans, his first anthology of religious poems, Vaughan makes his admiration for Herbert explicit - he calls Herbert a man 'whose holy life and verse gained many pious Converts (of whom I am the least)'. Twenty-six poems in Silex Scintillans are titled after poems from Herbert's The Temple. Others - like 'Unprofitableness' (which clearly alludes to Herbert's 'The Flower') - begin with direct quotations from Herbert.

'The most glorious true Saint'

The physician-turned-poet Vaughan often expressed explicit admiration for Herbert whom he called the 'most glorious true Saint' of the British church. Vaughan viewed Herbert as the perfect instantiation of the poet prophet. A common Renaissance conceit, this unity was popularised by Sidney's The Defence of Poesie (written c. 1580), in a passage on the Latin cognate of the Greek word 'poet' - vates - which means 'prophet' or 'diviner'. It is thus particularly significant that Vaughan praised Herbert as 'a seer' whose 'incomparable prophetic Poems' (The Works of Henry Vaughan, p.186) predicted present political and religious upheaval. Like Herbert, who believed that secular poetry - once 'wash[ed]... with tears' and 'brought... to church well dressed and clad' ('The Forerunners') - could be sanctified for religious purposes, Vaughan also believed in the reformative power of Christian verse:

Harken unto a Verser, who may chance
Rhyme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure.
A verse may find him, who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into sacrifice.
('Perirrhanterium', The Church Porch)

Both poets wrote in the shadow of the Erasmian tradition, which advocated religious teaching through wholesome and preferably scriptural, but nonetheless pleasurable, influences. Following Herbert's lead, Vaughan, too, was adamant to refute Puritan allegations against the vacuity or vanity of 'idle' verse.

'The root'

Vaughan's poems are distinctly Herbertian in a number of ways. As I mentioned earlier, several are grounded in actual lines from The Temple. From this collection Vaughan also adopted many of the motifs of Silex Scintillans. For example, 'The poor root... still trod / By ev'ry wandring clod' ('I walked the other day (to spend my hour), ll. 37-42') is immediately evocative of Herbert's own - 'Sweet rose... Thy root is ever in its grave' ('Virtue', The Church). Again, the opening to Vaughan's 'The Morning-watch' directly alludes to Herbert's own opening to 'The Holy Scriptures (I)'. Like Herbert's 'O Book! infinite sweetness! / let my heart / Suck ev'ry letter', Vaughan, too, begins his poem with one of Herbert's favourite adjectives - 'O Joyes! Infinite sweetnes! With what flowers / And shoots of glory, my soul breakes, and buds!' Later in the same poem, Vaughn attempts, also like Herbert, to both articulate and apprehend the spiritual enigma of prayer through periphrasis. Under the influence of Herbert's famous lyric 'Prayer (I)', he speaks of how 'Prayer is / The world in tune, / A spirit-voyce, / And vocall joyes / Whose Eccho is heavn's blisse' (ll. 18-22).

Herbert frequently shapes his verse in ways which demonstrated how he considered the poem (as it exists on the printed page) not simply an object for the ear but an object for the eye. In 'Justice (II)', Herbert doubts the power of 'show and shape' even as his verse form visually enacts the imbalance that will one day prove to be God's overwhelming weight on his behalf:

O Dreadfull Justice, what a fright and terrour
Wast thou of old,
When sinne and errour
Did show and shape thy looks to me,
And through their glasse discolour thee! ('Justice (II)', ll. 1-5)

Like Herbert, Vaughan's poems are not simply aural artefacts but visual ones. This was revolutionary for its time. As established earlier, the printing press (developed by Gutenberg in 1450) was a relatively modern invention. Prior to this, poems were either distributed as handwritten manuscripts or they were memorised (a process eased by rhyme) and recited from person to person; written poems, especially in the court context, were also sometimes set to music, and circulated through performances. Hence, most Medieval and Renaissance lyrics treated poems as highly, if not purely, aural objects. Although Herbert frequently equates his verse with sound, often calling it 'my music' ('The Thanksgiving') or 'my song' ('Whitsunday'), he nevertheless viewed the poems as visual objects.

Herbert viewed the poem as both page and sound. This is particularly surprising as the idea of poem as a page was relatively modern for his time. Herbert's awareness of the poem's physicality was revolutionary. This resulted in his creation of iconic poems with physically emblematic structures. Herbert manipulated typeface, lineation and typography to create a range of stanzaic innovations and effects, generating subtle arguments via visually expressive forms. Herbert was fond of these highly emblematic shapes which allowed the poet to merge both form and substance. The conjunction of both the ear and the eye in Herbert's poetry (a practice later adopted by Vaughan) is most evident in the pattern poem.

A form both popularised and pioneered by Herbert, the pattern or emblem poem is shaped around the object its represents. A type of glyph, the poem becomes an icon which takes on the visual nature of its subject. Herbert's most famous shape poems, 'The Altar' and 'Easter Wings', for instance, are shaped after an altar and a pair of wings, respectively. The pattern poem's iconic shape thus creates at least some of its meaning through sight.

Herbert's 'Easter Wings' was a homage to Stephen Hawes' 'A pair of wings', a Medieval lyric from the collection titled The Conversion of Swerers (1523) - the first recorded emblem poem in English. Herbert's popularisation of the form subsequently resulted in the assimilation of various elements of the pattern poem into the poems of Crashaw and Vaughan. As Vaughan wrote in one of his poems, the visual shape of the poem could act to lead the reader to the poem's meaning:

When first thy Eies unveil, give thy Soul leave
To do the like; our Bodies but forerun
The spirits duty.
('Rules and Lessons', Silex Scintillans)

Like Herbert, Vaughan's poems require the reader to negotiate between the eye, the ear, and the understanding. This is particularly evident in an emblem poem like 'The Waterfall':

With what deep murmurs through times silent stealth
Doth thy transparent, cool and watry wealth
Here flowing fall,
And chide, and call,
As if his liquid, loose Retinue staid
Lingring, and were of this steep place afraid,
The common pass
Where, clear as glass,
All must descend
Not to an end:
But quickened by this deep and rocky grave,
Rise to a longer course more bright and brave.

Here, Vaughan makes sound semantically resonant. In the 'stealth' / 'wealth' couplet assonance and alliteration seem both furtive (the 's' and 'a' / 'e' sounds merge in hushed tones) and fertile as the vowels proliferate. Hence, assonance represents and encapsulates 'stealth' and 'wealth' respectively. However, it is not just sound but sight which is simultaneously represented in the poem. There here exists a recognisable incorporation of both aural and visual elements. In addition to the assonance and sibilance ('silent stealth') which aurally evokes the waterfall's 'deep murmurs', Vaughan uses alternating stanza length to visually evoke the 'flowing fall' of the waterfall's cascading 'liquid, loose Retinue'. The stanza beginning with 'Here flowing fall' is abruptly indented and curtailed in a way which pictorially represents the flowing undulations of a waterfall. This kind of facility with the poem's graphic elements is a debt Vaughan owed to Herbert.

Even when Herbert's poems are not explicitly emblematic, he adopts, nevertheless, techniques derived from the pattern poem in order to foreground the simultaneously aural and visual nature of his writing. In some fleeting instances, for example, Herbert manipulates line breaks and spacing in order to show, for example, 'my heart broken, as was my verse' ('Denial', The Church), or how spiritual suffering can be manifested bodily, or even textually:

Broken in pieces all asunder
Lord hunt me not.
('Affliction (4)', The Church)

This kind of breaking is evident in a more sustained way in a poem like 'Easter (I)'. Although it is not a pattern poem, it uses shape to forge a thematic argument. Its bipartite structure essentially divides the work into two halves - regular, whole stanzas follow from the jagged, broken stanzas with which it opens. This division creates a visual progression from the broken to the whole which physically evokes its subject - the crucifixion and resurrection, in celebration of Easter. Brokenness (recalling the broken body of Christ) which heightens the wonder of resurrection is forged on a local level through emblematically broken lines such as -

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays.

The syntactic conclusion of the opening - 'thy Lord is risen' - does not correspond with the line's conclusion as it segues into 'Sing his praise'. This phrase is not resolved and its abrupt division is augmented by its indentation into 'Without delays'. The result is a sequence in which sound, sight and syntax combine to achieve a unified effect. The line is broken on two levels - visual and syntactic. This is physically emblematic of the brokenness which both precedes and heightens the resurrection with which Herbert's 'Easter (I)' is concerned. This practice was adopted by Vaughan in similar structures, such as 'Happy those early dayes! when I / Shin'd in my Angell-infancy' ('The Retreat'). Like Herbert, Vaughan uses the division of sight and syntax physically to evoke the displacement with which the poem is concerned.

Richard Crashaw, title page from Steps to the Temple (London, 1646).

Richard Crashaw

The poems of Richard Crashaw (1613-49) are distinctive. Sensuously  and sonorously resonant, they are frequently expressions of ecstatic religious rapture. They are also the only English Renaissance poems to represent the Catholic counter-Reformation. Crashaw's conversion to Catholicism may have been incited, in part, by his education. He was first a student at the Charterhouse, then at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Both institutions were noted in the seventeenth century for their Laudian Anglicanism which, like Catholicism, favoured both clerical hierarchy and liturgical ceremony. Crashaw's attraction to the rituals and devotions of the Catholic faith is evident in his poetry. Its vivid metaphors are often grounded in continental, baroque motifs which include the infant Jesus, the wounds of the broken, crucified Christ and the sufferings of the Virgin Mary, the Mater Dolorosa. This was a familiar practice in the medieval spiritual tradition of affective piety or devotion. Affective piety - which appeals to faith through sense and consequently emotion - is often grounded in loving expressions of the humanity of Christ, particularly in highly visual emphases on the Nativity and the Crucifixion.

Crashaw's first and second collections of sacred poems - Steps to the Temple (1646, 1648) - acknowledge Herbert's The Temple. However, they are very different in tone and temperament from Herbert's. Unlike Herbert, Crashaw's poems are often unbridled celebrations of nature. In Crashaw's poems, even secular objects such as 'darts' and 'nests' become means to religious expression. Consequently, Crashaw's poetic syntax was often highly as his poems were often premised on incorporation and synthesis. On the other hand, Herbert's poems were elegant and concise. Though Crashaw's poetry may differ markedly, in important respects, from the style and meaning of Herbert's, it bears, nevertheless, the inescapable influences of Herbert's work.

The extent and degree of Crashaw's allusions to Herbert - intentional or otherwise - is particularly evident in the opening to 'A Hymn to the Nativity':

Welcome all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span.
Summer in winter, Day in night.
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one! Whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav'n to earth.

The stanza is essentially predicated on conjunction - 'all wonders in one'. On a lexical level, this principle of incorporation is reflected in its morphology, such as the compound 'all-embracing'. The hyphenated compound welds two elements - 'all' and 'embracing'. This incorporative gesture reflects the unity of opposites - 'summer in winter', 'day in night' - which dominates the poem. These recurrent metaphors of paradoxical union are part of a figurative system which contains the theological argument of how 'God in man... Lifts earth to heaven' and 'stoops heav'n to earth'. The poem is about the apparent disparity between man's persistent unworthiness of God and His salvation of man in spite of this. The couplet 'birth' / 'earth' summarises this argument in précis. The break in the potential couplet that might have been forged between 'sight' and 'night' (in lines 1 and 3) or between 'span' and 'man' (in lines 2 and 4) is also evocative of this mismatch between the unity of 'heaven' and 'earth'. Whilst Crashaw could have made both lines couplet rhymes, he chooses, instead, to arrange them in terms of syntax (i.e. breaking and beginning a new line with the syntactic end) instead of sound. He thus begins each new line when new syntax begins.

Although Crashaw's poems are distinct from Herbert's in both religious and aesthetic terms, these lines are, nevertheless, highly reminiscent of Herbert's. 'Heaven in earth', 'God in man' and 'all-embracing birth' which 'lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav'n to earth' conspicuously recall lines from Herbert's 'Prayer (I)' like 'Heaven in ordinary ', 'God's breath in man returning to his birth' and 'the Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth'. The most pervasive mark of Herbert's influence on Crashaw, however, is the latter's usual equation of poetry with song. Crashaw calls the poem a 'hymn', although it is not composed of music but words. Also, Crashaw uses musical forms to structure his poems. He inherits this practice from Herbert whose poems - such as 'Antiphon' and 'A Dialogue-Anthem' are effectively speech-songs.


Herbert and Song

My music shall find thee, and ev'ry string
Shall have his attribute to sing;
That all together may accord in thee,
And prove one God, one harmony
('The Thanksgiving', The Temple)

Herbert's religious lyrics are significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, poetry's essentially musical nature makes them (i.e. the poems) an appropriate vehicle for articulating religious ideas. The conceptual, philosophical and theological implications of music in Herbert's day were rooted in medieval conceptions of music. The writings of the philosopher Boethius often refer to how many people in the Middle Ages believed music to be a litmus test for the condition of one's soul. The purer one's soul, the more beautiful the music. One's soul both reflected and resonated with the music of the spheres. Musica mundana reflected musica humana. This medieval idea survived in Renaissance theatre. In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, for instance, the antagonist Malvolio cannot and does not appreciate song. Neither can The Merchant of Venice's Shylock. Music was moral as much as it was aesthetic.

To write a verse or two, is all the praise,
That I can raise.
('Praise (I)', The Temple)

Music, purity and goodness thus existed reciprocally in the Renaissance. Since poems were often associated with music, Christian verse - particularly in a mode much like the Old Testament Psalms - became an ideal choice for didactic, contemplative and meditative purposes. This connection is one which is particularly marked for the critic Samuel Singer. In Das Nachleben der Psalmen or 'The Afterlife of the Psalms', Singer posits that the basis of the medieval religious lyric tradition was one founded entirely on the tradition of the Old Testament Psalms. Whilst Douglas Gray has contested this argument, calling it an 'impossibly exaggerated claim', nevertheless Gray, too, asserts that the medieval religious lyric tradition is largely premised on are essentially abstractions and meditations of Biblical verses for ease of the lay-person.

Herbert, 'the sweet singer of the Temple', was celebrated as a highly musical poet who 'rightly knew David's harpe'. This is readily attested by how easily his poems were set to hymns, some of which include settings by Isaac Watts. Herbert's poems were often associated with both scripture and ecclesiastical music for a number of reasons. These reasons affected Crashaw to varying degrees and ends. These similarities are significant as the equation of music with spirituality - whilst alluded to - was not often made explicit in the period. Herbert's reverence for music was so deep that it altered his views on prayer. He viewed prayer as song itself - 'a kind of tune, which all things hear and fear' ('Prayer (I)'). Crashaw did likewise. The ancillary text which precedes 'Prayer', for instance, makes that poetic 'ode' part of 'a little Prayer-book'. Music was inalienable from prayer. Herbert also equates music with flight. In 'Whitsunday', song is concomitant with flight - 'Listen sweet Dove unto my song, / And spread thy golden wings in me'. In lines from 'A Hymn', Crashaw speaks likewise - 'Awake and sing / And be all wing'. Herbert viewed music as a way to grasp spiritual enigmas. Herbert uses the musical triad, for instance, as an analogue for the Holy Trinity:

Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art
(Herbert, 'Easter (I)')

Like Herbert, Crashaw also invokes music to meditate on divine nature - as he appeals to God, 'Help me to meditate mine Immortall Song' ('A Hymn').

Although Crashaw's poems were highly different in tone from Herbert's, both Crashaw and Herbert equated religious poetry with music and song in highly similar ways. This is apparent in lines from Herbert's 'Praise (I)'. In it, poetic 'verse' is essentially synonymous with musical 'praise' and 'To write a verse or two, is all... praise / That I can raise'. This equation is one also which he makes explicit the poem 'Virtue'. 'Virtue' is musical in both thematic and structural ways. Herbert calls his verse a song - 'My music shows ye have your closes, / And all must die'. He equates both this music and death with revelation. Like its musical themes, the poem's structure is corresponding song-like. Each of the stanzas ends with a refrain; like a musical chorus, each of these stanzas concludes with the modal imperative 'must die'. The tonality of the poem shifts at its 'coda' or close. The melancholy refrain modulates to a triumphant 'And chiefly live' like a musical tierce di picardie, the movement from a minor key to a major one often found in the music of Herbert's time.

Like Herbert, Henry Vaughan, too, equates poetry - Crashaw's 'songs in the night' - with music. Nevertheless, the connection that Herbert forged between poetry and song is most evidently realised in the poems of Richard Crashaw. Whilst Herbert often asserts that verse and music are essentially synonymous, Crashaw subordinates speech to song. Crashaw speaks of how music is transcendent. This is encapsulated in the opening lines to 'A Hymn'.

'I sing the Name which None can say' reveals how Crashaw believes that song can and does transcend the limitations of human language. Singing is transcendent. 'The Name which None can say' refers, undoubtedly, to the Hebrew YHWH, a reference to God so sacred that it is not traditionally spoken. However, a reading of the line pivots between two possible interpretations. Each of these readings is hinged on different ways of understanding the modal auxiliary verb 'can'. In the context of the line, 'can' modulates between its deontic sense and its dynamic sense. The deontic 'can' refers to what one is socially or morally obligated to do after an action has been authorised by a superior. The dynamic 'can' refers to what one is capable of doing. Hence, in one sense, Crashaw 'can' circumvent speaking by singing because the verb ('sing') refers to an action which is not to speak. To 'sing' is not to speak. Thus, Crashaw plays on definitional lines - the explicit assertion that speech is not song results in an implicit suggestion that song surpasses speech. This modulation pivots on the deliberate ambiguities latent in 'can'. In another sense - one which also affirms this one - Crashaw speaks of singing allows him to circumvent social obligations of what he 'can' or cannot do, in its deontic sense. Thus, he 'can' 'sing' of God's name because he is not socially obliged not to. Singing, hence, is a superior mode of communication to speech.

In a manner derived from Herbert's 'Antiphon', Crashaw's poems consistently associate poetry with music in both structural and thematic ways. Like those of Herbert, Crashaw's poems are also structural hybrids which merge poetry with song. Crashaw calls and treats his poems as 'hymns' and 'songs'. The most famous of these include works like 'A Hymn to the Nativity', 'A Hymn to St. Teresa', 'A Song' and 'Prayer, An ode'. These poetic hybrids synthesise music and poetry in more than metaphorical ways. Through them, Crashaw merges song and word.

Herbert and the twentieth century

The force of Herbert's revolutionary incorporation of vision with sound is clearly attested by the hold it was to have on poets who emerged centuries later. Four hundred years ahead of his time (in what is roughly the poetic equivalent of a Renaissance painter anticipating cubism) Herbert's iconic innovations - typographical, stanzaic and structural - inspired, influenced and catalysed ranging from Thomas Hardy to Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ezra Pound to T.S. Eliot, and Emily Dickinson to e.e. cummings.

Herbert's iconic 'Colossians 3:33', 'Paradise', 'Anagram' and 'Jesu' demonstrate a revolutionary facility with the poem's graphic interface. This was to be fully realised in twentieth-century Modernism. Herbert's structural poems found their most vocal advocates in a movement pioneered by Pound - Imagism. The Imagists, too, believe in the power of speaking shapes. Hence, they were particularly partial to the pattern or emblem poem. Even non-Imagists - the poet Dylan Thomas, for instance - were so taken by Herbert that they created poems which were patterned after Herbert's. For instance, Thomas's emblem poem, 'Vision and Prayer', alludes directly to Herbert's 'Easter Wings'.

Further Thinking

Duana Chan shows in this discussion of Herbert and Vaughan how significant and imitable many of Herbert's poetical innovations were - and above all, his visual sense. Protestant theologians of the Reformation, though, had stressed the reading and interpretation of Scripture over the older Catholic religious life of saints, icons, and images. Does Vaughan's reception of Herbert's poetry help you to understand this contradiction?

In this article, Duana Chan has demonstrated some of the ways in which Herbert and Vaughan manipulated the visual impact of their pattern poems. Can you see other ways in which the shape of these poems represents or influences their meaning? How would you use shape in a poem today?

Duana Chan has shown how Crashaw's debt to Herbert runs much deeper than simple echoes of his words and phrases, extending rather into basic assumptions about the musical quality of poetry and its suitability for prayer and religious experience. Do you think that the musicality of some modern verse - whether influenced by Herbert or not - strives after a similarly spiritual (if not religious) end? What examples can you think of, and how do those poets create and exploit musical effects in their words and phrases?

The four Inns of Court - Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, and the Middle and Inner Temples - were considered by many in the seventeenth century to constitute 'the third University of England'; here young men studied the theory and practice of English common law, though many left the Inns without proceeding into the legal profession, and never became lawyers.
A musical term, taken from Italian, that means literally 'narrowly'. Here it refers to the way in which the comparisons are joined one to another, tightly and without intervening matter.
Ekphrasis is a term for a description of a work of art, often within another work of art. In Shakespeare's poem The Rape of Lucrece there is an ekphrasis wherein a picture depicting the Trojan war is described in words.
Parataxis is the coordination of independent clauses using conjunctions like 'and' and 'but'.

One Response to “Herbert’s Influence: Vaughan and Crashaw”

  1. Christopher Tilmouth Says:

    Crashaw’s Pembroke College connection is certainly an important factor to think about in assessing his Laudianism, but I would argue that Crashaw’s presence as a Fellow at Peterhouse (another Cambridge college) from 1635 to 1643 was an even more significant consideration. During the late 1630s and early 1640s, Peterhouse was notorious for leading the way in espousing Laud’s ideas of religious worship, and Crashaw was a keen supporter of that trend. He is said to have composed much of his mature poetry during all-night vigils held in Peterhouse chapel or in the Church of St Mary-the-Less immediately next door. Two of his Latin poems celebrate the construction of the college chapel, the structure of which had been completed in 1632, and contemporary records also suggest that Crashaw was intimately involved in the work to decorate this new building. Imporatntly, John Cosin, when he became Master of Peterhouse in 1634, made choral music an essential part of religious services in the college, and Crashaw seems to have played an enthusiastic part in that musical culture. He is known to have set to music poems by another Peterhouse Fellow, Joseph Beaumont. Crashaw’s interest in Herbert and the musicality of his verse could helpfully be seen in this light. It’s also notable that whilst Crashaw was at Peterhouse, he acted as Tutor to Ferrar Collet. Collet was nephew to Nicholas Ferrar, the leader of the religious community at Little Gidding, just ouside Cambridge, whose members had taken a keen interest in Herbert’s work. Crashaw was a frequent visitor to this community during his time at Peterhouse, a connection which must have further cemented his interest in Herbertian poetry.

    Christopher Tilmouth, Fellow in English, Peterhouse.

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