28 August 2009

Crashaw's Hymn for the Assumption

Thanks to the Reformation, truly accomplished poetry dedicated to the Mother of God seems to be somewhat rare in our language. Richard Crawshaw’s ‘hymn’ for the Assumption is thus quite a gem. Born in 1612 or 1613, Crashaw was the ‘bookish’ son of a Puritan minister, a Greek scholar at Cambridge, and a writer of epigrams for books supporting King Charles I against Parliamentarians and Puritans. After losing a fellowship under Cromwell, he converted to Catholicism and became an exile, first in Paris, then Loreto, where he died in 1649. Abraham Cowley eulogised him as ‘Poet and Saint!’

I have rendered any italicised words from Crashaw’s text in boldface, to adhere somewhat to his own way of presenting the text. From The Verse in English of Richard Crashaw (NY: Grove, 1949), pp. 193-5:

‘In the Glorious Assumption
of Our Blessed Lady.
The Hymn.’

Hark! she is call’d, the parting hour is come.
Take thy Farewell, poor world! heav’n must go home.
A piece of heav’nly earth; Purer and brighter
Then the chaste stars, whose choice lamps come to light her
While through the crystal orbs, clearer then they,
She climbs; and makes a far more milky way.
She’s called. Hark, how the dear immortal dove
Sighs to his silver mate rise up, my love!
Rise up, my fair, my spotless one!
The winter’s past, the rain is gone.
The spring is come, the flow’rs appear
No sweets, but thou, are wanting here.
Come away, my love!
Come away, my dove! cast off delay.
The court of heav’n is come
To wait upon thee home; Come, come away!
The flow’rs appear.
Or quickly would, wert thou once here.
The spring is come, or if it stay,
’Tis to keep time with thy delay.
The rain is gone, except so much as we
Detain in needful tears to weep the want of thee.
The winter’s past.
Or if he make less haste,
His answer is, why she does so.
If summer comes not, how can winter go.
Come away, come away.
The shrill winds chide, the waters weep thy stay;
The fountains murmur; and each loftiest tree
Bows low’st his heavy top, to look for thee.
Come away, my love.
Come away, my dove, etc.
She’s call’d again. And will she go?
When heav’n bids come, who can say no?
Heav’n calls her, and she must away.
Heav’n will not, and she cannot stay.
Go then; go Glorious.
On the golden wings
Of the bright youth of heav’n, that sings
Under so sweet a Burthen. Go,
Since thy dread son will have it so.
And while thou goest, our song and we
Will, as we may, reach after thee.
Hail, holy Queen of humble hearts!
We in thy praise will have our parts.
Thy precious name shall be
Thy self to us; and we
With holy care will keep it by us.
We to the last
Will hold it fast
And no Assumption shall deny us.
All the sweetest showers
Of our fairest flowers
Will we strow upon it.
Though our sweets cannot make
It sweeter, they can take
Themselves new sweetness from it.
Maria, men and Angels sing,
Maria, mother of our King.
Live, rosy princess, Live. And may the bright
Crown of a most incomparable light
Embrace thy radiant brows. O may the best
Of everlasting joys bath thy white breast.
Live, our chaste love, the holy mirth
Of heav’n; the humble pride of earth.
Live, crown of women; Queen of men.
Live mistress of our song. And when
Our weak desires have done their best,
Sweet Angels come, and sing the rest.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...


Yet I've a quibble. You write: "Thanks to the Reformation...."

This is obviously a slip of someone's pen, for it is more properly termed the Deformation.

Aaron Taylor said...

Point well taken!

margaret said...

I haven't read this for so many years... Live rosy princess, live. It's so different... one gets used to the same phrases that over and over become hackneyed no matter how beautiful they may have been before they were used ten thousand times and all they invoke is a vision of Our Lady delicately cringing. I am going to print this out, thankyou so much for posting it.

Ora pro nobis! said...

You left out that he was a Catholic convert. May the Blessed Mother of God lead as many souls from protestantism as possible that they do not perish in Hell.

Ave, Gratia Plena! Happy Feast of the Holy Name of Mary!

Aaron Taylor said...

Ora> Actually, I didn't leave that out, but thanks!