Language and tone in Hymn to St Teresa

Physical and sensuous language

Language and imagery tie up closely in Crashaw's poetry. We find a diction rich in words of wounding and suffering, which will, of necessity, be physical. There are words connected with love, including passion and burning, again very physical. Much of Crashaw's language here is physical and sensuous.

This is seen in the number of times ‘sweet' and ‘soft' are used. Other ‘soft' words include ‘blush', ‘kisses', ‘milder', ‘tender' and so on. If we have read any poetry by John Keats, we are perhaps reminded of his very soft, sensuous romantic diction. Before Crashaw, the English poets who could best achieve this were Edmund Spenser and Shakespeare himself. Certainly, it is a far from the harsh and dissonant language of Donne.

Enthusiastic tone

The tone is celebratory, enthusiastic and totally engaged in a very emotional way. The voice addresses Teresa directly for much of the time, though the dramatic and memorable opening is addressed to Love. The last section is triumphal and climactic. Crashaw manages to sustain this without losing a sense of balance and proportion, as he did in St Mary Magdalene.

Investigating Hymn to St Teresa
  • Examine the vocabulary Crashaw uses in Hymn to St Teresa
    • Continue the list of words that sound soft and sensuous
  • What other groups of words suggest an appeal to the senses?
  • What other word clusters have you noticed in the poem?
  • Would you say that there was a tone of suppressed violence?
    • Or is the talk of martyrdom not conveyed in the tone?
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