Structure and versification in Hymn to St Teresa

The poem is a long and non-stanzaic. The metre is straightforwardly iambic tetrameters, rhyming in couplets. This emerged as one of the early seventeenth century's favourite metric forms, widely used by Andrew Marvell in particular. However, Crashaw keeps the rhythm varied and not strictly tied down to the verse form. If we analyse a few lines, we shall see how he manages this:

Swéet, not| so fást!|| Ló, thy| fair Spóuse,
Whóm| thou séek'st| with so swíft| vóws;
Cálls| thee báck,| and bíds| thee cóme
T'émbrace| a míld|er márt|yrdóm.

where we can see each line actually begins with a stressed syllable rather than the iambic unstressed one, making some lines only of seven syllables. The stressed grouping of ‘swift vows/Calls' gives a strength to the reading of the lines. The pauses do not necessarily coincide with line endings, either, making for a quite flexible verse. The next two lines (ll.69-70) are regular iambics, but before too much smoothness is achieved, Crashaw then introduces stressed clusters in ‘base hand' and ‘breast's chaste cab-' in the next two lines (ll.71-72), both lines being run on.

Investigating Hymn to St Teresa
  • Look again at the analysis of ll.65-72 of Hymn to St Teresa
  • Take a similar group of any six or eight lines and do a metric analysis
    • What conclusions do you come to?
  • To what extent are we aware of the rhymes?
    • Are there good examples of where they produce a particular effect?
  • In general, what strikes you most about the poem?
  • Do you think that Crashaw's poetry reinforces the notion that religion is mainly for women?
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