Teresa of Avila: August 2002 Archives

The Seventeenth Century:Redux


The seventeenth century seemed to be a wonderful time for incredible devotional poetry. Richard Crashaw was only 36 when he died in 1649, and yet he left behind a wealth of profound poetry. Crashaw converted to Catholicism in about 1645 (not a particularly safe thing to do in and around England) and found his way to the Continent. The passage below is an excerpt from a poem about St. Teresa of Avila, in it he refers to an event known to Carmelites as the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila. A statue sculpted by Bernini depicts this event.

How kindly will thy gentle heart
Kiss the sweetly-killing dart!
And close in his embraces keep
Those delicious wounds, that weep
Balsam to heal themselves with. Thus
When these thy deaths, so numerous,
Shall all at last die into one,
And melt thy soul's sweet mansion
Like a soft lump of incense, hasted
By too hot a fire, and wasted
Into perfuming clouds, so fast
Shalt thou exhale to Heav'n at last
In a resolving sigh; and then,
O what? Ask not the tongues of men;
Angels cannot tell; suffice,
Thyself shall feel thine own full joys
And hold them fast forever. There
So soon as thou shalt first appear,
The moon of maiden stars, thy white
Mistress, attended by such bright
Souls as thy shining self, shall come
And in her first ranks make thee room;
Where 'mongst her snowy family
Immortal welcomes wait for thee.

Not, perhaps, the very finest poetry, but nevertheless an admirable depiction in words of what Bernini managed in sculpture. Some have claimed that Crashaw was influenced by Bernini's sculpture, but the sources I read note the date of the sculpture as 1652, three years after Crashaw's death. Unless he saw sketches or rough models, which is possible, this postulate seems unlikely.

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Prayer of St. Teresa of


commonly called Her Bookmark
Let nothing disturb you;
nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Teresa of Avila category from August 2002.

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