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Textual Revision in Crashaw's "Vpon the Bleeding Crvcifix"
George W. Williams

It is commonly thought that Crashaw's religious lyrics "have only the structure that is given by the string in a rosary,"[1] and thus lack the kind of careful, "articulated structure"[2] often achieved by George Herbert. However, Crashaw was, in fact, capable of this "articulated structure": an interesting example will be found in a comparison of the two versions of the poem entitled in 1646 "On the bleeding wounds of our crucified Lord," in 1648 "On the bleeding body of our crucified Lord," and in 1652 "Vpon the


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bleeding Crvcifix A Song."[3] The progressive change of name is significant. The emphasis has been shifted from the wounds through the body to the crucifix, and the key to the new structure has been suggested, for the poem has been made consciously cruciform in the later version. No major change has occurred in the thought of the poem, but the deceptively simple transposition in lines two and three of the first stanza and the consequential rearrangement of the order of the following four stanzas evidence a certain intention to provide the 1648 version with an articulated structure in keeping with the new name for the poem.

An examination of the two versions of the first stanza reveals Crashaw's statement of the form in the second version.

1646: Iesu, no more, it is full: de From thy hands and from thy feet, From thy head, and from thy side, All thy Purple Rivers meet.
1648 and 1652: Iesu, no more! It is full tide. From thy head & from thy feet, From thy hands & from thy side All the purple Riuers meet.
By the single interchange of "hands" and "head," the 1648 stanza immediately becomes cruciform. The second line, "head . . . feet," gives the vertical support, the third line, "hands", provides the crossbar. Furthermore, the words parallel the movement of the hand in making the sign of the cross.

The elaboration of this statement follows to build the articulated structure. In both versions each of the second through fifth stanzas deals with one of the wounds of the Christ. In the 1646 version these stanzas bear no formal relation to the order of the wounds in the opening statement. Thus, "hands . . . feet . . . head . . . side," the order in the first stanza, is expanded in the random manner: "feet . . . hand . . . side . . . head."[4] In the 1648 revision, however, Crashaw has so rearranged the order of the second through fifth stanzas that the statement of the theme is expanded identically in the stanzas. Thus, the order in the first stanza, "head . . . feet . . . hands . . . side," is reproduced in the same order in the stanzas: "head . . . feet . . . hands . . . side."[5]


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It is evident that this is no casual rearrangement, but that Crashaw is consciously revising to create a cruciform poem which outlines a small crucifix in the opening lines and proceeds to enlarge the picture in the body of the poem.


George Williamson, The Donne Tradition, p. 114.


A term originated by G. H. Palmer in an essay, "The Style," prefacing his edition of The English Poems of George Herbert, I, 139-140, to describe the kind of structure which results from the conscious desire of the poet to make the form of the poem reproduce the movement of the thought.


The Poems English Latin and Greek of Richard Crashaw, ed. L. C. Martin, pp. 101, 288.


The presence of the singular word "hand" in the first line of the stanza (1646) indicates that Crashaw was not thinking in terms of a formal crucifix since both hands are obviously needed to form the cross bar. In the 1648 version the word is significantly plural.


The concluding four stanzas in both versions indicate the more typical Crashavian structure. A progression in size may be noted: "river, rivers, [flood], deluge."