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The Order of Stanzas in Cowley and Crashaw's "On Hope" by George Walton Williams
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Page 207

The Order of Stanzas in Cowley and Crashaw's "On Hope"
George Walton Williams

In a recent article, "The Order of Stanzas in Cowley and Crashaw's 'On Hope,'" SP, LXI (1964), 64-73, Mr. Clarence H. Miller argues that in the 1646 and 1648 editions of Crashaw's Steps to the Temple the order of stanzas in the joint poem "On Hope" is incorrect.

Mr. Miller points out what is now — thanks to him — perfectly obvious: that in the 1646 edition the Crashaw stanzas (6) and (8 and 9) do not answer in logic or in metaphor the Cowley stanzas (5) and (7) they follow. (The arabic numbers in parentheses give the order found in all seventeenth-century texts of the poem.) He therefore suggests a rearrangement of the last stanzas of the poem, supporting his suggestion (a) on the likelihood of scribal or compositorial error in the preparation of the 1646 edition and (b) on the poetic coherence gained by the change. Though willing to grant both points at once, one is hesitant to accept his conclusion, as it overlooks the fact that in the 1652 edition, Carmen Deo Nostro, the order of Crashaw's poem (not there printed in stanzas) is the same as that in 1646. As it is generally assumed that Crashaw advised Thomas Car, the editor of the 1652 edition, it will be necessary to argue from Mr. Miller's position that Crashaw overlooked the error in the order of stanzas (— not by any means an impossibility, though something of an embarrassment to Mr. Miller's hypothesis).

Mr. Miller is certainly correct in separating Crashaw's stanzas (8) and (9) and printing them to follow Cowley's (5) and (7); his insight adds much to the integrity of the poem. His arguments for Crashaw's (6) in final position are less convincing. The theory of compositorial shuffling that he proposes is acceptable, but the argument for the consistency of the imagery is not. He argues that Crashaw's (6) echoes Cowley's (3) and (5); I would suggest that (6) echoes (3) only: Crashaw's erotic image of Hope's golden head dying in the lap of Love does not echo Cowley's weeping cloud of (5) but Cowley's deflowered virgins of (3). Crashaw's (6) then supplements (4) by making a further remonstrance to Cowley's (3). Crashaw's lines 31-34 answer Cowley's 23-24 ('Legacie'), lines 35-40 answer Cowley's 25-26 ('wed,' 'bed'); Crashaw's lines 41-42 answer Cowley's 21-22 ('taster'), lines 45-47 answer Cowley's 25-26 (erotic image), lines 49-50 answer Cowley's 29-30 ('Wine'). Furthermore, Crashaw's (6) — with apologies to Mr. Miller — does not to my mind or ear provide a fitting or a typical conclusion. The poem, I suggest, should be arranged in the following order:


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On Hope,
By way of Question and Answer, betweene
A. Cowley, and R. Crashaw. Cowley. (1) Hope, whose weake being ruin'd is
Alike, if it succeed, and if it misse.
Whom Ill, and Good doth equally confound,
And both the hornes of Fates dilemma wound.
Vaine shadow! that doth vanish quite
Both at full noone, and perfect night.
The Fates have not a possibility
Of blessing thee.
If things then from their ends wee happy call,
'Tis hope is the most hopelesse thing of all. 10
Crashaw. (2) Deare Hope! Earths dowry, and Heavens debt,
The entity of things that are not yet.
Subt'lest, but surest being! Thou by whom
Our Nothing hath a definition.
Faire cloud of fire, both shade, and light,
Our life in death, our day in night.
Fates cannot find out a capacity
Of hurting thee.
From thee their thinne dilemma with blunt horne
Shrinkes, like the sick Moone, at the wholsome morne. 20
Cowley. (3) Hope, thou bold taster of delight,
Who, in stead of doing so, devour'st it quite.
Thou bring'st us an estate, yet leav'st us poore,
By clogging it with Legacies before.
The joyes, which wee intire should wed,
Come deflour'd virgins to our bed.
Good fortunes without gaine imported bee,
So mighty Custome's paid to thee.
For joy, like Wine kept close, doth better taste
If it take ayre before its spirits waste. 30
Crashaw. (4) Thou art Loves Legacie under lock
Of Faith: the steward of our growing stocke.
Our Crown-lands lye above, yet each meale brings
A seemly portion for the Sons of Kings.
Nor will the Virgin-joyes wee wed
Come lesse unbroken to our bed,
Because that from the bridall cheeke of Blisse,
Thou thus steal'st downe a distant kisse,
Hopes chaste kisse wrongs no more joyes maidenhead,
Then Spousall rites prejudge the marriage-bed. 40
Crashaw. (6) Faire Hope! our earlier Heaven! by thee
Young Time is taster to Eternity.
The generous wine with age growes strong, not sower;


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Nor need wee kill thy fruit to smell thy flower.
Thy golden head never hangs downe,
Till in the lap of Loves full noone
It falls, and dyes: oh no, it melts away
As doth the dawne into the day:
As lumpes of Sugar lose themselves, and twine
Their subtile essence with the soule of Wine. 50
Cowley. (5) Hope, Fortunes cheating Lotterie,
Where for one prize an hundred blankes there bee.
Fond Archer Hope, who tak'st thine ayme so farre,
That still, or short, or wide thine arrowes are.
Thine empty cloud the eye, it selfe deceives
With shapes that our owne fancie gives:
A cloud, which gilt, and painted now appeares,
But must drop presently in teares.
When thy false beames o're Reasons light prevaile,
By ignes fatui, not North starres we sayle. 60
Crashaw. (8) Fortune? alas above the worlds low warres
Hope kicks the curl'd heads of conspiring starres.
Her keele cuts not the waves, where our winds stirre,
And Fates whole Lottery is one blanke to her.
Her shafts, and shee fly farre above,
And forrage in the fields of light, and love.
Sweet Hope! kind cheat! faire fallacy! by thee
Wee are not where, or what wee bee,
But what, and where wee would bee: thus art thou
Our absent presence, and our future now. 70
Cowley. (7) Brother of Feare! more gaily clad
The merrier Foole o'th' two, yet quite as mad.
Sire of Repentance! Child of fond desire,
That blows the Chymicks, and the Lovers fire,
Still leading them insensibly on,
With the strange witchcraft of Anon.
By thee the one doth changing Nature through
Her endlesse Laborinths pursue,
And th' other chases woman, while she goes
More wayes, and turnes, then hunted Nature knowes. 80
Crashaw. (9) Faith's Sister! Nurse of faire desire!
Feares Antidote! a wise, and well stay'd fire
Temper'd 'twixt cold despaire, and torrid joy:
Queen Regent in young Loves minoritie.
Though the vext Chymick vainly chases
His fugitive gold through all her faces,
And loves more fierce, more fruitlesse fires assay
One face more fugitive then all they,
True Hope's a glorious Huntresse, and her chase
The God of Nature in the field of Grace. 90


Page 210

When Cowley reprinted his stanzas in The Mistress (1647), he printed them as one poem, "Against Hope," of 40 lines (arranged in stanzas); and he followed these lines with his new poem, "For Hope," also of 40 lines. When Thomas Car printed the poem in the Carmen Deo Nostro (1652), he similarly printed Cowley's poem as one poem of 40 lines; and he followed these lines by Crashaw's "Answer For Hope" as one poem of 50 lines. Cowley's example in 1647 suggests that the parallel in the 1652 edition has some authority (though possibly the authority of only half of the joint authorship; Cowley was in Paris at the time Car published the 1652 edition), and that the arrangement in 1646 is editorial.

The transmission of the text may be reconstructed on the following scheme. Crashaw's friend and editor, preparing "On Hope" for the 1646 edition, noticed how exactly Crashaw's (2) and (4) responded to Cowley's (1) and (3). He therefore decided to alternate the stanzas. Not noticing that stanza (6) also responded to Cowley's (3) he continued his alternation. As a result, he was left with the awkwardness of two stanzas of Crashaw's at the end (8 and 9). Car, preparing the 1652 edition, perhaps on Cowley's advice, printed the two poems as separate units (in the manner of the only other substantive seventeenth-century text, British Museum MS. Harleian 6918). In this non-stanzaic arrangement, Crashaw's lines 11-30, i.e., (4) followed immediately by (6), respond to Cowley's lines 11-20, i.e. (3), and the awkwardness of two final Crashaw stanzas disappears. Furthermore, the 1652 version concludes on a rhapsodic high note, typically Crashavian and responding exactly to Cowley's conclusion. What must be obvious is that Crashaw with characteristic exuberance has provided fifty lines where tradition dictated he should have provided only forty. How best to fit in the usual Crashavian excess is the editor's problem.