Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 31. Prayer
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
31. Prayer
By Richard Crashaw  (?1613–1649)
An Ode which was præfixed to a little Prayer-book given to a young Gentle-woman

LO here a little volume, but great Book
  A nest of new-born sweets;
  Whose native fires disdaining
  To ly thus folded, and complaining
  Of these ignoble sheets,        5
  Affect more comly bands
  (Fair one) from the kind hands
  And confidently look
  To find the rest
Of a rich binding in your Brest.       10
It is, in one choise handfull, heavenn; and all
Heavn’s Royall host; incamp’t thus small
To prove that true schooles use to tell,
Ten thousand Angels in one point can dwell.
It is love’s great artillery       15
Which here contracts itself, and comes to ly
Close couch’t in their white bosom: and from thence
As from a snowy fortresse of defence,
Against their ghostly foes to take their part,
And fortify the hold of their chast heart.       20
It is an armory of light
Let constant use but keep it bright,
  You’l find it yeilds
To holy hands and humble hearts
  More swords and sheilds       25
Then sin hath snares, or Hell hath darts.
  Only be sure
  The hands be pure
That hold these weapons; and the eyes
Those of turtles, chast and true;       30
  Wakefull and wise;
Here is a freind shall fight for you,
Hold but this book before their heart;
Let prayer alone to play his part,
  But ô the heart       35
  That studyes this high Art
  Must be a sure house-keeper
  And yet no sleeper.
  Dear soul, be strong.
  Mercy will come e’re long       40
And bring his bosom fraught with blessings,
Flowers of never fading graces
To make immortall dressings
For worthy soules, whose wise embraces
Store up themselves for Him, who is alone       45
The Spouse of Virgins and the Virgin’s son.
But if the noble Bridegroom, when he come
Shall find the loytering Heart from home;
  Leaving her chast aboad
  To gadde abroad       50
Among the gay mates of the god of flyes;
To take her pleasure and to play
And keep the devill’s holyday;
To dance th’sunshine of some smiling
  But beguiling       55
Spheares of sweet and sugred Lyes,
  Some slippery Pair
Of false, perhaps as fair,
Flattering but forswearing eyes;
Doubtlesse some other heart       60
  Will gett the start
Mean while, and stepping in before
Will take possession of that sacred store
Of hidden sweets and holy ioyes.
Words which are not heard with Eares       65
(Those tumultuous shops of noise)
Effectuall wispers, whose still voice
The soul it selfe more feeles then heares;
Amorous languishments; luminous trances;
Sights which are not seen with eyes;       70
Spirituall and soul-peircing glances
Whose pure and subtil lightning flyes
Home to the heart, and setts the house on fire
And melts it down in sweet desire
  Yet does not stay       75
To ask the windows leave to passe that way;
Delicious Deaths; soft exalations
Of soul; dear and divine annihilations;
  A thousand unknown rites
Of ioyes and rarefy’d delights;       80
A hundred thousand goods, glories, and graces,
  And many a mystick thing
  Which the divine embraces
Of the deare spouse of spirits with them will bring
  For which it is no shame       85
That dull mortality must not know a name.
  Of all this store
Of blessings and ten thousand more
  (If when he come
  He find the Heart from home)       90
  Doubtlesse he will unload
  Himself some other where,
  And poure abroad
  His pretious sweets
On the fair soul whom first he meets.       95
O fair, ô fortunate! O riche, ô dear!
O happy and thrice happy she
  Selected dove
  Who ere she be,
  Whose early love      100
  With winged vowes
Makes hast to meet her morning spouse
And close with his immortall kisses.
Happy indeed, who never misses
To improve that pretious hour,      105
  And every day
  Seize her sweet prey
All fresh and fragrant as he rises
Dropping with a baulmy Showr
A delicious dew of spices;      110
O let the blissfull heart hold fast
Her heavnly arm-full, she shall tast
At once ten thousand paradises;
  She shall have power
  To rifle and deflour      115
The rich and roseall spring of those rare sweets
Which with a swelling bosome there she meets
  Boundles and infinite
  Bottomles treasures
Of pure inebriating pleasures      120
Happy proof! she shal discover
  What ioy, what blisse,
How many Heav’ns at once it is
To have her God become her Lover.



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