. 3
( 10)


Southwell's popularity must have been helped by the fact that he
often writes in sententious catenae directly in the English tradition of
popular wisdom literature.
But elite circles, where the Protestant repudiation had had most
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 65
effect, spent a long time coming round to the idea that imaginative
religious poetry was a genre in which the educated Protestant could
write; theorists tended to support the idea that they could, but poets
themselves were slow to take up the cue. Puttenham's Arte of English
Poesie, written mid-century and ®rst published in 1589, identi®ed
poetry itself as having religious origins.38 Sidney's Defence of Poetry,
written between 1581 and 1583, defensively makes the claim that
poetry can still be used for sacred purposes, in its discussion of pagan
prophecy and the psalms of David. `But truly now having named
[David], I fear me I seem to profane that holy name, applying it to
poetry, which is among us thrown down to so ridiculous an estima-
tion. But they that with quiet judgements will look a little deeper into
it, shall ®nd the end and working of it such as, being rightly applied,
deserveth not to be scourged out of the Church of God.' Matthew
Parker and others pre®gured Southwell, at least, in advocating
poetry based on the Bible as an alternative to secular verse.39
Critiques of an exclusively pagan and secular poetry had also
begun to be mounted by European Protestants, most notably
Guillaume Salluste du Bartas.40 His pioneering La Muse Chretienne, ‚
including his defence of divine poetry in the form of an invocation to
the muse Urania, was ®rst published in his native France in 1574. Its
ideas would have been accessible thereafter to Englishmen who
could read French; in addition a parallel French and Latin edition of
L'Uranie was published by the ubiquitous John Wolfe in 1589, and a
Latin translation of du Bartas's epic Divine Weeks and Works appeared
in 1591, also in London. Previously in 1584, the fashion for du Bartas
at the Scottish court had borne fruit in some translations: Thomas
Hudson's The Historie of Judith, and a rendition of L'Uranie and
portions of the Divine Weeks by James VI, both published in
Edinburgh by T. Vautrollier.41 The Triumph of Faith, Josuah Silvester's
translation of another poem of du Bartas's, was published in 159242
in a volume including extracts from the Seconde Semaine; and John
Eliot included portions of Divine Weeks in The Survay of France (1592)
and Ortho-Epia Gallica (1593). But compared with du Bartas's massive
popularity in later years, this is only slender evidence of interest
from the London book trade. English translators at this period may
have been dissuaded by the fact that Sidney was said to be
undertaking a translation of La Semaine in the mid-1580s, a work
which does not survive.43
Cumulatively this is evidence of interest in du Bartas's oeuvre,
suggesting that he was seen to be an important ®gure. But it is
66 Catholics and the canon
strongly biased towards the educated reader, and until the mid-1590s
had a dispersed and piecemeal quality outside the Scottish court, not
capitalising on the work's potential popular appeal. The ®rst sub-
stantial London publication of du Bartas, from two different pub-
lishers, comprised two translations from his Biblical epic Divine Weeks
and Works: The First Day of the Worlds Creation,44 and Babilon, a Part of
the Seconde Weeke. The year that it occurred was also the year of Saint
Peters Complaint, 1595; and the chronological proximity becomes
more startling on observing that the date on which the ®rst was
entered was some years before, 14 August 1591. It is as if the presence
of Southwell in the market-place helped the value of all religious
verse, and made it a more urgent matter to print.45
The works of each poet must undoubtedly have helped the
reception of the other; but although du Bartas went on to be a best-
seller comparable to Southwell, his sales were not kick-started by
martyrdom, and if one can gauge the initial popular reception of a
writer by the number of editions called for within the ®rst few years
of publication, Southwell is the clear winner. Despite the religious
differences of the two poets, du Bartas's arguments and Southwell's
certainly have points of similarity; more than fortuitously, since
Southwell may well have encountered du Bartas's writings on the
Continent.46 If so, translations of du Bartas were given their ®rst
major launch on the London market almost simultaneously with the
original verse of a ®rst-generation disciple of du Bartas's, and
perhaps because of the interest that the disciple had provoked. To
stress Southwell's importance is not to deny du Bartas's, nor the
added stimulus to debates on religious poetry in 1595 which would
have been provided by the ®rst appearance in print of Sidney's
Defence of Poetry.47 One need not look to any one writer to provide a
total explanation of the change in attitude to imaginative religious
poetry in the mid-1590s; but among the writers that contributed to
that change, literary criticism has been slow to recognise how power-
fully Southwell acted as a stimulus.48
But though du Bartas may have provided Southwell ± and more
importantly Southwell's Protestant readers ± with a rationale for
sacred verse, he was not a model whom Southwell followed closely.
Most obviously, du Bartas's religious verse, unlike Southwell's, takes
Genesis and religious allegory as its two chief subjects; and du Bartas
did not write much lyric verse. Southwell hardly alludes, either, to
du Bartas's most distinctive trope, the heavenly muse Urania who
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 67
inspired poets to treat of heavenly matters. It has been an orthodoxy
that the heavenly muse was evoked along a strong Protestant line of
descent ± Sidney, Spenser and the Spenserians ± and as far as that
goes, it is true. Southwell's use of muses is very sparing ± two lines in
his total poetic output49 ± and related to an overt wariness about the
place of woman in verse. His audaciousness is, in fact, largely a
question of doing away with neo-platonic machinery and other
transitional ®gures between human and divine; his poetry seeks an
apprehension of God with which even a heavenly muse would
This is only one way in which Southwell made a distinctive
contribution to poetical theory and practice. The common per-
ception of Southwell is of a missionary poet, writing for the spiritual
solace of his recusant patrons, and with little awareness of current
literary debates: a myth which owes something to the historiogra-
phical perception of late Elizabethan Catholicism as a beleaguered
minority group con®ned to a few aristocratic houses. But read
without preconception, Southwell's dedication to his cousin seems
written primarily for the attention of other poets and only seconda-
rily for a general audience, Catholic or non-Catholic. As such, it hits
Poets by abusing their talent, and making the follies and fayninges of love,
the customary subject of their base endevours, have so discredited this
facultie, that a Poet, a Lover, and a Liar, are by many reckoned but three
wordes of one signi®cation. But the vanity of men, cannot counterpoyse the
authority of God, who delivering many partes of Scripture in verse, and by
his Apostle willing us to exercise our devotion in Himnes and Spirituall
Sonnets, warranteth the Arte to bee good, and the use allowable. And
therefore not onely among the Heathens, whose Gods were chiefely
canonized by their Poets, and their Painim Divinitie Oracled in verse: But
even in the Old and New Testament it hath bene used by men of greatest
Pietie, in matters of most devotion . . . But the Divell as he affecteth Deitie,
and seeketh to have all the complements of Divine honor applied to his
service, so hath he among the rest possessed also most Poets with his idle
fansies. (p. [1])
There are some points of similarity to Sidney's Defence of Poetry, and it
is quite possible that Southwell had seen a manuscript copy of the
work.50 But it goes a long way beyond Sidney, in areas of different
emphasis or simply of contention. Sidney pleads for poetry to be
recognised as a suitable vehicle for religious endeavour; citing many
of the same biblical precedents, Southwell assumes that the onus of
68 Catholics and the canon
proof is all the other way, and proceeds to condemn non-Christian
subject-matter as a dangerous waste of time for poets. `For in lieu of
solemne and devout matter, to which in duety they owe their
abilities, they now busy themselves in expressing such passions, as
onely serve for testimonies to how unwoorthy affections they have
wedded their wils.' If directed at the admirers of the author of
Astrophil and Stella, the sonnet-sequence alluding overtly to Sidney's
adulterous love for Penelope Rich, this would have been particularly
painful. But the preface carefully avoids naming names, and so is not
intended to be read primarily as a critique of Sidney, or of any poet
in particular. This only enlarges Southwell's target-area; he is, in
fact, accusing most mainstream poets of profanity, in an all-embra-
cing condemnation of the effects of the Protestant poetic.
Southwell continues: `And because the best course to let them see
the errour of their workes, is to weave a new webbe in their owne
loome; I have heere layd a few course threds together, to invite some
skillfuller wits to goe forward in the same, or to begin some ®ner
peece, wherein it may be seene, how well verse and vertue sute
together' (p. 1). His preface to Saint Peters Complaint, `The Author to
the Reader', sets out a double programme for correct reader-
response. Peter's contrition and that of all saints is to be taken as an
exemplar, `Learne by their faultes, what in thine owne to mend'
(l. 6), and used as a touchstone to discern good and evil in art.
This makes my mourning muse resolve in teares,
This Theames my heavy penne to plaine in prose.
Christes Thorne is sharpe, no head his Garland weares:
Still ®nest wits are stilling Venus Rose.
In Paynim toyes the sweetest vaines are spent:
To Christian workes, few have their tallents lent. (ll. 13±18)
So central is this concern to Southwell's programme that it even
appears within the body of the poem, voiced by St Peter himself.
This is not a violation of history, as might appear; the whole poem is
a meditation on the Gospel narrative of St Peter's denial rather than
a retelling of it, and Peter, as protagonist, directs the meditational
experience of the reader. In this context, the writer forces the reader
to see poetry less as one imaginative genre among many, than as a
revelation of his true priorities. Profane and lying poetry becomes a
microcosm of all sin, and the virtuous poetic text its only counter.
Ambitious heades dreame you of fortunes pride:
Fill volumes with your forged Goddesse praise.
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 69
You fancies drudges, plungd in follies tide:
Devote your fabling wits to lovers layes:
Be you O sharpest greeves, that ever wrung,
Texte to my thoughtes, Theame to my playning tung. (ll. 31±6)
Southwell's call is to writers even more than to readers: a call not
simply to contrition, but to the creativity of contrition. Referring to
the genre of complaint in which he is writing, he makes a further
point which has considerable relevance to the Catholic-Protestant
debate on the legitimacy of addition to the Scriptures: how the
subject-matter of personal sin exceeds even the lamentations of
Jeremiah. This helps to disarm criticism, given the widely recognised
piety of prolonged contrition.
Sad subject of my sinne hath stoard my mind
With everlasting matter of complaint:
My threnes an endlesse Alphabet do ®nd,
Beyond the panges which Jeremy doth paint. (ll. 37±40)
It would be exceedingly helpful to know what poems apart from
Saint Peters Complaint were included in Southwell's original selection,
but a number of Southwell's short lyrics continue the programme set
out above. `Lewd Love is Losse', has a similarly reproving ®rst verse:
Misdeeming eye that stoupest to the lure
Of mortall worthes not worth so worthy love:
All beauties base, all graces are impure:
That do thy erring thoughtes from God remove.
Sparkes to the ®re, the beames yeelde to the sunne,
All grace to God from whom all graces runne. (ll. 1±6)
Where `Lewd Love is Losse' is directed both at reader and author, a
lyric like `Davids Peccavi' returns to interrogating poetical practice
via the poet. David, the Psalmist, stands for poets in general, and
particularly for those who essay religious topics.51 David accuses
himself not simply of being attracted by `wiles of wit' and `subtle
traines', but of actually constructing them; if he had been merely a
reader, he could deny positive ill-doing, but as an author, his
authorial skill has led him into greater sin.
If wiles of wit had over-wrought my will,
Or subtle traines misled my steppes awrie,
My foile had found excuse in want of skill,
Ill deede I might, though not ill doome denie:
But wit and will must now confesse with shame,
Both deede and doome, to have deserved blame.
70 Catholics and the canon
I Fansie deem'd ®t guide to leade my way,
And as I deem'd, I did pursue her track;
Wit lost his ayme, and will was Fancies pray,
The Rebell wan, the Ruler went to wrack:
But now sith fansie did with folly end,
Wit bought with losse, will taught by wit, will mend. (l. 19±30)

As with St Peter, the poem has as much contemporary relevance as
historical, and may even contain a speci®c allusion. Part of the
historical background for David's contrition is his illicit love for
Bathsheba, who hovers on the poem's margins in the same position
as the profane muse whom so many of Southwell's other poems
condemn, and is equated with errant `Fancie'. If the audience is
intended to think beyond the generalised notion of a poet to speci®c
contemporary examples of poets, this contrition may, too, be a
pointer to further concealed polemic. Even after his death ± in fact,
particularly after his death ± Sidney had an exemplary status as a
writer, and it is highly possible that Southwell, and Southwell's initial
audience, knew of Sidney's attempts to versify the Psalms: a project
which would have eased any identi®cation with David.52 As already
suggested, Southwell was constructing a model of poetic virtue
alternative to that imputed to Sidney; and, like any thoroughly
Christianised one, it was a model which forbade poets to indulge in
physical or mental adultery. There is no need to argue for a one-to-
one equation of Sidney to David, or, for that matter, Bathsheba to
Penelope Rich; but given the range of poetic exemplars available to
the contemporary reader, the text leaves open the possibility, and it
would have aided Southwell's condemnation of secular poetry and
`Loves servile lot' concludes with the brisk admonition, `Seeke
other mistres for your minds, / Loves service is in vaine' (ll. 75±6).
But Southwell's conception of female inspiration was not uniformly
misogynistic. As commented earlier, he does not entirely eschew the
heavenly muse as a trope, even though his use of her is sparing. His
poems on Mary Magdalen make a common baroque demand which
was later taken up by Crashaw and others, for attention to be paid to
the exemplary contrition of a female subject. His epitaph on Lady
Margaret Sackville celebrates her as an example of religious woman-
hood, while `At Home in Heaven' puts forward Esther and Judith as
female exemplars, combining beauty and virtue (ll. 37±8). More
signi®cantly, the latter poem feminizes the soul in describing the
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 71
only acceptable human response to the Divine. Audaciously
equating Christ with Samson in his moment of amatory weakness, it
adopts, and deliberately reverses, the medieval and Petrarchan
convention of abject lover and wayward mistress for the relationship
between Christ and the soul. The title of the poem, `At Home in
Heaven', implies that if the soul looks away from Christ it is to be
construed as adultery.
This lull'd our heavenly Sampson fast asleepe,
And laid him in our feeble natures lapp.
This made him under mortall load to creepe:
And in our ¯esh his god head to enwrap.
This made him sojourne with us in exile:
And not disdayne our tytles in his style. . . .
O soule do not thy noble thoughtes abase
To lose thy loves in any mortall wight:
Content thy eye at home with native grace,
Sith God him selfe is ravisht with thy sight.
If on thy beautie God enamored bee:
Base is thy love of any lesse than hee. (l. 13±18, 25±30)

It is possible to ®x a terminal date to Southwell's poetic theories,
since Southwell's editors conclude that his poems must all have been
written before June 1592: the date when he was arrested, imprisoned
and forbidden access to writing materials. Previously, he seems to
have compiled for his cousin a collection of short lyrics prefaced
with a dedicatory letter; but although he seems to have expected it to
be circulated in manuscript, no copy of this collection survives. One
cannot now tell what was in it, but given the tenor of his dedication,
it probably included a number of the poems critical of current poetic
practice, and may have been tailored to a wide audience outside his
immediate Catholic contacts ± whether or not that audience was
actually exploited at the time. After Southwell's arrest an unknown
editor prepared a collection of ®fty-two lyrics, excluding Saint Peters
Complaint but incorporating other items from the previous collection,
and retaining the prose dedication and introductory poem; copied
by scribes, this forms the basis of many Southwell manuscripts that
remain to us.53 But to publicise Southwell's ideas, printing proved
more important than manuscript circulation. Southwell's theories
altered directions of composition when his writings became fully
public: both because he was copied, and because he was reacted to.
Lines of Southwell's such as `Give not assent to muddy minded
72 Catholics and the canon
skill, / That deemes the feature of a pleasing face / To be the
sweetest baite to lure the will' (`At Home in Heaven', ll. 31±3) seem
designed to annoy poets who wrote on both amatory and religious
topics. The most prominent of these in the mid-1590s, and inheritor
of Sidney's mantle of Protestant exemplarity, was Edmund Spenser.
As far as I know, no critic has considered Southwell as a possible
in¯uence on Spenser, and it is true that their verse has few super®cies
in common; but I want to suggest that Southwell's verse elicited an
agonistic reaction from Spenser.54 Though there is no positive
evidence that Spenser knew Southwell's poetry, it is hard to imagine
that he did not, given its enormous and immediate publishing
success. A poet committed to maintaining the moral high ground for
Protestantism, as Spenser was, might well have found it very
unpleasant reading, and he might have borrowed its best ideas for
the Protestant cause; the two reactions need not have been exclusive
of one another.
A small battalion of recent critics has reminded us that Spenser
was committed to using verse for religious concerns.55 By 1595, the
year of the publication of Saint Peters Complaint, he had condemned
popery in The Shepherd's Calendar, celebrated Protestantised virtue in
The Faerie Queene, and gestured, at least, towards a religious poetry
more positive than polemic and more overt than allegory. The
Shepherd's Calendar had declared that poetry should `¯y back to
heaven apace' (October, l. 84), while the Tears of the Muses had
displayed du Bartas's muse Urania weeping through neglect.56
Such happines have they, that doo embrace
The precepts of my heavenlie discipline;
But shame and sorrow and accursed case
Have they, that scorne the schoole of arts divine,
And banish me, which do professe the skill
To make men heavenly wise, through humbled will. (ll. 517±22)
But in some ways, Urania might legitimately have accused Spenser
of not having the courage of his convictions. Anti-Catholic verse was
hardly a controversial medium during Elizabeth's reign; allegory is a
generic way of distancing oneself from criticism; and complaint that
something is not done is not the same as doing it. With Spenser, as
with other elite Protestant writers in the period before 1595, there is
a crucial hesitancy surrounding religious poetry: a widespread will-
ingness to admit that poetry was an acceptable means of celebrating
divine subject-matter, but in practice, a reluctance to break out in
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 73
any direction that might lead to accusations of idolatry. There were
other alternatives: polemic, moralistic allegory, or paraphrase of
Biblical matter, sometimes accompanying du Bartas-led invocations
of the divine muse. Southwell's verse pointed out and condemned
another alternative, which the Protestant poetic in most manifesta-
tions did not forbid: to use the language of religious poetry for
amorous verse. Given the fact that Southwell had de®ned the terms
of the polemic, it was a hard accusation to answer.
One aspect of Spenser's timing was particularly unfortunate.
Amoretti and Epithalamion, published in 1595 ± and so chronologically
close to Saint Peters Complaint ± falls into the exact category which
Southwell was condemning.57 Read now, Sonnet 72 seems nothing
more than a jocular confession of masculine helplessness in the face
of beauty; but looked at with a critical sensibility newly informed by
Southwell's strictures, it would have dug its own grave deeper the
further one read.
Oft when my spirit doth spread her bolder wings,
In mind to mount up to the purest sky,
It down is weighed with thought of earthly things
And clogged with burden of mortality,
Where, when that sovereign beauty it doth spy
(Resembling heaven's glory in her light),
Drawn with sweet Pleasure's bait it back doth ¯y
And unto heaven forgets her former ¯ight.
There my frail fancy, fed with full delight,
Doth bathe in bliss and mantleth most at ease,
Ne thinks of other heaven but how it might
Her heart's desire with most contentment please:
Heart need not wish none other happiness
But here on earth to have such heaven's bliss.

Southwell's indictments would, too, have affected the reading of
lines such as those in Sonnet 88, ostensibly inspired by Spenser's
wife, `Of which beholding the Idea plain, /Through contemplation
of my purest part, / With light thereof I do myself sustain / And
thereon feed my love-affamished heart' (ll. 9±12). The neo-Platonist
could have claimed that these lines were consistent with Christianity,
offering glimpses of the Divine through the human; 58 but Southwell,
or an admirer of Southwell's, could have retorted that, in that case,
there was no need of the human. In `Lewd Love is Losse' Southwell
takes pains to make this point.
74 Catholics and the canon
If picture move, more should the paterne please,
No shaddow can with shaddowed thing compare,
And fayrest shapes whereon our loves do seaze:
But seely signes of Gods high beauties are.
Go sterving sense, feede thou on earthly mast,59
True love in Heav'n, seeke thou thy sweet repast. (ll. 7±12)

Though it is a polemical point that Southwell does not exploit, his
response to the prevailing Protestant poetic exactly inverts argu-
ments between Catholic and Protestant theologians about the
ef®cacy of praying to saints before images.
Spenser's next separate work, Four Hymns, was written between
1595 and 1596, and published in 1596 with a dedication dated 1
September.60 It has long been recognised as a signi®cant and
in¯uential statement of his beliefs; in his study of Spenser's literary
career, Patrick Cheney has even seen it as announcing a new
vocation in religious verse.61 Certainly, there is a new con®dence in
Spenser's direct address of a divine theme. But the timing, together
with the subject-matter, strongly indicate that Spenser was inspired
by an external factor: the necessity to formulate a coherent critique
of Southwell, and retain Christian virtue within Protestant poetry.
Southwell is not mentioned in the dedicatory epistle: it would be
very surprising if he were. But when considered in this light, certain
aspects of the packaging of the Four Hymns make better sense than
hitherto: in particular the dedicatory epistle, addressed to Margaret,
Countess of Cumberland, and Anne, Countess of Warwick.
Having, in the greener times of my youth, composed these former two
Hymns in the praise of Love and Beauty, and ®nding that the same too
much pleased those of like age and disposition (which, being too
vehemently carried with that kind of affection, do rather suck out poison to
their strong passion than honey to their honest delight), I was moved by the
one of you two most excellent Ladies to call in the same. But, being unable
so to do by reason that many copies thereof were formerly scattered
abroad, I resolved at least to amend and, by way of retractation, to reform
them, making instead of those two Hymns of earthly (or natural) Love and
Beauty, two others of heavenly and celestial . . . (p. 324)

Together with the hymns themselves, the dedication reads as a
de®ant, anti-Southwellian reassertion of how earthly love may point
towards true religion. If the discussion with his dedicatee is not a
®ction, it might well have been inspired by her reaction to South-
well's critical statements; yet, conveniently, the fact that she is
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 75
actually cited as the generator of the idea has two effects. Firstly, it
renders Southwell invisible; secondly, the reader is invited to inter-
pret Spenser's partial volte-face as inspired by gallantry, rather than a
dead rival's challenge.
How to read Spenser's retractation has long been a matter for
critical debate. Most critics now agree in discounting Spenser's claim
that the sacred poems post-date the profane, and assert that the
hymns were all written at the same time.62 If the profane poems
were written before the sacred, and Spenser was indeed unable to
call them in, then his new-found embarrassment is signi®cant in
itself; but if they were all written simultaneously, Spenser's story
dramatises a poetic reconsideration which is no less suggestive for
being exemplary and not literally true.63 It may, perhaps, be
intended as an oblique apology for his former poetic excesses; yet
where the dedication retracts, it does so in a strikingly unapologetic
manner, only admitting that amorous poetry may prove unwhole-
some if read in the wrong spirit. His idea of emending and reforming
does not involve suppression, but, at most, a natural supplanting of
profane by sacred; and, despite his claim that the two sacred hymns
are `instead' of the two profane ones, all four appear in the published
work and are clearly intended to be taken together.
Famously, Southwell wrote a sacred parody of a love-song by Sir
Edward Dyer.64 The information which Spenser's dedication gives
us, together with the whole structure of Four Hymns, borrows from the
idea of sacred parody as advanced by Southwell in this poem and in
others: earthly love is redeemed by its heavenly component, earthly
beauty points towards the divine ideal.65 Yet the two approaches are
not the same. Even while recognising the sensuous appeal of earthly
beauty, sacred parody sets out to transmute base material, and
ultimately to invalidate its original by comparison to the beauties of
the Divine. Spenser, on the other hand, uses his fourfold structure to
argue for completeness. As in the Proem to Book iv of The Faerie
Queene, `looser rimes' (st.1) may be criticised, but love itself is seen as
a potential source of religious ennoblement. In his edition of the
Shorter Poems, Douglas Brooks-Davies has said, `[The universe] may
contain opposites, but those opposites are linked to each other. For
Spenser, illumination is obtained through a careful process of
understanding, not by cavalier and arrogant rejection' (p. 321). Yet
before one uses arrogant rejection as a ¯ail for Southwell, it is as well
to re¯ect on the different conditions in which the two poets were
76 Catholics and the canon
writing: conditions which would have determined the formal devices
they employed. To Southwell, writing primarily to ful®l missionary
goals, soteriological urgency and clarity of meaning had to take
precedence over Spenser's leisurely marriage of opposites.66
If Southwell did stimulate Spenser into a reassessment of his ideas
on religious verse, then it was a remarkably successful interpolation
into one of the most carefully planned literary careers of the
Renaissance: a career which aimed to Protestantise previous Virgi-
lian and other models of the poet's mission.67 The reasons for
Spenser's turn from courtly to contemplative poetry have, over the
years, called forth much scholarly debate.68 Renaissance literary
theorists agreed that the hymn was a major genre, and it is, of
course, highly possible that it did ®t in with Spenser's career plans;
in a Renaissance poet's re¯ective maturity, love-lyrics transmuted
naturally into hymns. But in the literary context of the time he was
writing, Spenser must also have been concerned to de®ne Protestant
poetic virtue against such public Catholic condemnations as South-
well's. Even while they complete the publications list on Spenser's
curriculum vitae, the Four Hymns have a reactive quality. But perhaps
Spenser need not have feared the competition, since, for at least one
contemporary poet, Spenser's name was so strongly associated with
religious poetry that his poetic persona was appropriated to validate
even a genre in which he had not written, and which Southwell had
pioneered. The anonymous author of Marie Magdalens Lamentations,
For the Losse of Her Master Jesus (1601) writes in the preface:
If you will deigne with favour to peruse
Maries memoriall of her sad lament,
Exciting Collin in his graver Muse,
To tell the manner of her hearts repent:
My gaine is great, my guerdon granted is,
Let Maries plaints plead pardon for amisse. (f.A4b)
One needs to pause on the pastoral name `Collin', which in poetry
of this date usually refers to Spenser's alter ego Colin Clout.69 In
lamentation, conclusions are often voiced by a commentator on the
main text, allowing the weeping ®gure to weep on, and thus
enhancing its exemplary value.70 Here, Mary Magdalen's voice is
claimed for the lamentations which comprise the main body of the
text, and Colin's for the summary and exhortation at the end: a
position where the poetic persona traditionally intrudes, since it
implies authorship. As in the present case, it can have a disingenuous
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 77
effect: this poem is not a long-undiscovered work of Spenser's. But it
claims the best-respected English writer of religious verse as a
character within the ®ction, using the privileges of the pastoral
academy; and in so doing, it erases another pastor, the poet who was
primarily responsible for bringing religious lamentation back into

the call to repentance
Southwell's writing drove at least one other author to rethink his
professional career. But in contradistinction to Spenser, Thomas
Lodge was moved to a via negativa similar to Southwell's own. Lodge
was a Catholic convert, whose conversion seems to have been secret
and prolonged; but on a public level, it culminated in 1596 with his
publication of the religious meditation Prosopopeia, and a renuncia-
tion of his previous writing. Ostensibly inspired by Southwell's Mary
Magdalens Funeral Tears, ®rst printed in 1591, it may have been
inspired by Saint Peters Complaint as well, and certainly alludes to
`Peter his apostasie, Marie her losse & misse of Christ'.71 In the
preface, Lodge anticipates a number of objections which are relevant
to meditations in both prose and verse, and makes a public recanta-
tion of secular writing:
Some there be that will accuse the stile, as to stirring, some the passion, as
too vehement. To the ®rst I will be thankfull, if they amend mine errour:
to the next I wish more judgment, to examine circumstances. Some (and
they too captious) will avowe that Scriptures are misapplied, fathers
mistaken, sentences dismembred. Whome I admonish (and that earnestlie)
to beware of detraction, for it either sheweth meere ignorance, or mightie
envie, for the detracter ®rst of all sheweth himselfe to be void of charitie,
and next of all extinguisheth charitie in others . . . Brie¯y, our Lord send a
plentifull harvest of teares by this meditation, that the devout heereby
may wax more con®dent, the incredulous beleeving: . . . that now at last
. . . I maye bee . . . cleansed from the leprosie of my lewd lines, & beeing
washed in the Jordan of grace, imploy my labour to the comfort of the
faithfull. (pp. 11±13)
Lodge supplies a case-study of one whose public conversion to
Catholicism resulted in a complete change of subject-matter, but his
urge to imitate Southwell was not unique. For poets of the
generation after Southwell's, Saint Peters Complaint must have been a
collection which both invited imitation and demanded critical
78 Catholics and the canon
engagement. The fact that George Herbert was in¯uenced by
Southwell is, as already mentioned, something of a critical common-
place; in¯uence can imply reworking, but also derivativeness.
Herbert's editor F. E. Hutchinson seems to have been the ®rst to
point out that two of Herbert's juvenilia, written at the age of
sixteen and preserved in Isaac Walton's Lives of the Poets, show strong
resemblances to Southwell's prefatory lines to Saint Peters Complaint.
Where Southwell, for instance, writes `Christes Thorne is sharpe,
no head his Garland weares: / Still ®nest wits are stilling Venus
Rose' (SPC, Author to Reader, ll. 15±16), and `Ambitious heades
dream you of fortunes pride: / Fill volumes with your forged
Goddesse praise. / You fancies drudges, plungd in follies tide: /
Devote your fabling wits to lovers layes: . . .' (SPC, l. 31±4), Herbert
begins his ®rst sonnet in very similar vein, perhaps alluding to the
martyr's death of his predecessor.
My God, where is that ancient heat towards thee,
Wherewith whole showls of Martyrs once did burn,
Besides their other ¯ames? Doth Poetry
Wear Venus Livery? only serve her turn?
Why are not Sonnets made of thee? and layes
Upon thine Altar burnt? Cannot thy love
Heighten a spirit to sound out thy praise
As well as any she? . . . (ll. 1±8)

Again, one need not assert that Southwell was the only writer who
might have in¯uenced the young Herbert to combine verse and
virtue; other models could have included not only Spenser and du
Bartas, but satirists such as Hall. Yet the dissociation from feminised
inspiration militates against the programmes of both Protestant
poets, and while it borrows from the tropes of misogynist satire, its
linkage with evangelical fervour is extremely Southwellian. A
passage such as the sestet of the second sonnet pre®gures Herbert's
later inventive way with tradition, combining Southwellian renun-
ciation of the muse with a satirical anatomy of woman:
Why should I Womens eyes for Chrystal take?
Such poor invention burns in their low mind
Whose ®re is wild, and doth not upward go
To praise, and on thee, Lord, some Ink bestow.
Open the bones, and you shall nothing ®nd
In the best face but ®lth, when, Lord, in thee
The beauty lies in the discovery. (ll. 8±14)72
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 79
As so often with early works ± Middleton's The Wisdom of Solomon
Paraphrased being an example from the last chapter ± these sonnets
are consciously programmatic: a paradigm of the moral aims appro-
priate for a poet, which acts also as a career-plan. Southwell, then,
can be seen not merely as lending Herbert stylistic models, but as
helping to in¯uence Herbert's entire poetic career from its under-
graduate beginnings; as far as we know, Herbert hardly wrote any
secular verse, Latin or English.
Most Southwell-in¯uenced poets, though, did not get beyond
derivative imitations. In the late 1590s and for some time thereafter,
a large number of imitations of Saint Peters Complaint appeared; and
given the fact that Southwell still tends to be seen primarily as a poet
for the recusant minority, the character and origin of these deserve
consideration. Southwell's own poems continued to be printed in
clandestine Catholic editions even after his verse had entered the
publishing mainstream, and he was imitated by other Catholic poets
who had their texts circulated in manuscript and published by secret
presses; but, more conspicuously, he was copied by the authors of
long poems written for direct or almost direct publication by the
London book trade.73
Two have been attributed to Gervase Markham: The Teares of the
Beloved: Or, the Lamentation of Saint John in 1600, and Marie Magdalens
Lamentations in 1601.74 Others may be added, among them W.
Broxup's St Peters Path to the Joys of Heaven (1598), and Nicholas
Breton's two works Marie Magdalens Love (1595),75 and The Ravisht
Soule, and the Blessed Weeper (1601). The manuscript poem Davids Harp
Tuned Unto Teares, in thirteen sections with titles like `Urias com-
plaint', `Amons passions' and `Absaloms rebellion', indicates its
moralistic versatility, as well as its overlap with genres such as the
secular complaint.76 Samuel Rowland's The Betraying of Christ (1598)
contains no fewer than three imitations: the title-poem, `Judas in
despaire', and `Peters Teares at the Cockes crowing'.77 G. Ellis's The
Lamentation of the Lost Sheepe (1605) dramatises in Southwellian vein
the repentance of an unnamed protagonist who compares himself to
Judas and Mary Magdalen. And, though most of these were both
written and published within the Protestant mainstream, Richard
Verstegan published `Saint Peeters Comfort' in his Odes (1601), and a
similar poem occurs in a miscellany published openly but almost
certainly taken from a Catholic manuscript, The Song of Mary the
Mother of Christ and the Tears of Christ in the Garden (1601).78 Like its
80 Catholics and the canon
poetic progenitor, they demonstrate how lamentation could be a
genre equally acceptable to Catholic and to Protestant.
A number of these writers ± notably Nicholas Breton and Gervase
Markham (if the identi®cation is correct) ± have in common a
proli®c, heterogeneous output and a professional willingness to write
to order; and this suggests that publishers were ready to back the
trend by commissioning works. The anonymous Saint Peters Ten
Teares of 1597 is one of the imitations most obviously written to
bene®t from the fashion.79 Its frequent false quantities and rhymes
may indicate haste; and, though it was not published until two years
after Saint Peters Complaint, it was ®rst registered at Stationers' Hall in
April 1595, only a few weeks after the ®rst edition of Southwell's
book. The subsequent delay in getting printed may well have been
because it was felt to impinge too much on the earlier poem.80
Southwellian pieces tend to be characterised by a combination of
two factors: the internalised lament and call to repentance of a ®gure
from the Gospels ± St Peter, St Mary Magdalen, St John ± together
with prefatory material which repeats Southwell's criticism of
secular verse and calls for poets instead to write about sacred things.
They both reinforce and challenge the common equation of Protes-
tantism with experiential inwardness: reinforce because of their
popularity in Protestant England, challenge because the inspiration
is Catholic. The answer to this paradox is perhaps to be found in the
suggestion that `the account of Christ's inner struggle given in the
Calvinist passions, having detached itself . . . from its biblical locus,
becomes the exemplary subtext for Calvinist representations of
Christian selfhood'.81 Accounts of the struggle of Peter or Mary
Magdalen could also be used for exemplary purposes both by
Protestant and by Catholic: even more ef®caciously than Christ's
temptation in some ways, since they begin from a presumption that
the protagonist is sinful.
Catholics could employ these texts for devotional purposes against
the background of a late-medieval heritage of affective meditation,
supplemented by a Counter-Reformation spirituality imported from
the Continent: and in time nearer home, since the Capuchin monks
within Henrietta Maria's entourage ± ®ve of them English ±
in¯uenced courtly spirituality in the 1630s among Catholics and
others, and had a tradition of writings emphasizing the gift of
tears.82 But Protestants could utilise the genre only if these twin
backgrounds were downplayed, and this downplaying was made
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 81
possible by the amount of time which had elapsed between the break
with Rome and the 1590s. In that time there had arisen a distinctive
Protestant internality which, though its rationale for the call to
repentance would have been different, nevertheless had many
similarities to that of the Catholic. Continental meditative treatises,
both Catholic and Protestant, were used by English Protestants,83
and Protestant dissociation from Catholic devotional traditions was
at most times more rhetorical than actual. There was little in
medieval spirituality comparable to the Stabat Mater and the
Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, but describing the sufferings of
Peter, John or Mary Magdalen by the Cross; so to that extent prayers
by these ®gures would not have been suggestive of prayers to them.
In the agonised narratives that Southwell gives Peter and Mary
Magdalen, their sainthood is implied only by the fullness of their
surrender or the context of future biblical events which the reader
supplies: nothing that a Protestant could not have accepted. But it
was the consciousness of sin that, above all, made Peter and Mary
Magdalen acceptable to Protestants as well as Catholics, where
Mary would not have been.84
Peter's betrayal of Christ, in Southwell's models such as Luigi
Tansillo's Lagrime di San Pietro, has been seen as a typological
acknowledgement by Catholic writers of pre-Counter-Reformation
papal corruption. Though this is almost certainly one of the readings
that Southwell intends, it is quite possible to read Saint Peters
Complaint without realizing its presence.85 For the Protestant, the
generalised message of man's betrayal of Christ through sin would
have been the dominant one. The case of Mary Magdalen has been
complicated ± at least for the twentieth century ± by the highly
eroticised longing for Christ which so often accompanies her
imagined presence, and upon which critics have so obsessively
commented.86 Yet this is to some extent an imaginary problem: in
the literary context of the soul's experience of grace, Mary Magda-
len's Christ-centred swoons and ardours were directed towards the
highest possible object, and so employed the language of love more
legitimately than the same emotions directed towards another
human creature. This is not incompatible with Protestantism, and
the later inter-denominational popularity of emblem books like Pia
Desideria shows how amorous commonplaces could be actively
exploited. But even while it stimulated the genre of lamentation,
Protestant piety in England had not tended to encourage it: personal
82 Catholics and the canon
complaints for sin like Catherine Parr's The Lamentacion of a Sinner
(1547), voiced not by a biblical or allegorical ®gure but by the poet as
repentant exemplar, are more characteristic of the genre in England
before the mid-1590s. Here, as elsewhere, a preference for secular
verse over questionable kinds of religious verse was an unintended
consequence of anti-Catholic polemic.
These are the gaps that Southwellian prefaces challenge with their
pleas for poets to address religious themes, whether those prefaces
are Southwell's own or written by imitators. Sometimes separate
from the main body of the poem and sometimes comprising the
poem's ®rst few stanzas, they can be astonishingly schematic ± even
in metrical terms, there seems to be little deviation from the South-
wellian six-line stanza87 ± and it would be merely iterative to quote
them all. But a late example now attributed to John Ford, Christes
Bloodie Sweat (1613), is a good ± if shameless ± illustration of this type
of copying. Summoned to `the Arke, and mercie-seat of merrit'
(l. 27), the poet is ordered to mend his ways:
Thou (quoth it) that hast spent thy best of dayes,
In [thriftlesse] rimes (sweete baytes to poyson Youth)
Led with the wanton hopes of laude and praise,
Vaine shadowes of delight, seales of untruth,
Now I impose new taskes uppon thy Pen,
To shew my sorrowes to the eyes of Men. (ll. 31±6)

Christ then speaks, in terms which rewrite the governing metaphor,
conclusion and rhetorical patterning of the ®rst stanza of Saint Peters
Here then unclaspe the burthen of my woes,
My woes, distil'd into a streame of teares,
My teares, begetting sighes, which sighes disclose
A rocke of torment, which af¯iction beares:
My griefes, teares, sighes, the rocke, seas, windes unfain'd
Whence shipwrackt soules, the Land of safety gayn'd. (ll. 43±8)88

Comments made in a recent edition of the poem illustrate, only too
well, how Southwell's in¯uence tends to be underplayed and dis-
torted. The editors point out that Southwell wrote a poem with the
title `Christs bloody sweat', but the copying from Saint Peters Complaint
is not mentioned at all.89
But it would be wrong to portray these poems as an entirely
derivative body of work. Genuine debates can be entered into, even
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 83
while Southwell's main conclusions are being echoed, and his
stanzaic form copied. In an imitation of Southwell published by a
Catholic secret press, Saint Marie Magdalens Conversion [1603±4], the
anonymous author `I.C.' shifts the focus of Southwell's moral theory.
The theme becomes not the renunciation of love-poetry, but the
internalisation of epic and tragedy. The subject becomes, precisely,
the subject: and a female subject, as if to stress still further the
division between public and private emotion, or external and
internal. The muse, renounced by Southwell, comes back into play
as one of Mary Magdalen's other roles.
Of Helens rape, and Troyes beseiged Towne,
Of Troylus faith, and Cressids falsitie,
Of Rychards stratagems for the english crowne,
Of Tarquins lust, and lucrece chastitie,
Of these, of none of these my muse nowe treates,
Of greater conquests, warres, and loves she speakes,
A womans conquest of her one affects,
A womans warre with her selfe-appetite,
A womans love, breeding such effects,
As th'age before nor since nere brought to light . . . (f.A3a)90
Changing its metre, the topos made its way into Catholic ballads.
That on the martyrdom of Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam and
Richard Sympson begins:
May Corridon discourse of Kings,
may peevish Pan be bolde
To pen and painte, in paper things,
that should be graven in golde.
No, no, yet we, sometimes do see,
for want of better muse;
Silvanus may admitted be,
Apollos place to use.
Then though that I a sinner am,
by me it may be pen'd.
Of garliks gaine, of ludlams fame,
and simpsons happie end.91
What is initially a surprising beginning to a martyr-ballad turns out
to be a deft overturning of convention. Even while distancing itself
from the tradition of using shepherds to voice political criticism, it
exploits that tradition to declare two things: the nobility of the
subject, and the rusticity of the narrator when such high themes are
being considered. It is an apology, in both senses, for writing in the
84 Catholics and the canon
low genre of ballad. If the writer was a priest ± as is certainly
probable ± the pastoral narrator refers to pastor, with the kind of
exemplary force that Spenser gave the pun for Protestants in The
Shepherd's Calendar.
Imitations of Southwell's prose also occurred. Thomas Nashe's
Christs Teares Over Jerusalem (1593) and Thomas Lodge's Prosopopeia,
Containing the Tears of the Holy Marie (1596) and Nicholas Breton's Mary
Magdalens Love (1595) have long been recognised as deriving directly
or obliquely from Marie Magdalens Funeral Teares (1st edn. 1591).92 In A
New Letter of Notable Contents (1593), which Gabriel Harvey wrote to
his publisher John Wolfe, this is even used as a reproach of Nashe:
Now he hath a little mused upon the Funerall Teares of Mary Magdalen;
and is egged-on to try the supplenesse of his Patheticall veine, in weeping
the compassionatest and divinest Teares, that ever heavenly Eye rained
upon Earth; Jesu, what a new worke of Supererogation have they
atcheived? (f.B3a)93
Nashe and Harvey were long-standing antagonists, and the occasion
of Harvey's letter was Nashe's preface to Christs Teares Over Jerusalem,
in which he had expressed contrition for his treatment of Harvey.
The letter compares genuine values with sham, and links the poetry
of tears with crocodile insincerity.94
Though overt reference to Southwell often entered literary dis-
course through exploitation of the negative connotations of his
writing, another literary quarrel shows that Southwell was not
without his Protestant defenders. Among much else, Joseph Hall's
Virgidemiarum satirises the poetry of tears. Borrowing the Sybil's
admonition from Book vi of the Aeneid, Procul, o procul este, profani
(l. 258), he begins one poem with a parody of the familiar South-
wellian division between sacred and secular.
Hence ye profane: mell not with holy things
That Sion muse from Palestina brings.
Parnassus is transform'd to Sion hill,
And Iu'ry-palmes95 her steep ascents done ®ll.
Now good Saint Peter weeps pure Helicon,
And both the Maries make a Musick mone . . .
Ye Sion Muses shall by my deare will,
For this your zeale, and far-admired skill,
Be straight transported from Jerusalem,
Unto the holy house of Betleem. (i viii, ll. 1±6, 13±16)

Hall's heavily ironic praise ends in an anti-Catholic sneer. Southwell
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 85
and his imitators are ¯own to the Virgin's house at Loreto, notorious
for its own ability to ¯y through the air. 96 Hall's governing idea that
satire is the only moral kind of poetry is both a deliberate paradox
and a declaration of world-weariness, but it may include the
implication that overtly religious verse is tainted by popery: a
deliberately selective criticism, since Hall writes of Spenser earlier in
the poem `But let no rebell Satyre dare traduce / Th'eternall
Legends of Thy Faery Muse' (i iv, ll. 21±2).97 This was certainly the
impression that John Marston had. His collection Certaine Satyres
(1598) includes a `Reactio' which systematically refutes Hall's poem,
and presents an apologia for a wide range of religious verse. Inviting
`Granta's white Nymphs' to come and watch Hall railing `Gainst
Peters teares, and Maries moving moane', he urges Hall in turn to
extend his condemnation further still.98
At Bartas sweet Semaines, raile impudent
At Hopkins, Sternhold, and the Scottish King,
At all Translators that doe strive to bring
That stranger language to our vulgar tongue,
Spett in thy poyson theyr faire acts among.
Ding them all downe from faire Jerusalem,
And mew them up in thy deserved Bedlem. (ll. 40±6)

Marston goes on to put words into Hall's mouth:
Shall Painims honor, their vile falsed gods
With sprightly wits? and shall not we by ods
Farre, farre, more strive with wits best quintessence
To adore that sacred ever-living Essence? . . .
No, Poesie not ®t for such an action,
It is de®ld with superstition:
It honord Baule, therefore polute, polute,
Un®t for such a sacred institute.
So have I heard an Heritick maintaine
The Church unholy, where Jehovas Name
Is now ador'd: because he surely knowes
Some-times it was de®l'd with Popish showes. (ll. 47±50, 59±66)
Marston's simile of the heretic refusing to worship in a church once
used by Catholics is ostensibly an illustration, in reality the nub of
the argument. As his editor points out, Hall nowhere actually says
that poetry is polluted because it was used to celebrate pagan gods;
but Baal-worship could denote both pagan and Christian idolatry,
and these lines pick up on Hall's implication that overtly religious
86 Catholics and the canon
poetry is written by English papists. While not advocating Catholic
practices himself, Marston widens the debate to point out that
poetry also forms a part of pagan and in®del worship, and that it is
the duty of true believers not to shun the medium but to utilise it for
the best ends. Directing attention away from the Catholic prove-
nance of the religious poetry in question, he provides a rationale for
exploiting it.
But among those conscious of Catholic connotations, Hall's
attitude was perhaps more usual. One set of manuscript verses from
the early seventeenth century shows another Protestant poet linking
the poetry of tears with Catholic devotional practice for purposes of
condemnation. The title of `ye Second pt of ye Ladies lamentation
for ye death of her beloved Lord' seems designed both to evoke and
to rebuff a Catholic interpretation. The suggestions of the Stabat
Mater are obvious, even though the dead man wept over by the lady
seems to be a lover and not a son; but they are explicitly
disavowed.99 The speaker in the ®rst half declares `Yet for his death I
shed such store / That now mine eyes can weepe no more', but she
is reproved in Part 2 of the poem:
Have you never [th]e Scripture reade
That countermaundes to morne for deade
Did Marie for her dearest sonne
With yell controule what God hath done
No no she knew(?) to gods decree
Both men & all thinges subject bee.

The woman continues to lament `As though to god or saintes she
cryed', but this does not hinder the moralistic conclusion:
For by [th]e waie you must learne this
The spirite of comforte quenched is
As soone by carnall sorrowinge
As lust, selfe love, or other sinne
Therfore looke up & cheere thy harte
& w[i]t[h] this sinne have thou no p[ar]te.

John Davies of Hereford's The Holy Roode (1609) is patently an
imitation of Saint Peters Complaint, but it too embodies a critique of
tears-poetry: differently slanted from that above, and less easy to
categorise religiously. As so often, external evidence of Davies's
religious sympathies may be an insuf®cient guide; though he was
described as a Catholic around 1611, and taxed as one in 1615, this
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 87
does not necessarily help to interpret a poem published earlier.100
Passages in it, aided by a shift from Southwell's ®rst-person narration
to an omniscient, admonitory poetic voice, seem positively designed
to suggest comparisons between Gospel and Renaissance betrayals
of Christ: consistent with a Protestant stance, but not necessarily
incompatible with Catholicism, since Saint Peters Complaint has some-
times been read ± like its Continental models ± as a regretful
Catholic admission of papal corruption. 101
Soule-wracking Rocke, (Faiths Rocke of ruine) Peter,
Art thou for Christ his Church a ®t foundation,
That in Faith, from Faith, sans Faith art a ¯eeter?
Tends thy faiths ¯eeting to Faiths con®rmation?
If that stand fast, that hath so false a Ground,
It most miraculous must needs be found! (f.B4a)
Davies implies that Peter, so far from being an automatic model for
all Christian repentance, could hardly do less than bewail his
uniquely terrible sin: `Weepe Peter weepe, for fowle is thine offence,
/ Wash it with Teares springing from Penitence' (f.B4b). But in the
end, Peter only weeps when Christ's eyes are turned on him: an
imaginative variation to the Southwellian prototype, downplaying
the human role in repentance and foregrounding that of the divine
in a manner perfectly consistent with orthodox Reformed theology.
These two examples underline the paradoxical position of the
poetry of tears. Pious and popular genres, Catholic and mainstream,
had used tears as part of their affective repertoire before Southwell,
and continued to do so independently of him. The penitential
psalms were rendered into metre by both Protestant and Catholic,102
and the ef®cacy of tears was also stressed in the type of moralistic
verse which overlapped with popular devotional matter, written by
Thomas Churchyard and others. Going even beyond conventional
exhortations to repentance in fast-day sermons and those for other
penitential occasions, tears could be deliberately elicited by
preachers; yet the association of tearful devotion with popery some-
times meant that when mainstream preachers were reclaiming it for
Protestants, they needed to spell out the fact. Writing in 1631, John
Lesly lamented `the Raritie or rather Nullitie of Orthodoxe Tractats
in this Argument', citing as predecessors `Two onely Popish Dis-
courses, the one of Bellarmine, the other of Bessaeus'. 103 On the
secular side, madrigalists and metaphysical poets incorporated tears
into their love-lyrics, and the genre of complaint would have been
88 Catholics and the canon
unthinkable without literary lamentation. But the cult of the penitent
was an important part of the Counter-Reformation aesthetic, and
tears-literature was suf®ciently associated with popery to make anti-
Catholic criticism stick.

repentance, conversion and autobiography
Tears-literature called to repentance, repentance was the necessary
prelude to conversion, and though conversion was potentially a part
of spiritual life for any Christian, it often necessitated changing
doctrinal allegiance. Ecstatic repentant weeping was frequently
experienced by converts, including those changing from Protes-
tantism to Catholicism; on reading Robert Persons's Christian Direc-
tory, Thomas Poulton claimed that `a marvellous light broke in upon
me. I shed ¯oods of tears for many days.'104 The rest of this chapter
argues that Southwell's most important heirs were two poetic
converts to Catholicism, William Alabaster and Richard Crashaw.
Both, I believe, utilised the tropes of tears-literature in full awareness
of this implication; and for both, it therefore makes sense to read
their tears-poetry as ± to some extent ± spiritual autobiography.
As already commented, it is dif®cult to establish other than by
internal evidence how much Southwell was read among poets. One
poet, William Alabaster, comes from the very classes where proof is
lacking. Though he converted to Catholicism in 1597, his subsequent
apostasy might seem to necessitate stretching the boundaries of how
religious allegiance is de®ned; but the poetry that survives is only
from the time of his conversion. Unusually, we have ®rst-hand
evidence of how it was composed. Alabaster's extraordinary manu-
script autobiography, preserved at the English College in Rome and
hardly noticed by literary historians, yields evidence of how the
poems were written at various periods during his conversion.105
As early as Michaelmas 1596, Alabaster delivered an exhortation
`with much more fervour and feeling of Devotion, and with a greater
tendernes of harte towardes Christes Crosse and Passion, then it
seemed to the hearers that the protestantes were wont to feele or
utter'.106 He compares his state after his conversion to that of the
spiritual drunkenness of the Apostles: `for so woulde any man have
judged also of me, if he had seene and heard me riding alone [to
Cambridge] with such variety of countenance and action, as now
weeping, now singing, now speaking to God, now to myself ' (p. 120).
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 89
And by his own testimony, it was in this state that he wrote his
And when the ¯oodes of teares came downe uppon me, I could do no lesse
but open the gates to let them pass: I was wont often to walke into the
feildes alone, and being then summer ther I wold sett me downe in certaine
corne feldes, where I could not be seene nor heard of others and here passe
the tyme in conferences between almightie God and my soule, sometimes
with internall meditation uniting my will to god, somtimes [forming] and
contryving the same meditations into verses of love and affection, as it were
hidinge of the fyer under ashes, with the reding wherof I might afterwardes
kyndle my devotion at new tyme againe. And I did sett some tymes a
certayne strife and wager between my present affections and future, my
present persuadinge to devise sonnets now and so full of fyerie love and
¯aminge ardour towardes Christ, that then it sholde serve for a patterne
and sample for the tyme to come, to shew upp and conserve my hart in
devotion, but on the contrarie parte my future devotions made offer so to
maintaine <and> increase the heate and vigour of love and affection in
me, that when I should come afterwardes to reed over my former sonnets I
might wonder rather at the coaldnes of them then gather heate by them;
And thes verses and sonnetes I made not only for my owne solace, and
conforte, but to stir up others also that shold reed them to soew estimation
of that which I felt in my self . . . (pp. 122±3)

When imprisoned by the Cambridge authorities, he delivered to his
friends ± either orally or on paper ± `certaine sonnets of devotion'
which he had made in prison (p. 133). At other times, he spent a
considerable period studying controversial theology in preparation
for public disputes ± which, in fact, were never allowed to take place
± and probably beginning to write his sonnets. Unsurprisingly,
therefore, many of these combine explicitly controversial points with
meditational fervour.
The appearance of Saint Peters Complaint would have been timely
for Alabaster. In the absence of positive evidence, all one can say is
that it would have been surprising if he had not known Southwell's
writings. `Upon Christ's Saying to Mary ``Why Weepest Thou?'' ',
Sonnet 21 in the collected edition of Alabaster's works, has a South-
wellian basis in the Gospels and certainly seems designed as an
endorsement of Southwell's weeping protagonists. But it principally
reads as an apologia directed towards those whose devotional
practices are different, demanding of its readers why their devotion
is not as all-consuming as Mary Magdalen's and how they can justify
not weeping.
90 Catholics and the canon
I weep two deaths with one tears to lament:
Christ, my soul's life, out of my heart is ¯ed,
My soul, my heart's life, from me vanished,
With Christ my soul, and with my soul, life went.
I weep, yet weeping brings mere discontent,
For as Christ's presence my tears seasoned,
When through my tears his love I clearer read,
So now his loss through them doth more augment.
It is not Christ, but an unseen interlocutor of Protestant tendencies
that prompts the indignant response in the opening of the un®nished
Sonnet 18:
My tears are of no vulgar kind I know,
For elemental water strives with ®re,
But my tears do with ¯ame of love conspire . . .
Therefore I rather think that they do ¯ow
From those spiritual springs that are entire
Unto the lamps of heaven . . .
In a sonnet such as number seventy-one, `The difference 'twixt
compunction and cold devotion in beholding the passion of our
Saviour', the subject is actually the inferiority of Protestant devo-
tional techniques:
When without tears I look on Christ, I see
Only a story of some passion,
Which any common eye may wonder on;
But if I look through tears Christ smiles on me.
Yea, there I see myself, and from that tree
He bendeth down to my devotion,
And from his side the blood doth spin,107 whereon
My heart, my mouth, mine eyes still sucking be;
Like as in optick works, one thing appears
In open gaze, in closer otherwise.
In context, the phrase `optick works' appears to be referring to the
magnifying quality of tears; their lens-like roundness and transpar-
ency, convex against the eye, has this effect in reality but even more
so in metaphor.108 Details of crucial soteriological importance
become visible, `Christ smiles on me'; and the liquid instability of
tears makes possible the narrative of a moving picture, `He bendeth
down to my devotion'. Alabaster's concluding quatrain makes even
more explicit the superior perception that tears bring; they are
spectacles, without which mortals cannot see.
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 91
Then since tears see the best, I ask in tears,
Lord, either thaw mine eyes to tears, or freeze
My tears to eyes, or let my heart tears bleed,
Or bring where eyes, nor tears, nor blood shall need.

In Sonnet 15, the vapours drawn from the earth towards the sun
become `purest argument' condensing into clouds of devotional
weeping: `And these conceits, digest by thoughts' retire, /Are turned
into april showers of tears.' Sonnet 70, `A morning meditation (2)',
goes even further in identifying tears with thought.
The sun begins upon my heart to shine,
Now let a cloud of thoughts in order train
As dewy spangles wont, and entertain
In many drops his Passion divine,
That on them, as a rainbow, may recline
The white of innocence, the black of pain,
The blue of stripes, the yellow of disdain,
And purple which his blood doth well resign;
And let these thousand thoughts pour on mine eyes
A thousand tears as glasses to behold him,
And thousand tears, thousand sweet words devise
Upon my lips as pictures to unfold him:
So shall re¯ect three rainbows from one sun,
Thoughts, tears, and words, yet acting all in one.109

As the Passion necessarily inspires both ineffable joy and ineffable
sorrow, so the happy intuition of God's presence in the sun, or Son,
prompts the poet consciously to summon a `cloud of thoughts' that
will stimulate weeping. The prismatic prettiness of `dewy spangles' is
subverted by Alabaster's interpretation of what the colours mean ±
innocence, pain, disdain and stripes, and the sanguinary purple of
dishonoured kingship ± but the reader is still invited to luxuriate in
the visual glory; indeed, it is by this means that the glory is
vindicated. The sestet explains how these thoughts are identi®able
both with tears and with words, since all are means to increase
devotion. But between thoughts and words, there comes the neces-
sary mediation of tears; and tears, like Christ, are placed second in
the Trinity of the last couplet.
The sonnet relies on visual allure and on allusion to the visual, but
both are made instructional. The function of tears is to act as
spectacles to behold Christ, and that of words to refer back to
pictures in which Christ may be expounded. A controversial point is
92 Catholics and the canon
being made: secondary to Alabaster's devotional purpose, but
nonetheless important. The Church of England included a number
of theologians who manifested extreme unease with the visual
element of worship, extending the notion of idolatry even to the
imaging power of the mind.110 The effect of Alabaster's conclusion is
to deny any inherent difference between word and picture as an
appropriate medium for understanding: a more holistic statement
than any English Protestant poet could have made in the 1590s.
Tears are prescribed as a devotional necessity, but also as a sign of
personal repentance. This is explored in Alabaster's sequence of
penitential poems;111 indeed, number sixteen makes the distinction
between their various functions, then draws them together.
Three sorts of tears do from mine eyes distrain:
The ®rst are bitter, of compunction,
The second brinish, of compassion,
The third are sweet, which from devoutness rain . . .
Never did contraries so well agree,
For the one without the other will not be.
Sonnet 12 sets the tone of the sequence as Alabaster demands that
his tears become autonomous agents, running to Christ again and
again to ask His forgiveness: `One after other run for my soul's sake,
/ And strive you one the other to overtake, / Until you come before
his heavenly throne.' His eyes partake in the same rhetoric of
detachment in Sonnet 13: `Then you two characters, drawn from my
head, / Pour out a shower of tears upon my bed . . .' Tears are
ontologically versatile, dissolving and blending in a ¯ow of illustra-
tion the devotional intercourse between man and God: they are
messengers, rain, fountains, pearls, the sea, and (in Sonnet 17)
amber-drops making a treasure out of something loathsome:
In tears draw forth thyself until there be
Suf®cient for thee to be enrolled;
For as the scorned ¯y which is surprised
Within the drops of amber that doth fall,
By this his tomb beginneth to be prized . . .
Lastly, in a commonplace to which these associations add force, tears
are the means by which Alabaster writes. In Sonnet 24, `The
Sponge', he declares: `My tongue shall be my pen, mine eyes shall
rain / Tears for my ink, the place where I was cured / Shall be my
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 93

crashaw and the english catholic baroque
As Alabaster's autobiography shows, it is not simply a conceit to
refer to tears as an authorial medium where both poetry and tears
are elicited from the poet by a conversion-experience.112 Both tears
and poetry are symptoms of conversion, and notions of authorial
creativity become secondary to those of religious ful®lment and
evangelism. Southwell uses the poetry of tears as part of his ministry,
writing speeches for biblical ®gures to achieve an outwardly-directed
means of exhortation; but Alabaster, the convert, positions the
anonymous repentant self inside the text rather than beyond it.
These two ways of exploiting the genre, both essentially didactic, are
both present in the work of the last poet to be considered in this
chapter, Richard Crashaw: like Alabaster, a convert-poet whose
conversion pervades much of his verse.
It has been usual, and rightly so, for recent critics to point out
that most of Crashaw's religious poetry was written while he was
still a conforming member of the Church of England; but, as will
be argued below, conversion-experiences could take many forms,
and take up periods of time both inordinately long and remarkably
short. Alabaster's was sudden, Crashaw's less so, Lodge's ± to
recapitulate a previous example ± may have taken over a decade;
and since one tends only to know about the doctrinal explorations
of those who ®nally became Catholic, it may have been an
imaginative impetus to other writers in a manner that is now
irrecoverable. Even when a conversion took place near-instanta-
neously, the convert was assenting to a previously learnt body of
theological discourse; and where a conversion was more considered,
it involved processes of deliberate exploration, such as reading,
praying, dispute, discussion, and ± inevitably ± a certain degree of
imaginative role-playing which could be vented in poetry. There is
no contradiction in recognising that Crashaw could assume a
Catholic mentality while still a conformist, and it is helpful to
approach his poetry in this light.
Precedents from Southwell and Alabaster may both be invoked in
a poem considered to be one of Crashaw's most characteristic, `The
Weeper'. It describes the exemplary ecstatic penitence of Mary
Magdalen, the type of the ideal convert ± in itself a Southwellian
link, since Southwell wrote two poems about her. One passage
begins with a banishment of the profane echoing the opening line to
94 Catholics and the canon
Southwell's `Loves garden grief ', `Vaine loves avaunt, infamous is
your pleasure, / Your joy deceit' (ll. 1±2):
Vain loves avant! bold hands forbear!
The lamb hath dipp't his white foot here.
And now where're he strayes,
Among the Galilean mountaines,
Or more unwellcome wayes,
He's follow'd by two faithfull fountaines;
Two walking baths; two weeping motions;
Portable, & compendious oceans. (st. xviii, xix)113

Crashaw's emphasis, and Alabaster's, is primarily on tears as a
signi®er of devotion and charitable love, de®ned against the per-
ceived Protestant rigidity of justi®cation by faith alone; but while
Alabaster's use of the trope is consciously transgressive, Crashaw
could employ it in the context of the Laudian pieties of his time. `On
a Treatise of Charity', written by another Cambridge man, Richard
Crashaw, for Robert Shelford's Five Pious and Learned Discourses (1635),
is a Laudian advocacy of charity as a neglected virtue.114
No more the hypocrite shall th'upright be
Because he's stiffe, and will confesse no knee: . . .
Nor on Gods Altar cast two scorching eyes
Bak't in hot scorn, for a burnt sacri®ce:
But (for a Lambe) thy tame and tender heart
New struck by love, still trembling on his dart;
Or (for two Turtle doves) it shall suf®ce
To bring a paire of meek and humble eyes.
This shall from hence-forth be the masculine theme
Pulpits and pennes shall sweat in; to redeem
Vertue to action . . . (ll. 39±40, 43±51)

The Laudian agenda is obvious in the de®nition of charity as a
necessary addition to faith rather than an inevitable consequence of
it, and the poem's polemical slant is enhanced by a conclusion that
argues it is uncharitable to call the Pope Antichrist: `In summe, no
longer shall our people hope, / To be a true Protestant, 's but to hate
the Pope' (l. 68).115 Two connected equations will occur again often
in Crashaw's writing: of tears with genuine religious fervour, and of
piety with pliability.
Like Alabaster's, Crashaw's religious poems explore ecstatic and
tearful surrender, and, as with Alabaster, this is almost certainly
connected to the process of conversion. For many years it has been
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 95
taboo for academic historians to speak of Anglo-Catholicism before
the nineteenth century, and the epithet is certainly anachronistic. In
re-adopting ceremonial Laudians perceived the Church of England
as a rival to Rome, and were quite capable of utilising ®erce anti-
Catholic polemic where tactically appropriate. Nevertheless, it is
hard to observe those who ± like Crashaw ± started off Laudians and
ended up Catholics, and not conclude that Laudianism contained
within itself the potential for experimentation with Rome. Within
theological writing daringly Catholic doctrines might be promul-
gated, but always within the disciplinary con®nes of the Church of
England; within poetry, however, experimentation was more gener-
ically permissible and less likely to be censured. It may be noted that
Crashaw wrote no theological works during his time at Cambridge.
But the sense of edging up to Rome seems authentically present in
the Latin poem that Crashaw wrote to solicit money for the
rebuilding of Peterhouse chapel; it includes a dangerous joke, written
in full awareness of how charged the name of St Peter was.
Scis Ipse volucres
Quae Rota volvat opes; has ergo hµc ®ge perennis

Fundamenta Domus Petrensi in Rupe; suamque
Fortunae sic deme Rotam.

If this seems daring, it was not the most overt pro-papal statement
made within Laudian religious verse at this period. The poetic
miscellany of the Laudian cleric Alexander Huish also demonstrates
that the papacy could be referred to positively by members of the
Church of England. Huish's translation of the Latin hymn `Petrus
beatus' includes the lines `Sure keeper of the fold, Church teacher
doctrine sound', and is completely without disavowal. 117 Yet Huish
was acknowledged by other high-churchmen as an orthodox
member of the English church. His parishioners at Beckington in
Somerset petitioned Parliament on account of his liturgical innova-
tions, and he was among the clerics sequestered by Parliament; yet
such dignitaries as the Dean of the Chapel Royal, the Dean of
Chichester and the Bishop of Bath and Wells were prepared to sign a
testimonial in his favour.118 But it could be a hard equilibrium to
maintain. Though Huish himself seems to have stayed a loyal
Anglican, his friend and co-translator John Lewgar converted to
Rome not long after the two collaborated.119 Like the wise man who
built his house upon the rock, Crashaw's play on the name of his
96 Catholics and the canon
college con¯ates architectural sturdiness with theological certainty;
movement is the implied opposite, yet movement is necessary if one
is to attain a position of steadfastness. It is against this background
that one is to see the liquidity of Crashaw's religious verse: tears
signify conversion and repentance, their ¯ow enacting the ontology
of change.
Even in a non-religious poem, `Upon the Death of a Gentleman',
Crashaw conceptualises weeping as poetic ¯uency.
Nothing speakes our Griefe so well
As to speake Nothing, Come then tell
Thy mind in Teares who e're Thou be,
That ow'st a Name to misery.
Eyes are vocall, Teares have Tongues,
And there be words not made with lungs;
Sententious showers, o let them fall,
Their cadence is Rhetoricall. (ll. 23±30)
If it had not been for the necessity to prepare for the process of
conversion, the rhetorical showers of Crashaw's religious verse might
never have broken. Crashaw's translation of Psalm 137 renders verse
6, `If I do not remember [ Jerusalem], let my tongue cleave to the
roof of my mouth', as an image of poetic accidia; and the whole
psalm ± a favourite among recusants for its narrative of disposses-
sion, and famously set to music by Byrd ± equates weeping with
singing and dryness with dumbness.
Which when I lose, o may at once my Tongue
Lose this same busie speaking art
Unpearcht, her vocall Arteries unstrung,
No more acquainted with my Heart,
On my dry pallats roofe to rest
A wither'd Leafe, an idle Guest. (v. 4)
This was how Crashaw chose to describe his conversion after it had
happened. `To the noblest and best of Ladyes, the Countess of
Denbigh', begins by identifying the liminal position of the near-
convert: `What heav'n-intreated Heart is This? / Stands trembling
at the gate of blisse' (ll. 1±2), and enlarges upon it in a prolonged
simile. The paradox here is that irresolution is static, conversion
What fatall, yet fantastick, bands
Keep The free Heart from it's own hands!
So when the year takes cold, we see
Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 97
Poor waters their owne prisoners be.
Fetter'd, & lockt up fast they ly
In a sad selfe-captivity.
The' astonisht nymphs their ¯ood's strange fate deplore,
To see themselves their own severer shore. (ll. 19±26)

crashaw criticised
This chapter has aimed to argue that there was a ¯uent indigenous
tradition of tears-literature within England after the Reformation,
mainly fostered by Catholic and pro-Catholic writers but with
substantial outward seepage; and so it is time to return to the
questions with which this chapter began. The invisibility of South-
well and the deracination of Crashaw within English literary history
are not separate phenomena, but symbiotic; where one is under-
emphasized, the other looks alien. Tracing the post-Reformation
English tradition of tears-literature is not simply an academic
exercise; as long as Crashaw's supposed foreignness continues to
render him invisible, it has large canonical implications. Some
recent critics have been aware of the falsity of this foreignness.
Thomas Healy's biography of Crashaw ± with justi®able weariness
that it should still be necessary ± emphasized the fact that Crashaw
composed most of his poems within the Anglican church; a recent
bibliography of Crashaw criticism and a volume of essays ± both,
suggestively, compiled by the same scholar ± have attempted a boldly
revisionist approach to Crashaw's work.121
Yet, so far, they seem to have had less effect on received wisdom
than those belonging to an earlier school ± though not necessarily
writing at an earlier date. In her massive and in¯uential study
Protestant Poetics and the 17th-Century Religious Lyric (1979) ± the very title
of which is telling ± Barbara Lewalski deliberately left him alone on
account of his un-Englishness: `Crashaw writes out of a very different
aesthetics emanating from Trent and the Continental Counter-
Reformation, which stresses sensory stimulation and Church ritual
(rather than Scripture) as a means to devotion and to mystical
transcendence' (p. 12). In this, she concurs with Crashaw's most
recent editor, George Walton Williams: `Richard Crashaw may be
considered the most un-English of all the English poets . . . he is the
leading representative of [the baroque], a style which is fundamen-
tally foreign to the spirit of English poetry.'122
It has been the aim of this chapter to demonstrate the exact
98 Catholics and the canon
opposite; and, to do so, it has traced the widespread mainstream
acceptance of one Counter-Reformation trope. But among English
Catholic poets as well, Crashaw was anything but isolated. Counter-
Reformation practitioners of the poetry of tears, Tansillo and
Marino, were translated and imitated by them well into the seven-
teenth century: sometimes in imitation of Crashaw, sometimes
independently. Sir Edward Sherburne wrote:
Fond Muse in vaine thou seekst a mourning dresse:
Art hath no passion can our greifs expresse . . .
What sing in neat composures, 'whilst I see
My sacred Lord hang on a cursed Tree?
Ah better I (as greife my Soule doth ®ll)
Into a ¯ood of endlesse Tears distill . . .123
Catholics perceived it as a devotional lack. In a miscellany belonging
to the Collingwood family, a poem on the ef®cacy of weeping points
to its rarity in contemporary England:
A heart contrite black swanne in these last yeares
With magdalen are almost none or few
Who doe with teares our Saviours feet bedew
Paule may with teares admonishing be founde


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