“On the Wounds of Our Crucified Lord” is a twenty-line poem divided into five stanzas of four lines each. The meter is predominantly iambic tetrameter, and the rhyme scheme is abab. Richard Crashaw’s title suggests that the narrator is viewing a painting or a sculpture depicting Christ either on the cross or at the moment when his body has been lowered from the cross, a standard subject of Renaissance artists. Such images were often placed in alcoves or recesses in churches as objects for meditation; it is such a meditative process that the poem traces.
The narrator of the poem begins with an apostrophe, or direct address of an inanimate object. As his eyes scan the painting or sculpture, they focus on the bleeding wounds of Jesus caused by the nails pounded through his hands and feet at Crucifixion and by the torture of the crown of thorns and the spear wounds inflicted while he was on the cross. The sight of the wounds moves the speaker, especially in their paradoxical appearance of life (“wakefull wounds”) on a corpse.
At first, he simply exclaims over their horror; then, he tries to find a suitable descriptive analogy for their existence. The comparisons he uses involve, appropriately, body parts: mouths and eyes. The rest of the poem draws out an elaborate comparison of wounds/mouths/eyes that, because it is strange, farfetched, and extended throughout the poem until its resolution in the final stanza, might be called a metaphysical conceit. The last line of the first stanza indicates how involved each watcher becomes in the spectacle of the crucifixion. Even though the wounds are in actuality neither mouths nor eyes, the community of observers, which includes all humankind, must apply the transformative metaphorical process to a sight too horrible to bear realistically.
The second stanza continues the metaphysical conceit...
(The entire section is 769 words.)