Richard Crashaw (c. 1613 – 21 August 1649), was an English poet, teacher, Anglican cleric and Catholic convert, who was among the major figures associated with the metaphysical poets in seventeenth-century English literature.
Crashaw was the son of a famous Anglican divine with Puritan beliefs who earned a reputation as a hard-hitting pamphleteer and polemicist against Roman Catholicism. After his father's death, Crashaw was educated at Charterhouse School and Pembroke College, Cambridge. After taking a degree, Crashaw taught as a fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge and began to publish religious poetry that expressed a distinct mystical nature and an ardent Christian faith.
Crashaw was ordained as a clergyman in the Church of England and in his theology and practice embraced and the High Church ritual reforms enacted by Archbishop Laud. Rev. Crashaw's became infamous among English Puritans for his use of religious art to decorate his church, for his devotion to the Virgin Mary, for his use of Catholic vestments, and for many other reasons. During these years, however, the University of Cambridge was a hotbed for such practices and for Royalist politics. Adherents of both positions were violently persecuted by Puritan forces during and after the English Civil War (1642–1651).
When Puritan General Oliver Cromwell seized control of the city in 1643, Crashaw was ejected from his post and became a refugee in France and in the Papal States. He found employment as an attendant to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Maria Pallotta at Rome. While in exile he converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. In April 1649, Cardinal Pallotta appointed Crashaw to a minor benefice as canon of the Shrine of the Holy House at Loreto where he died suddenly four months later.
Crashaw's poetry, although often categorised with those of the contemporary English metaphysical poets, exhibits similarities with the Baroque poets and influenced in part by the works of Italian and Spanish mystics. It draws parallels "between the physical beauties of nature and the spiritual significance of existence". His work is said to be marked by a focus toward "love with the smaller graces of life and the profounder truths of religion, while he seems forever preoccupied with the secret architecture of things".