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Robert Southwell

c.1561-1595. Roman Catholic poet. Born in Norfolk, he was educated at Douai, Paris, and Rome. He became a Jesuit and returned to England in 1586 as chaplain to the countess of Arundel. He was arrested in 1592 and executed three years later. His prose works include St Mary Magdelene's Tears, A Short Rule of Good Life, and The Triumphs over Death, but it is as a poet that he is now remembered, if at all. Even here he lives largely by a single poem, “The Burning Babe,” which manifests early Metaphysical characteristics, tinged with that exotic sensuality that one associates with his fellow-Catholic Metaphysical, Crashaw. There is a note of intense adoration in his writing, which goes not unaptly with his daring comparisons that remind us of the poetic manner in which he was an early participant.

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