1640
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Cogitabo pro peccato meo.

Castara: the third Edition. Corrected and Augmented.

William Habington


Poetic Fame, typified by Spenser and Sidney, appears in a catalogue of the vanities. The stanzas of William Habington's poem correspond to the seven ages of man, with poetry occupying the stage between youth and adulthood. Habington had mentioned Spenser in "To My Most Honoured Friend" in the second edition of Castara (1635). Castara was published anonymously.

W. T. Arnold: "It is not altogether easy to gather from Habington's poems in what relation he stood to previous or contemporary singers. The one indubitable face is his devotion to Sidney, a sentiment he shares in common with all the poets of that time, on whom the Astrophel and Stella sonnets made the most marked impression.... There are also two passing mentions of Drayton and Spenser, and an interesting allusion to "Chapman's reverend ashes" lying "rudely mingled in the vulgar dust." There are no allusions to such poets as Herbert, whose genius was in some respects akin to his own, but this is easily explained by the difference between the two men's religious opinions" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 2:159.

W. J. Courthope: "Judging him by his own standard, it is interesting to observe how many influences combined in Habington's imagination to modify the old Provencal usage. Castara exhibits all those elaborate conceits which long tradition imposed as a necessity on Petrarch's followers; these, however, are expressed in an eclectic variety of styles. The poet makes a show of presenting his thoughts in the sonnet form, but he does not attempt to preserve either the Italian or English structure of the sonnet, his though being (with the exception, I think, of only one sonnet) confined within fourteen decasyllabic verses, with seven pairs of successive rhymes. Though his conceits are of the metaphysical order, they are set in a framework of classical imagery, and are shaped to suit the epigrammatic form of the heroic couplet" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 3:268.



In what darke silent grove
Profan'd by no unholy love,
Where witty melancholy nere
Did carve the trees or wound the ayre,
Shall I religious leasure winne
To weepe away my sinne?

How fondly have I spent
My youthes unvalued treasure, lent
To traffique for Coelestiall joyes?
My unripe yeares pursuing toyes;
Judging things best that were most gay
Fled unobserved away.

Growne elder I admired
Our Poets as from heaven inspired
What Obeliskes decreed I fit
For Spencers Art, and Sydnyes wit?
But waxing sober soone I found
Fame but an Idle sound.

Then I my blood obey'd
And each bright face an Idoll made:
Verse in an humble Sacrifice,
I offer'd to my Mistresse eyes.
But I no sooner grace did win
But met the devill within.

But growne more polliticke
I tooke account of each state tricke:
Observ'd each motion, judg'd him wise,
Who had a conscience fit to rise.
Whom soone I found but forme and rule
And the more serious foole.

But now my soule prepare
To ponder what and where we are
How fraile is life, how vaine a breath
Opinion, how uncertaine death:
How onely a poore stone shall beare
Witnesse that once we were.

How a shrill Trumpet shall
Us to the barre as traytors call.
Then shall we see too late that pride
Hath hope with flattery bely'd
And that the mighty in command
Pale Cowards there must stand.

[pp. 221-23]