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A little fuz-ball pudding stands
By, yet not blessed by his hands,
He ventures boldly on the pith
With the red-capt worm, that's shut
Brown as his tooth. A little moth,
Late fatten'd in a piece of cloth;
Moles' eyes to these the slain stag's tears;
His blood to height; this done, commended
Live, live with me, and thou shalt see
The tongues of kids shall be thy meat;
I'll give thee chains and carcanets
A bag and bottle thou shalt have,
Of every straight and smooth-skin tree;
All sitting near the glitt'ring hearth.
—These, nay, and more, thine own shall be, If thou wilt love, and live with me.
[WILLIAM HABINGTON was born at Hindlip Hall, near Worcester, in 1605, and died 1654. His Castara alone preserves his name from oblivion, but he also wrote a tragi-comedy entitled The Queene of Arragon, acted in 1640, and completed a History of Edward IV, which had been set in hand by his father. The first edition of Castara was published in 1634, the second in 1635, and the third, enlarged and in the form in which we now possess the poems, in 1640. The poems have been reprinted by Chalmers in 1810, Gutch in 1812, Mr. Arber in 1870.]
The centre alike of Habington's life and of his poetry is the lady whom he has sung under the fanciful name of Castara. She was Lucy, daughter of William, Lord Powis, rather above her lover in rank and wealth, as his own verses plainly show, but, as is not less obvious, at no time indifferent to his courtship. What obstacles were interposed by her parents and relatives yielded to their mutual constancy, and Habington was allowed to carry off his bride to his country-house at Hindlip, in Worcestershire, a house which, as he tells her,
'doth not want extent
There they seem to have lived a happy equable life together. Habington devotes as many of his poems to his wife, as to his mistress, and in them reaches a higher level of poetic accomplishment than he elsewhere attains. It is pleasant to contemplate the happy course of this pure and honourable affection, and it is impossible not to feel a kind of liking for so constant a wooer, so good a friend, and so upright a man. We must not complain if, like Evelyn, Habington seems to have gone through the Civil War without taking a decided part one way or the other. The man was no hero, nor born to shine in public life. What political
sympathies his writings reveal were strongly Royalist; he himself came of an old Catholic stock, and was educated at St. Omer; and we may be sure that as far as he took any side at all, he took part against those whom he would regard as rebels and schismatics. Habington-as revealed to us by his own verses-was something of a dreamer, something of an ascetic, something even of a bigot. His was just the sort of life and character which could live through, as not of them, the din and turmoil and passion of those stirring years. He was not of those who are great among the sons of men; nevertheless the interest that his work arouses is likely rather to increase than diminish, for though narrow in scope it is intense in feeling, and though in parts feeble and one-sided, it is as a whole made vital by the impress of a distinct and original personality.
It is not altogether easy to gather from Habington's poems in what relation he stood to previous or contemporary singers. The one indubitable fact 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. Of his few references to other poets the first occurs in a poetical account of his own youthful years, which he gives in The Holy Man:
'Grown elder I admired
Our poets, as from Heaven inspired;
For Spenser's art and Sydney's wit!
But waxing sober, soon I found
Another mention of Sidney occurs in a sonnet commemorating Ovid's Corinna and Petrarch's Laura
'while our famous Thames
Doth whisper Sidney's Stella to her streams.'
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.
Castara is divided into three, by some editors into four parts. There are at any rate four distinct themes-the Mistress, the Wife,