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Send home my long stray'd eyes to me,
Such forced fashions
Made by thee
To make jestings
Its word and troth,
Keep it still—'tis none of mine!
The pure and eloquent blood
Ye might have almost said her body thought! were not written on his wife, but on Elizabeth Drury, the only daughter of his patron and friend, Sir Robert Drury. She was the richest heiress in England, the wealth of her father being considered almost incalculable; and this, added to her singular beauty, and extraordinary talents and acquirements, rendered her so popularly interesting, that she was considered a fit match for Henry, Prince of Wales. She died in her sixteenth year.
Dr. Donno and his wife were maternal ancestors of the Poet Cowper,
CONJUGAL POETRY, CONTINUE D.
RABINGTON'S CASTAR A.
One of the most elegant monuments ever raised by genius to conjugal affection, was Habington's Castara.
William Habington, who ranks among the most grace. ful of our old minor poets, was a gentleman of an ancient Roman Catholic family in Worcestershire, and born in 1605.* On his return from his travels, he saw and loved Lucy Herbert, the daughter of Lord Powis, and granddaughter of the Earl of Northumberland. She was far his superior in birth, being descended, on both sides, from the noblest blood in England; and her haughty relations at first opposed their union. It was, however, merely that degree of opposition, without which the “course of true love would have run too smooth.” It was just sufficient to pique the ardour of the lover, and prove the worth and constancy of her he loved. The history of their attachment has none of the painful interest which hangs round that of Donne and his wife: it is a picture of pure and peaceful happiness, and of mutual tenderness, on which the imagination dwells with a soft complacency and unalloyed pleasure; with nothing of romance but what was borrowed from the elegant mind and playful fancy, which heightened and embellished the delightful reality.
If Habington had not been born a poet, a tombstone in an obscure country church would have been the only memorial of himself and his Castara. • She it was who
* It was the mother of William Habington who addressed to her brother, Lord Mounteagle, that extraordinary letter which led to the dis. covery of the Gunpowder Plot.-Nash's History of Worcestershire.
animated his imagination with tenderness and elegance, and filled it with images of beauty, purified by her feminine delicacy from all grosser alloy.” In return, he may be allowed to exult in the immortality he has given her.
Thy vows are heard! and thy Castara's nanie
So nobly fair, so purely chaste as thine ! The collection of poems which Habington dedicated to his Castara, is divided into two parts: those written before his marriage he has entitled " The Mistress," those written subsequently, “ The Wife."
He has prefixed to the whole an introduction in prose, written with some quaintness, but more feeling and elegance, in which he claims for himself the honour of being the first conjugal poet in our language. To use his own words: “ Though I appear to strive against the stream of the best wits in erecting the same altar to chastity and love, I will, for one, adventure to do well without a precedent."
Habington had, however, been anticipated, as we have seen, by some of the Italian poets whom he has imitated : he has a little of the récherche and affectation of their school, and is not untinctured by the false taste of his day. He has not great power, nor much pathos; but these defects are redeemed by a delicacy of expression uncommon at that time; by the interest he has thrown round a love as pure as its object, and by the most exquisite touches of fancy, sentiment, and tenderness.
Without expressly naming his wife in his prefatory remarks, he alludes to her very beautifully, and exults, with a modest triumph, in the value of his rich possession.
“ How unhappy soever I may be in the elocution, I am sure the theme is worthy enough. ** * Nor was my invention ever sinister from the straight way of chastity; and when love builds upon that rock, it may safely contemn the battery of the waves, and the threatenings of the wind. Since time, that makes a mockery of the finest
structures, shall itself be ruined before that be demolished. Thus was the foundation laid; and though my eye, in its survey, was satisfied even to curiosity, yet did not my search rest there. The alabaster, ivory, porphyry, jet, that lent an admirable beauty to the outward building, entertained me with but half pleasure, since they stood there only to make sport for ruin. But when my soul grew acquainted with the owner of that mansion, I found that oratory was dumb when it began to speak her." He then describes her wisdom; her wit; her innocence,
so unvitiated by conversation with the world, that the subtle-witted of her sex would have termed it ignorance;" her modesty "so timorous, it represented a besieged city standing watchfully on her guard: in a word, all those virtues which should restore woman to her primitive state of virtue, fully adorned her.” He then prettily apologizes for this indiscreet rhetoric on such a subject." Such,"
“I fancied her; for to say she is, or was such, were to play the merchant, and boast too much of the value of the jewel I possess, but have no mind to part with.”
He concludes with this just, yet modest appreciation of himself,— If not too indulgent to what is mine own, I think even these verses will have that proportion in the world's opinion, that heaven hath allotted me in fortune,not so high as to be wondered at, nor so low as to be contemned."
In the description of "The Mistress,” are some little touches inimitably graceful and complimentary. Though couched in general terms, it is of course a portrait of Lucy Herbert, such as she appeared to him in the days of their courtship, and fondly recalled and dwelt upon, when she had been many years a wife and a mother. He represents her " as fair as Nature intended her, helpt, perhaps, to a more pleasing grace by the sweetness of education, not by the slight of art.” This discrimination is delicately drawn.--He continues, "she is young; for a woman, past the delicacy of her spring, may well move to virtue by respect, never by beauty to affection. In her carriage, sober, thinking her youth expresseth life enough, without the giddy motion fashion of late hath taken up."-(This
was early in the reign of the grave and correct Charles the First. What would Habington have said of the flaunting, fluttering, voluble beauties of Charles the Second's time?)
He extols the melody of her voice, her knowledge of music, and her grace in the dance: above all, he dwells on her retiring modesty, the favourite theme of his praise in prose
and verse, which seems to have been the most striking part of her character, and her greatest charm in the eyes of her lover. He concludes, with the beautiful sentiment I have chosen as a motto to this little book. “Only she, who hath as great a share in virtue as in beauty, deserves a noble love to serve her, and a true poesie to speak her!"
The poems are all short, generally in the form of sonnets, if that name can be properly applied to all poems of fourteen lines, whatever the rhythmical arrangement. The subjects of these, and their quaint expressive titles, form a kind of chronicle of their loves, in which every little incident is commemorated. Thus we have, “ To Castara, inquiring why I loved her.”—“To Castara, softly singing to herself.” " To Castara, leaving him on the approach of night."
What should we fear, Castara ? the cool air
“To Castara, on being debarred her presence," (probably by her father, Lord Powis.)
Banish'd from you, I charged the nimble wind,
Upon her intended journey into the country.”—“ Upon Seymors,” (a house near Marlow, where Castara resided with her parents, and where, it appears, he was not allowed to visit her.) -"On a trembling kiss she had granted him on her departure.” The commencement of this is beautiful :