Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Sacred Poets > Habington’s Castara
  The re-discovery of Traherne’s poetry and prose-writings Quarles and emblem poetry  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

II. The Sacred Poets.

§ 15. Habington’s Castara.

Her praises he celebrated in Castara, which he published anonymously in 1634. The two parts of which it then consisted contain poems of courtship and of marriage. A new edition of Castara, a year later, revealed the author’s name, and added to the second part a set of eight elegies on his friend, George Talbot, which would more properly have constituted a third part, and three characters of a mistress, a wife and a friend, introducing the three sections. In 1640, a third edition included an entirely new third part, consisting of a character of “A Holy Man,” and a collection of sacred poems. The author recognises that he may be thought “a Precisian” for his unfashionable praise of chastity, but he would not win even “the spreadingst laurell” “by writing wanton or profane.” In the third part, he leaves the theme of earthly love “to the soft silken youths at Court,” and is full of self-accusation that he should ever have handled the theme, however purely. There is a sombre and monotonous strain running through this third part. Advancing death, empty fame and decay of the tomb itself are its constant subjects. Unlike Traherne, he hardly finds life worth enjoying, with death awaiting him:
And should I farme the proudest state,
I ’me Tennant to uncertaine fate.
There is grim humour in the description of his deathbed, where he seems to be a mourner at his own obsequies. He can put no trust in the predictions of astrologer or doctor:
They onely practise how to make
A mistery of each mistake.
In most of the poems there are occasional fine lines, as in the welcome to death as a safe retreat,
Where the leane slave, who th’ Oare doth plye,
Soft as his Admirall may lye.
More sustained excellence is found in the poems Nox nocti indicat Scientiam, Et exultavit Humiles and Cupio dissolvi. But, in many of these meditative and frigid poems, the thought is commonplace and uncommended by graceful expression, or accent of sincerity. Defects of workmanship rather than of taste mar his work; he judged himself rightly, when he admitted in his preface that he needed to spend “more sweate and oyle,” if he would aspire to the name of poet. Greater pains might have eliminated his excessive use of the expletive “do,” many weak rime-endings, clumsy syntax and harsh elisions (e. g. “th’ An’chrits prayers,” “’mid th’ horrors,” “sh’ admires,” “so ’bhors”). In the same year as the complete Castara, appeared The Queene of Arragon. A Tragi-Comedie. The author died in 1654 and was buried “where my forefathers ashes sleepe.” His own modest estimate of his verses will not be challenged, that they are “not so high, as to be wondred at, nor so low as to be contemned.”
  Quarles was as little affected as was Habington by the school of Donne. His chief literary idol was Phineas Fletcher, “the Spenser of this age.” He was born in 1592 at his father’s manor house of Stewards, near Romford in Essex. After studying at Cambridge and Lincoln’s inn, he went abroad, like his contemporary Ferrar, in the train of the princess Elizabeth, on her marriage with the elector palatine. After his return to England, he seems to have lived partly in Essex, and partly in Ireland as secretary to Ussher. In 1639, he became chronologer to the city of London. His advocacy of the king’s cause in a series of pamphlets led to his property being sequestrated, his manuscripts burnt and his character traduced in a petition to parliament. This last misfortune, according to his widow, worried him into his grave (1644). His literary career began in 1620 with A Feast for Wormes, a paraphrase of the book of Jonah. He gauged popular taste accurately in employing a facile, straightforward style, much familiar wisdom and pious allegory, an abundance of metaphors and similes from common life, but no difficult conceits of the fashionable kind.   35

  The re-discovery of Traherne’s poetry and prose-writings Quarles and emblem poetry  

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