Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
We Saw and Woo’d Each Other’s Eyes
By William Habington (1605–1654)
WE 1 saw and woo’d each other’s eyes,
  My soul contracted then with thine,
And both burnt in one sacrifice,
  By which our marriage grew divine.
Let wilder youths, whose soul is sense,        5
  Profane the temple of delight,
And purchase endless penitence,
  With the stol’n pleasure of one night.
Time’s ever ours, while we despise
  The sensual idol of our clay,        10
For though the sun do set and rise,
  We joy one everlasting day.
Whose light no jealous clouds obscure,
  While each of us shine innocent,
The troubled stream is still impure;        15
  With virtue flies away content.
And though opinions often err,
  We’ll court the modest smile of fame,
For sin’s black danger circles her,
  Who hath infection in her name.        20
Thus when to one dark silent room
  Death shall our loving coffins thrust:
Fame will build columns on our tomb,
  And add a perfume to our dust.
Note 1. “The amatory poetry of Habington is that of a man who regards woman as a highly intellectual being; not as the mere slave and instrument of sensual pleasure; and the correctness of his mind, in this particular, is equally apparent in his prose and verse.” (Habington’s Castara, edit. by Charles A. Elton, The Prefatory Essay, p. 7.) I think, in this poem, Mr. Elton’s particular critical virtue of the Castara poems is perhaps shown at its best from a moral, and highest from a poetical point of view. But Prof. Saintsbury (History of Elizabethan Literature, 1887, p. 382) has this to say: “Castara is a real instance of what some foreign critics very unjustly charge on English literature as a whole—a foolish and almost canting prudery. The poet dins the chastity of his mistress into his readers’ heads until the readers in self-defence are driven to say, ‘Sir, did any one doubt it?’ He protests the freedom of his own passion from any admixture of fleshly influence, till half a suspicion of hypocrisy and more than half a feeling of contempt force themselves on the hearer…. To tell the truth, it is, though, as has been said, an estimable, yet a rather irritating work. That Habington was a true lover every line of it shows; that he had a strong infusion of the abundant poetical inspiration then abroad is shown by line after line, though hardly by poem after poem, among its pieces.” [back]

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