Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
To Roses in the Bosom of Castara
By William Habington (1605–1654)
YE 1 blushing virgins happy are
  In the chaste nunnery of her breasts— 2
For he’d profane so chaste a fair,
  Whoe’er should call them Cupid’s nests.
Transplanted thus how bright ye grow!        5
  How rich a perfume do ye yield!
In some close garden cowslips so
  Are sweeter than i’ th’ open field.
In those white cloisters live secure
  From the rude blasts of wanton breath!—        10
Each hour more innocent and pure,
  Till you shall wither into death.
Then that which living gave you room,
  Your glorious sepulchre shall be. 3
There wants no marble for a tomb        15
  Whose breast hath marble been to me.
Note 1. Mr. Elton, in his ed. of Habington’s Castara, says: “The cast of this ode reminds me of some pretty stanzas by Bernard, the author of L’Art d’Aimer. The reader will pardon my presenting him with a translation only, as I have mislaid the original:”

  “Nursed by the zephyr’s balmy sighs,
  And cherish’d by the tears of morn;
Ah, Queen of flowers! awake! arise!
  Oh, haste, delicious rose, be born!
Unheeding wish! no—yet awhile,
  Be yet awhile thy dawn delay’d;
Since the same hour, that sees thee smile
  In Orient bloom, shall see thee fade.
Themira thus, an opening flower,
  Must withering droop at fate’s decree;
Like her thou bloomest thy little hour,
  And she, alas, must fade like thee.
Yet go, and on her bosom die;
  At once, blest rose! thy throne and tomb;
While envious heaves my secret sigh
  To share with thee so sweet a doom.
Love shall thy graceful bent advise,
  Thy blushing, trem’lous leaves reveal;
Go, bright, yet hurtless, charm her eyes;
  Go deck her bosom, not conceal.
Should some bold hand invade thee there,
  From Love’s asylum rudely torn;
Oh, Rose! a lover’s vengeance bear;
  And let my rival feel thy thorn.”
Note 2. In the chaste nunnery of her breasts: This figure was very common with the poets of the time. Herrick, “not with the most elegant choice of expression” (Elton), speaking of the roses in a lady’s bosom, observes:
  And snugging there they seem’d to lie
As in a flowery nunnery.
Compare the first stanza in Lovelace’ famous lyric, number 426, Line 5, Transplanted thus how bright ye grow: Compare Carew’s lines from: On a Damask Rose, sticking upon a Lady’s breast:
  Let scent and looks be sweet, and bless that hand
That did transplant thee to that sacred land.
O happy thou! that in that garden rest’st,
That paradise between that lady’s breasts.
(Poems, p. 150, Edit. by Arthur Vincent.)    
Note 3. Your glorious sepulcher shall be: Compare Herrick, Upon the Roses in Julia’s bosom:
  Thrice happy roses! So much grac’d to have
Within the bosom of my love your grave;
Die when you will, your sepulchre is known,
Your grave her bosom is, the lawn the stone.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.