HABINGTON, WILLIAM (1605-1654) William Habington was born in Worcester. His father, Thomas, was a Roman Catholic gentleman imprisoned for a time for his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. Not much detail of Habington's youth is known; nor has it greatly interested later critics. A second-tier poet known for incongruity in form, he nevertheless could produce the occasional remarkable line. He used the heroic couplet with flawless execution, inserting conCEITs sparingly as he focused mainly on one subject, that of his love "Castara." The real Castara, Lucy Herbert, daughter of William, Lord Powis, while occupying a social level above that of Habington, reciprocated his affection. The two enjoyed what appeared to be a loving marriage.
In addition to his collection Castara (1634), published anonymously, Habington collaborated with his father to write and publish three works, The History of Edward the Fourth (1640), Observations Upon History (1641), and a drama, The Queen of Aragon (1640). He also published a second edition of Castara in 1635, which contained elegies, and in a third (1640), he at last acknowledged himself as author. Castara became the work upon which Habington made his reputation. Divided usually into three or four sections by modern editors, it remains easy to locate in anthologies, which often print excerpts. Selections might include "To Roses in the Bosom of Castara," "To Cupid, upon a Dimple in Castara's Cheek," and "To Castara, upon the Death of a Lady." One of the better known of the group is "Against Them Who Lay Unchastity to the Sex of Women." Castara focuses on four themes, the mistress, the wife, the friend, and the holy man. Some critics find Habington's lack of sensuality annoying, but they agree his love verses remain powerful, even though imbued with a Platonic sensibility. For instance, in "To Castara, in a Trance," he writes,
Forsake me not so soon; Castara, stay, And as I break the prison of my clay I'll fill the canvas with my expiring breath, And sail with thee o'er the vast main of Death. (1-4)
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