Song To Celia

Analysis of the Love Poem by Ben Jonson

Drink to me, only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine:
But might I of Jove's nectar sup
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be
But thou thereon didst only breath
And sent'st it back to me:
Since, when it grows and smells, I swear,
Not of itself but thee.


Ben Johnson wrote numerous songs. "Song to Celia" is an example of carpe diem poetry, as it reminds the reader to live and love since time and youth are fleeting. This concept can be traced to Roman classics, as in Horace's line, "Seize the day, trust tomorrow as little as possible."

Jonson's classical form in "Song to Celia" owes much to the classic poets of Rome and Greece. For example, the rhyme scheme is the classical abcbabcb.

Also note that "Song to Celia" is a very skillful poetic treatment of quotations from the love letters of the Greek writer, Philostratus.

Compare the opening lines of the first stanza of "Song to Celia" with Philostratus's Letter XXIV, "Drink to me with thine eyes only. Or, if thou wilt, putting the cup to thy lips, fill it with kisses, and so bestow it upon me."

Compare the opening lines of the second stanza with Letter XXX, "I sent thee a rosy wreath, not so much honouring thee (though this also is in my thoughts) as bestowing favour upon the roses, that so they might not be withered."

The poet Lady Mary Wroth is probably the Celia to whom "Song to Celia" is dedicated.

Ben Jonson was born about 1573 and died in 1637. He was England's third Poet Laureate from 1619 to 1637.

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