Song: To Celia

Song: to Celia

by Ben Johnson

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 breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

Summary of Song: to Celia

  • Popularity of “Song: to Celia”: Ben Johnson, a great English playwright and poet, wrote ‘Song: to Celia’. It is a lyrical poem about love. It was first published in 1616. The poem speaks about the unconditional love of the speaker for his beloved. It also illustrates how her rejection does not harm his intense feelings for her. According to the poet, love provides immense strength to a person.
  • “Song: to Celia” As a Representative of Love: This poem is an expression of love. The speaker looks at his beloved, Celia, pleads for her attention, and urges her to kiss him. To him, her magical kiss is more intoxicated than wine. He is not thirsty for any liquor or intoxicating drink but her. He further argues that her kiss is more holy than Jove’s nectar, implying that he can leave anything to have her in his life. As the poem continues, the speaker talks about his beloved’s negative response, saying that once he sent him a rosy wreath, hoping it would lit a spark of love in her. Unfortunately, the lady only smelt that wreath and sent it back to the speaker. Surprisingly, the speaker never got disheartened. Instead, he kept that wreath with special care, believing that his beloved’s breath had made it special.
  • Major Themes in “Song: to Celia”: Love, rejection, and happiness are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents two things: the speaker’s intense love for Celia that never changes even after her rejection and the divine power of love that makes him feel the same for his beloved even when she turns him down. The speaker’s love is not physical but spiritual. He compares his beloved’s kiss with the holy wine that people seek to quench their spiritual thirst. He puts effort to win her heart, but all his efforts go in vain when she mercilessly returns his gift. However, upon getting the gift back, the speaker neither loses hope nor curses his love. He believes that the gift has got divine and magical power through the touch of his beloved

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Song to Celia”

Ben Jonson’s use of various literary devices demonstrates how he enhances the intended impacts of his poem. Some of the major literary devices he uses in this poem are as follows.

  1. Alliteration: It is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of two or more words in a phrase or sentence. For example, line 6 shows the use of /d/ sound I “Dot ask drink divine” which is an alliteration. It creates a musical quality in the poem.
  2. Assonance: It is the repetition of the same vowel sound in the middle of two or more words in a phrase or sentence. For example, line 6 “Doth ask a drink divine” shows /i/ sound repeated for impact.
  3. Consonance: It is the repetition of the same consonant sound in the middle or at the end of two or more words in a phrase or sentence. For example, “Not so much honouring thee” shows the repetition of the “n” sound creates a consonance.
  4. Enjambment: It is the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line or stanza. For example, line 11 and 12 show the verses without any pause. This is called the use of enjambment.
  5. Hyperbole: It is an exaggeration used for emphasis or effect. For example, line 7 shows the speaker using hyperbole when he says, “But might I of Jove’s nectar sup.”
  6. Imagery: It is the use of vivid, descriptive language that appeals to the senses. For example, line 9 shows the speaker creating imagery when he describes the “rosy wreath.”
  7. Metaphor: It is a comparison between two things that are unrelated but share common characteristics. For example, line 3 shows the speaker using a metaphor when he suggests that Celia’s kiss would be like wine in the cup.
  8. Paradox: It is a statement that appears self-contradictory or illogical but may contain a deeper truth. For example, line 5 shows the speaker using a paradox when he says, “The thirst that from the soul doth rise / Doth ask a drink divine.”
  9. Personification: It is the attribution of human characteristics to something non-human. For example, line 15 shows the speaker using personification when he suggests that the rose wreath smells of Celia rather than itself.
  10. Symbolism: It means to use different objects to signify different things. For example, the poet used eyes, a cup, divinity, and nectar to show the power of love.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Song To Celia

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The choice and use of words and phrases in writing or speech is called diction. “Song to Celia,” Jonson uses elevated diction, or formal and elaborate language, to convey the speaker’s romantic sentiments.
  2. End Rhyme: It is the repetition of the same sounds at the end of words in a poem. Jonson employs end rhyme throughout the poem, with a simple ABAB rhyme scheme. For example, in the first stanza, “eyes” (line 1) rhymes with “rise” (line 5) and “mine” (line 2), and “wine” (line 4) rhymes with “thine” (line 8).
  3. Meter: It is the rhythmic pattern of a poem, determined by the number and arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. “Song to Celia” shows the use of iambic tetrameter, meaning each line has four iambs or pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables. For example, in line 1, the stressed syllable falls on the second syllable of “only” and the fourth syllable of “thine.”
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The pattern of rhyme in a poem. “Song to Celia” has a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, with the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyming with each other and the second and fourth lines rhyming with each other.
  5. Poem: “Song to Celia” is a love poem expressing the speaker’s desire for the titular Celia.
  6. Stanza: “Song to Celia” is divided into four quatrains or stanzas of four lines each.
  7. Tone: The attitude or mood conveyed by the speaker in a poem. In “Song to Celia,” the speaker’s tone is romantic and passionate as he expresses his love and desire for Celia.

Quotes to be Used

This quote is suitable to use in a romantic context to express a desire for a deeper connection with someone. It could be used as a metaphor for intimacy and the idea that one can become intoxicated solely by looking into the eyes of their beloved. It can be used to express the idea that words are not always necessary in expressing love, as a simple gaze can be enough.

“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.”