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 the 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 has 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: 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 efforts 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 by the touch of his beloved

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Song: to Celia”

Literary devices are modes that represent the writers’ ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is through these devices that the writers make their few words appealing to the readers. Ben Johnson, too, has used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is listed below.

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /t/ in “The thirst that from the soul doth rise.” and the sound of /s/ in “Since when it grows, and smells, I swear.”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /o/ in “Not so much honouring” and the sound of /e/ in “Since when it grows, and smells, I swear.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /d/ in “Doth ask a drink divine” and the sound of /th/ in “it a hope, that there”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine.”

  1. Imagery: The use of imagery enables the reader to understand the writer’s feelings and emotions. For example, “I sent thee late a rosy wreath”, “Since when it grows, and smells, I swear” and “But might I of Jove’s nectar sup.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. Here, “drinking” and “thirst” are the metaphors of love and desire.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Here, “wreath” symbolizes love and artistic creation, and “nectar” symbolizes the mortal beverage.

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 the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The poet has used end rhyme such as; “mine/wine”, “cup/sup” and “rise/eyes.”
  2. Octave: An octave is an eight lined stanza. Here both stanzas are octave.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows ABCBABCB in the first stanza and DEFEEEFE in the second stanza.
  4. Stanza; A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem, with each having an equal number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for a lover to express their unbound love for each other.

“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.”