'Song To Celia - I' by Ben Jonson

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Come, my Celia, let us prove
While we may the sports of love;
Time will not be ours forever,
He at length our good will sever.Spend not then his gifts in vain;
Suns that set may rise again,
But if once we lose this light,
'Tis with us perpetual night.Why should we defer our joys?
Fame and rumour are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies?
Or his easier ears beguile,
So removed by our wile?'Tis no sin love's fruits to steal;
But the sweet theft to reveal,
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Song To Celia - I" by Ben Jonson: A Heartfelt Tribute to Love

As we dive deep into the enchanting realm of English poetry, we come across one of the most beautiful and timeless pieces, "Song To Celia - I" by Ben Jonson. This lyrical masterpiece weaves together the emotions of love, longing, and desire into a delicate tapestry of words. Written in the early 1600s, this poem has stood the test of time and continues to resonate with readers even today.

The Context of the Poem

Before we delve into the interpretation of this poem, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. Ben Jonson was a prominent playwright, poet, and literary critic of the Elizabethan era. He was known for his sharp wit, satirical writing, and mastery over the English language. "Song To Celia - I" is a part of his larger work, "The Forest", a collection of poems that were published in 1616.

This poem was written at a time when the Petrarchan tradition of writing love poetry was at its peak. Petrarchan love poetry was characterized by its idealized and unattainable love, often directed towards a woman who was unattainable or even deceased. However, Jonson's poem takes a different approach to love. Instead of idealizing and worshiping his beloved, he expresses a more honest and heartfelt emotion.

The Interpretation of the Poem

The poem begins with the famous opening line, "Drink to me only with thine eyes", which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Jonson uses the metaphor of drinking to express his desire for his beloved. He doesn't want her to offer him wine or any other physical object, but rather wants her to offer him her love, represented by the act of drinking.

The second stanza is equally beautiful and poignant. Jonson compares his beloved's eyes to stars, further emphasizing their importance in his life. The word "constellations" is particularly interesting as it suggests that her eyes are not just one or two stars but rather an entire galaxy of stars. Jonson's use of celestial imagery further emphasizes the transcendental nature of his love.

Moving on to the third stanza, Jonson expresses his desire to be near his beloved. He says, "I'll not look for wine" which suggests that he does not need any other physical pleasure as long as he is in her company. He also refers to himself as a "pilgrim" who is "weary of his journey", indicating that his love for her is not new but rather a long-standing emotion.

In the fourth stanza, Jonson expresses his willingness to die for his beloved. He says, "I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more". This line has been interpreted in two ways. Some critics believe that Jonson is willing to die for his love for Celia, while others believe that he is willing to sacrifice his love for her if it means upholding his honor. Either way, this line shows the depth of Jonson's love for his beloved.

The poem ends with a repetition of the opening line, "Drink to me only with thine eyes". This repetition serves to emphasize the importance of the line and also suggests that Jonson's love for his beloved is unchanging and eternal.

The Poetic Techniques Used in the Poem

Apart from the powerful imagery and emotions expressed in the poem, Jonson also uses a variety of poetic techniques that add to the beauty of the poem. For instance, the use of iambic trimeter gives the poem a musical quality and makes it easier to read and remember. The repetition of the opening line also serves as a refrain, which is a common technique used in lyric poetry.

Jonson's use of metaphors and similes is also noteworthy. The comparison of Celia's eyes to stars and constellations is particularly beautiful and creates a vivid image in the reader's mind. Similarly, the metaphor of drinking to express love is both unique and effective.

The Significance of the Poem

"Song To Celia - I" is considered to be one of the finest examples of English love poetry. It has been widely anthologized and continues to inspire poets and readers even today. The poem's honest expression of love and the use of simple yet powerful imagery makes it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Furthermore, the poem's departure from the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry is also significant. Jonson's poem represents a shift towards a more honest and realistic portrayal of love, which was a departure from the idealized and often unattainable love depicted by earlier poets.


In conclusion, "Song To Celia - I" is a beautiful and timeless poem that captures the essence of love in a simple and powerful way. Jonson's use of poetic techniques and imagery adds to the beauty of the poem, while his departure from the Petrarchan tradition of love poetry is significant. This poem continues to inspire and move readers even today, making it a true masterpiece of English literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Song To Celia - I: A Masterpiece by Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson, one of the greatest poets of the English Renaissance, wrote a beautiful poem titled "Poetry Song To Celia - I" that has stood the test of time. This poem is a masterpiece of lyrical poetry that captures the essence of love, beauty, and nature. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his beloved, Celia, and expressing his love for her. He compares her beauty to that of the roses and lilies, which are symbols of love and purity. The speaker's admiration for Celia is evident in the way he describes her beauty, using words like "fair," "sweet," and "lovely." He also compares her to the goddess of love, Venus, which emphasizes her beauty and grace.

The second stanza of the poem is where the speaker expresses his desire for Celia. He asks her to come to him and be his love, promising to give her all the pleasures of life. He tells her that he will make her a bed of roses and lilies, where they can lie together and enjoy each other's company. The speaker's desire for Celia is intense, and he uses vivid imagery to convey his passion.

The third stanza of the poem is where the speaker expresses his sadness at the thought of losing Celia. He tells her that if she leaves him, he will be like a withered flower, devoid of life and beauty. He also tells her that he will die of grief if she goes away, emphasizing the depth of his love for her. The speaker's fear of losing Celia is palpable, and he uses powerful imagery to convey his emotions.

The fourth and final stanza of the poem is where the speaker expresses his hope that Celia will stay with him. He tells her that if she stays, he will love her forever and make her happy. He also tells her that he will sing her praises in his poetry, immortalizing her beauty and love. The speaker's hope for a happy future with Celia is evident in this stanza, and he uses poetic language to convey his optimism.

The structure of the poem is simple and straightforward, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which gives the poem a musical quality. The use of repetition, such as the repetition of the word "fair" in the first stanza, adds to the poem's musicality and emphasizes the speaker's admiration for Celia. The use of imagery, such as the comparison of Celia to roses and lilies, adds to the poem's beauty and helps to convey the speaker's emotions.

The poem also makes use of several literary devices, such as metaphor, simile, and personification. The comparison of Celia to Venus is a metaphor that emphasizes her beauty and grace. The comparison of the speaker to a withered flower is a simile that emphasizes his fear of losing Celia. The personification of nature, such as the personification of the roses and lilies, adds to the poem's beauty and helps to convey the speaker's emotions.

In conclusion, "Poetry Song To Celia - I" is a masterpiece of lyrical poetry that captures the essence of love, beauty, and nature. The poem's simple structure, musical rhyme scheme, and use of imagery and literary devices make it a timeless work of art. Ben Jonson's skillful use of language and poetic techniques has created a poem that is both beautiful and emotionally powerful. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of love and the beauty of the natural world.

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