The writing of the Renaissance called and I answered. If you’re unaware, this is the period of Shakespeare, Donne, Herreck, Marlow, Queen Elizabeth I, and King Henry VIII.
This charming piece I think sums up the intoxicating feeling you have when there’s someone whom you adore, that you feel almost drunk off the slightest attention or even a glance. There’s a thirst, a yearning really, for the Other that cannot seem to be quenched. We have all had that feeling at some time or another, I’m sure. Then, since love doesn’t always seem to go exactly we want, we find that the speaker finds this yearning love seems to be unrequited. He’s placed her on a pedestal above all others and given her a token of his love that he hopes will live forever. She sends it back and although (for him) that token doesn’t wither and even takes on more of her in now filling his world with the fragrance of her, she has nonetheless chosen not to be his chosen.
Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic or a masochist, but I love this piece. It’s sweet and sad. In 16 lines we feel blissful love and heartache.
Ah! A beautiful tragedy.
I don’t know what brought it to me tonight. I only knew that I was looking for Ben Johnson, and when I saw this winking up at me I knew.
. . .
Song: To Celia (Drink to me only with thine eyes)
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.
Originally published 7 December 2017