Classics: Song: To Celia (Drink to me only with thine eyes)

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

19 thoughts on “Classics: Song: To Celia (Drink to me only with thine eyes)

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  1. Robert Herrick

    To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

    Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying:
    And this same flower that smiles to-day
    To-morrow will be dying.

    The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
    The higher he’s a-getting,
    The sooner will his race be run,
    And nearer he’s to setting.

    That age is best which is the first,
    When youth and blood are warmer;
    But being spent, the worse, and worst
    Times still succeed the former.

    Then be not coy, but use your time,
    And while ye may, go marry:
    For having lost but once your prime,
    You may for ever tarry.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t help it. I adore the guy and the first association with roses and rosebuds was….well, guess who. Doesn’t matter, you can still make a post out of it.
        You too stole my idea -an Ode to…. Hm….But, I’m still doing it. It’s a different kind of an ode though, so you’ll see.
        My point here being, finish what you started, baby girl. Don’t mind me.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, enjoying life, engaging in physical pleasures while they’re still young (in full bloom, i.e while the Sun is still shining). The time’s flying fast and unless they do so, the flowers will wither, that is the Sun will set. He also advises them to marry while still young, not to be coy and procrastinate.
        Perfect, isn’t it? Do you know he was a pastor?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Imagine him preaching sermons on sin.

        Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
        Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
        That liquefaction of her clothes.

        Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
        That brave vibration each way free,
        O how that glittering taketh me!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Check this out.

        Herrick became a country pastor in 1629, but when upon the advent of the English Civil War he remained loyal to his king, he was ousted from his post by the Puritans, who closed the theaters and taverns—and eventually executed the king. This political exile deprived Herrick of his living and cut him off from the possibility of returning to London.


  2. Ok. You got me to get out my favorite book of English poets. A book that my mother gave me from her high school. The copyright is 1905. When I start reading in it, I start reading every poem in the book. The 1 page to the 10 page ones. Thanks! Just when I needed something else in my life to keep me busy.

    Liked by 1 person

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