English Literature
Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes

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Unlocking the Literary Devices in Ben Jonson's 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes': A Close Analysis

Ben Jonson's poem, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,' may seem like unconventional English, but the acclaimed 17th-century poet and playwright compared love to the intoxication of wine in this renowned piece. Also known as 'Song: To Celia' (1616), this traditional English song has captivated audiences as a romantic love song.

Background of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' by Ben Jonson

'Song: to Celia' (1616) was written by Ben Jonson (1572-1637), a prominent figure in the English Renaissance, and first appeared in his collection, The Forest. Inspired by classic Roman and Greek literature and mythology, the poem's imagery and references add depth to its composition. It is believed that the lyrics were originally paired with an existing melody, and since its creation, it has been arranged and covered by various artists.

'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' in Popular Culture

Over the years, the poem has gained widespread popularity and has been covered and performed by multiple artists. In 2006, iconic country singer-songwriter Johnny Cash released a version of the song, revealing that he first sang it as a teenager at a high school graduation. The poem was also featured in the 2020 movie adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, Emma.

Summary of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'

The poem expresses the speaker's intense love for Celia and compares it to the intoxicating effects of wine. Even a mere glance from her can overwhelm him, and her kiss is more powerful than any drink. He claims that her kiss is more exhilarating than the wine of the most powerful gods, and he would rather have a cup with her kiss than a sip from their wine. The speaker also mentions sending a wreath of roses to Celia, not to please her, but as a symbol of his desire for her to have eternal beauty. Despite her rejection, the speaker remains mesmerized by the flowers that were graced by her presence and breath.

Symbolism in 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'

The poem utilizes the imagery of a wreath of roses to represent love, beauty, and the yearning for immortality. It symbolizes the speaker's longing for Celia's love and admiration for her beauty and presence.

Meaning of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'

Overall, the poem conveys the idea that love can be more intoxicating than wine. The speaker's desire for Celia is so strong that he believes nothing can surpass her love. And even when faced with rejection, he sees beauty in it.

Form and Rhyme Scheme in 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'

The poem is written in a lyric form, using two octaves. This structure allows Jonson to express the speaker's emotions in a structured, song-like manner. The first eight lines depict the speaker's fantasies and longing for Celia, while the next eight reflect on the reality of her rejection. Jonson employs a common meter with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCB in the first octave and DEFEDEFE in the second. The meter alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, with eight and six syllables per line, respectively. The use of iambic meter, which follows an unstressed-stressed pattern, adds a lyrical quality to the poem.

In Conclusion

Ben Jonson's 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is a timeless love poem that cleverly uses imagery and symbolism to convey the idea that love can be more intoxicating than wine. Its structure and rhymes contribute to its musicality, making it a beloved piece of literature for readers and listeners alike.

In "Song: To Celia," the speaker expresses a desire for Celia that consumes him, comparing it to a "thirst"1 from his soul that seeks a "divine"1 drink (Lines 5-6). His longing for Celia's love is so strong that he claims it surpasses even the famous drink of the gods, "Jove's nectar"1 (Line 7). By mentioning Jove, also known as Jupiter, the king of the gods in Greek and Roman mythology, Jonson cleverly alludes to the otherworldly and powerful nature of Celia's love. The association of nectar with immortality adds to the significance of this allusion.Jonson also uses symbolism to emphasize the immortality of Celia's love. The speaker gifts her with a "rosy wreath"1, symbolizing love and beauty. However, he clarifies that he offers it to her to preserve its life because of her breath and presence. This gesture symbolizes his hope for an enduring love with Celia, as he promises to "pledge"1 with his eyes (Line 2). The word "pledge" suggests a solemn vow, emphasizing the speaker's sincere desire for Celia's lasting love.Assonance, repetition, and rhyme are also used in the poem. The repetition of the long "I" sound in "Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine"1 (Lines 1-2) emphasizes the image of the eyes and draws attention to the exchange between the speaker ("mine") and Celina ("thine"). The end rhyme in Lines 2, 4, 6, and 8 of "mine,"1 "wine,"1 "divine,"1 and "thine"1 further highlights the give and take between the two, with the metaphorical cup of wine symbolizing their mutual love and desire.Moreover, Jonson's deliberate repetition of "thine"1 and "thee,"1 meaning your and you, adds to the contrast between the speaker's personal desires presented from a first-person perspective (Lines 1, 8, 10, and 16). This contrast emphasizes the complexities of love, where one desires to do and give everything for another while also expecting much from them.In summary, "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" by Ben Jonson is a masterfully crafted poem that employs various literary devices to convey the speaker's profound and genuine longing for Celia's love. The poem's musical and rhythmic flow enhances the themes of love's strength and the desire for immortality. Jonson's use of metaphor, allusion, symbolism, assonance, repetition, rhyme, word choice, and a first-person perspective effectively captures the intensity and complexities of love in this beautiful poem.The poem "Song: To Celia" portrays love as a give and take between the speaker and the object of his affection. Despite the speaker's belief that his love for Celia is selfless, her rejection of the wreath he presents to her suggests that his feelings are not reciprocated.Themes in 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'The central themes in this poem are the strength of love and the idea of immortality. The poem suggests that love is more intoxicating and desirable than wine. It has the power to make even rejection appear beautiful. Love is portrayed as blurring the speaker's perception of reality, as he remains infatuated with Celia even after she rejects him.Ben Jonson's poem explores the desire for an everlasting love and the idea that being in love can make one feel immortal. The speaker in the poem wishes to pledge his undying commitment to Celia and hopes that the intense emotions she brings him will last forever, as the Roman gods he references. Despite Celia's rejection, the speaker remains optimistic and hopeful, envisioning an eternal bond with her.Takeaways from 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'Ben Jonson's 'Song: To Celia' (1616), better known for its first line 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes', conveys the idea that love is even more intoxicating than wine and can make everything, including rejection, appear beautiful. The poem's key themes are the power of love and the desire for immortality. Jonson effectively uses literary devices such as metaphor, allusion, symbolism, rhyme, word choice, assonance, repetition, contrast, and a first-person perspective to create a powerful and enduring poem.In the poem, wine symbolizes love, emphasizing its intoxicating and all-consuming nature.

The Symbolism Behind "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes"

The line "Drink to me only with thine eyes" from the poem "Song: To Celia" holds a deeper meaning than just a simple request. With these words, the speaker asks Celia to look at him and make a symbolic toast through her gaze alone.

The Importance of "Thine Eyes" in 'Song: To Celia'

In this poem, "thine eyes" specifically refers to Celia's eyes, emphasizing their significance as the only means of communication between the speaker and his beloved. It is through her eyes that their love is expressed and understood.

Unpacking the First Line of 'Song: To Celia'

The opening line of the poem, "Drink to me only with thine eyes," has become synonymous with the piece itself. This simple yet powerful line sets the tone for the rest of the poem and captures the essence of the speaker's request.

The Significance of "Thine" in Line 8 of 'Song: To Celia'

In line 8, the word "thine" is used to refer to Celia's affection, represented as a kiss in the cup. This symbolizes the speaker's longing for a physical representation of their love, something tangible to hold onto.

The Request from the Speaker in 'Song: To Celia'

Through the words of the poem, the speaker makes a heartfelt request to Celia. He asks her to leave a kiss in his cup, symbolizing his desire to possess a physical reminder of their love. It is a simple yet powerful plea for a lasting symbol of their affection.

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