The first line of this poem by Ben Jonson is very familiar, but I bet most people wouldn’t attribute it to Ben Jonson. I think most people would guess it was from Shakespeare, but that goes to show that, despite, his genius, Shakespeare was not the only poet in town. (A bit like Mourinho looking around and seeing that Wenger is still going strong and Benitez is still giving it his best shot at the top level..)
We know that Jonson was a fervent admirer of Shakespeare (see my post of May 31, 2015), but this poem is right up there. And, it is a tender love poem, so very easy on the eyes and ears.
Drink to me only…
Song To Celia II – Ben Jonson
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.
There is a great progression of ideas in this short poem. First the aspiration of love, then the declaration of love and finally, love returned and confirmed. The early days of love, to be sure, but there is a great sense of optimism and fulfilment in this poem – this confirms our image of what love should be like, if life didn’t get in the way.
The Poetry Dude