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Song to Celia ("Drink to me only with thine eyes")

Song to Celia ("Drink to me only with thine eyes")


by Ben Jonson

Analysis: Sound Check

"To Celia" sounds like both a toast and a song that you would sing to a woman you love (we're sure that you could substitute a guy's name for "Celia" and sing it to man too – maybe Cesar or Charlie). The opening words of the poem are just another version of something like "drink to the New York Yankees" or "let's toast our new life together." Just because the poem is sixteen lines long doesn't make it any less like a toast. Sometimes people's toasts resemble little speeches, especially at weddings when people might have had a little too much to drink. When reading "To Celia," just imagine you're at a party and somebody raises his glass and says, "I'd like to raise a toast to my mother…I'd take your apple cider over Jove's nectar any day."

"To Celia" also kind of sounds like a song – the full title is even "Song to Celia." The poem rhymes, is easy to remember, and just sounds musical. Take the following four lines and try singing them (just whisper-sing it if you're shy) and you'll see what we mean:

I sent the late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope
That there it could not withered be

It's no coincidence that eventually somebody came along and put the words to music (we're not quite sure who first put the words to music or when). If you do a Google search for "Drink to me only with thine eyes," you will find a bunch of sites that talk about it as a relatively well-known English song. Head over to "Best of the Web" to see a sampling of the variety of different ways people have performed this classic.

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