Study Guide

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

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Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine (1-2)

The opening lines of the poem have a lot of interesting rhymes. The first vowels of both "eyes" and "mine" rhyme, which suggests that the speaker's and Celia's eyes are somehow connected or identical. Something similar is expressed with the rhyme on "thine" and "mine."

Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not ask for wine (3-4)

 The fact that the speaker only needs a kiss suggests he is trading a bodily need (for a drink or beverage) for something more emotional (a kiss, or a sign of love from Celia). This dynamic between mortal and divine, earthly and non-earthly, material and spiritual, dominates this poem in particular, and the collection from which it comes, The Forest, more generally.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine (5-6)

The speaker implies that his love for Celia is like a kind of spiritual "thirst." This suggests that love is like drinking a beverage. Is it just us, or does that not sound too romantic? In fact, it clashes with the poem's attempts to elevate the spiritual (love, the soul) over the material (wine, nectar, etc.).

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be" (9-12)

The speaker's gift of a "rosy wreath" is odd. He doesn't send for the sake of "honouring" Celia, but rather to see if it will live forever in her presence. Weird, right? We know the speaker loves Celia, but for a split second it seems like his love is a kind of experiment: he doesn't send her a wreath as a present for her, but in order to discover if something exciting will happen.

But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me (13-14)

The "but" that begins line 13 is very weird. The speaker sends Celia a wreath in order to see if it will stay alive in her presence; then he tells us "but," as if to imply that she didn't do what he wanted and only sent the wreath back to him. We realize at the end that the wreath continues to grow, but here, for a split second, the speaker's expectations appear to be frustrated.

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