Study Guide

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

By Ben Jonson


Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not ask for wine" (1-4)

The first lines of the poem display a preference for the immaterial over the material. The speaker essentially rejects actual liquids in favor of things that satisfy his emotional need; he only needs a glance from Celia, or for her to kiss the cup. It is the meaning of what is conveyed in Celia's gestures that matters, not what's actually in the cup.

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

The speaker suggests that love and desire are like thirsts that must be satisfied; it is as if they are just as important to the functioning of the physical, material body as food and liquid. This implies that physical and spiritual health may not be as mutually exclusive as we think.

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!" (13-16)

The mention of Celia's breath is interesting because it reminds us of words and concepts like spirit. In addition, the implication is that the wreath has been infused with Celia's spirit or breath in a way that makes it become something of a treasure for the speaker. It becomes the evidence of Celia's divinity or power.