Study Guide

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

By Ben Jonson


"To Celia" is a mini love song of sorts. The speaker talks about how he doesn't need a real drink, only a cup that has been kissed by the woman he loves. (It sort of reminds us of that song from Harry Potter: "Oh, come and stir my cauldron, / And if you do it right, / I'll boil you up some hot, strong love / To keep you warm tonight." Or maybe that's just us.) Anyway… The speaker thinks that Celia's so angelic or special that she can, potentially, keep a wreath of flowers from withering. If "To Celia" is about love, however, it is also about how, sometimes, the things we love can also let us down, if only a little bit. After all, Celia does return the speakers wreath.

Questions About Love

  1. Is the speaker in love with Celia or just infatuated with her? What makes you think so?
  2. Why do you think Celia returns the wreath? Does she love him?
  3. Do you ever find yourself imaging people you love as angels or immortal beings?
  4. Is love a necessity like food and water? Have you seen love described this way in other poems, or maybe in music you heard or books you've read?
  5. Why are there so many poems about love? How does this one compare to others you've read?

Chew on This

The speaker describes courtship and love as a type of drinking. His description of love is slightly less idealized by his resort to a metaphor that has a lot to do with taverns and bodily necessity.

While we feel that the speaker really loves Celia, it is also strange that he sends her a "rosy wreath" (9), not to honor her, but to see if she can keep it alive. We feel, if only for a moment, that his love is also partly some type of experiment.