Study Guide

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

By Ben Jonson


While "To Celia" doesn't really talk about death in any direct way, it does glance at the sad fact that things die. Think about it: the speaker sends the woman he admires a "rosy wreath" (9) because he wants to see if she has the power to keep it from wilting and dying. The speaker also frequently compares the earthly or mortal realm with more divine, immortal things, suggesting that it's difficult to talk about one without the other.

Questions About Mortality

1. Why do you think the speaker believes Celia may be able to keep the wreath from wilting?
2. What makes Celia's love a "drink divine"?
3. Why would the speaker rather have Celia's love than a drink from Jove's nectar? How is Celia's "drink divine" different from the actual divine drink of the gods (ambrosia)?
4. Is this poem about death? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The speaker contrasts mortal things with immortal things in this poem, and ultimately suggests that what we may think is mortal turns out to possess qualities associated with the divine.

The speaker's interest in immortality speaks to an underlying fear or obsession with mortality.