Ben Jonson’s “Song: To Celia” can vary in interpretation depending on the reader. The interpretation of the poem can either be that of a man confessing his love to a woman who rejects him or that of a man in love with a woman who he has had a previous, unsuccessful relationship with. Jonson’s diction, rhyme scheme, rhythm, and symbolism make “Song: To Celia” an intriguing piece which requires the reader to read creatively. “Song: To Celia” has a consistent rhythm of alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter throughout the poem.
The rhyme scheme is ABCB, ABCB until a change in line nine to DEFE with one slant rhyme pair. The change in rhyme scheme from ABCB to DEFE represents a change in the tone of the poem while staying true to its sing-song nature. From lines one through eight, Jonson uses drinking and thirst as metaphors for love and desire. In the opening line when he says “drink to me, only with thine eyes,” Jonson is personifying Celia’s eyes and metaphorically suggesting that they are able to declare love.
The recurring reference to wine and drinking implies that love is intoxicating and in line two, it is implied that a “pledge” similar to a toast can be made of love similarly to a promise. In line five, the speaker mentions the “thirst… from the soul” in reference to the speaker’s desire to live happily in love with Celia. The speaker even says that he will give up immortality presented to him in liquid form just to be with her. Line nine presents a change in the poem. The speaker’s love from line nine to the end of the poem is compared to a wreath.
A wreath typically represents eternity with it’s round shape. The diction of this poem, however, suggests that the wreath represents rejection. The wreath is a gift that the speaker sent to Celia who returned it to him. In line fifteen, the wreath “grows and smells. ” The growth of the wreath represents the growth of love inside the speaker only and the smell signifies the lingering of Celia’s presence in the speaker’s thoughts. Jonson makes an interesting choice by having the speaker send a “late… rosy wreath” on line nine.
Late can either mean at night or occurring after the proper time. Depending on the reader’s interpretation of this line, the poem can have completely different meanings. If the wreath is considered to be sent at night, Celia has simply rejected its sender. If the wreath is considered to be sent after the proper time however, it is implied that Celia and the speaker have had previous relations with each other and that the speaker has sent the wreath in hopes of another chance at romance and happiness.
By describing the wreath as “withered” in line twelve, it is implied that something that once existed has now died. The difference between the hopeful, longing, intoxicated feeling of the first half of the poem with the defeat in the second half is what makes this poem profound in its telling of rejection. The use of metaphors and debatable language appeal to the readers’ emotions and provoke their thoughts add to the confusion and passion of one-sided love, thus making Ben Jonson’s “Song: To Celia” an effective work in its portrayal.
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Ben Jonson Song to Celia. (2017, Mar 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/ben-jonson-song-to-celia-essay