Saturday, April 16, 2011

To Celia...

When I came across the above image, I immediately thought of the song, "Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes", then found that it was a poem by Ben Jonson, "Song: To Celia" set to an existing tune of the time and later, in 1790, a composition by J.W. Callcott, the tune we know today.

To Celia
A romance poem rendered in English by Ben Jonson
From a Love Letter by Philostratus of Athens or Philostratus of Lemnos
Jonson published the poem in 1616

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.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
Doth crave a drink divine,
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;
But thou thereon didst only breathe
And sent'st back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

"To Celia" is one of the most frequently quoted poems in English literature.  Undoubtedly, most literate persons are familiar with the opening line, "Drink to me only with thine eyes."  Indeed, many people think of that line as the title of the poem.  Ben Jonson (1572-1637), a celebrated playwright and poet of the Shakespearean age, often receives full credit for composing those words, as well as the lines in the rest of the poem; instead, he should receive credit for translating or paraphrasing them.  It was a Greek named Philostratus who originated the words in his own language.  But which Philostratus?  Scholars identify two writers of this name as candidates for authorship.  The first was Lucius Flavius Philostratus (170 to 245-8? AD), a Greek writer sometimes called Philostratus the Athenian.  He long received credit for penning the lines in his love letters until some scholars credited his relative, Philostratus of Lemnos (born 190AD), as the likely author.  The authorship question has not been resolved.

Source: cummings study guides
Further reading here
Art: George W. Joy 1844-1925


steven said...

ben's words are new to me. i have grown up having missed out on so much poetry and it's only now that i'm really learning what has been, what is, and even a little bit of where poetry is headed. this is lovey writing. soft and gentle. a lovely accompaniment to a morning arising! steven

Betsy said...

How neat that that line came to your mind! What a beautiful painting and poem, too!

alaine@éclectique said...

Steven...your comment prompted me to punch in 'understanding poetry' and, to my surprise, there was a college textbook of that title, the first edition in 1938. In the preface of a later edition, it reads, "Poetry gives us knowledge. It is a knowledge of ourselves in relation to the world of experience, and to that world considered, not statistically, but in terms of human purposes and values."

I'm thankful for the teachers who taught, one in particular, how to dissect a poem and it was interesting and enjoyable, all those years ago, to listen to the different interpretations from the students.

Happy weekend!

alaine@éclectique said...

Betsy...I loved the painting and the tune sprang to mind, followed by the words!

maggie's garden said...

Wish I was Celia...beautiful poem and picture.
Glad to hear all is well and that you were off enjoying a bit of a break. xo

alaine@éclectique said...

MG...Karen, it was a change of scenery and we saw a bit of history but, to tell you the truth, I'm more relaxed at home! Hubby had a great time with his little pontoon boat and caught many fish, so he was happy! Happy weekend! xa

Mason Canyon said...

What a lovely painting and the poem is perfect for it. Interesting background on the poem, thanks for sharing. I was among those that though the first line was the title.

Thoughts in Progress

alaine@éclectique said... did I; I'd never heard of 'To Celia' but, there you go, we're learning to the end!

LA POUYETTE - und die "Dinge des Lebens" said...

Very touching!

Merci beaucoup for this special post with a beautiful poem.

Greetings from France

alaine@éclectique said...

La Pouyette...Karin, thanks for visiting and trust you're enjoying spring in France!