National Poetry Month: Song: To Celia

When the legendary Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, a lot of people were upset because they did not consider song lyrics to be poetry. I do not fall into that camp. I feel that lyrics can be as poetic as a Shakespeare sonnet.

I mention Bob Dylan because today’s poem serves as a great example of classical poems as song. The Renaissance period had so many lyrical ballads. “Song: To Celia” by Ben Jonson is a shortened lyrical ballad. It’s about rejected love. I’ve performed the song with a choir and it’s one of those songs that will occasionally pop up in my head.

“Song: To Celia” — Ben Jonson

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
        And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
        And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
        Doth ask 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 honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
        It could not withered be.
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.


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