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Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes

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Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes

Have you ever heard of someone being love drunk? Although it may not seem like the most proper English term, the renowned 17th-century poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson, equated love with the intoxication of wine in his famous poem, 'Song: To Celia' (1616). The poem, which is also a traditional English song, is better known by its first line, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.'

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Wine Glass, StudySmarter

In the poem, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,' wine is a metaphor for love.

Pixabay

Song: to Celia (Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes) Information Overview
Poet: Ben Jonson (1572‐1637)
Year Published: 1616
Type of poem: Lyric poem
Rhyme scheme:ABCBABCB DEFEDEFE
Literary devices:metaphor, allusion, symbolism, rhyme, word choice, assonance, repetition, contrast, first-person perspective
Themes: the power of love and immortality
Meaning:Love is even more intoxicating than wine, and makes everything appear beautiful—even rejection.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes by Ben Jonson: Background Information

The poem 'Song: to Celia' (1616), better known by its first line, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,' is a poem written by the English Renaissance poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson (1572‐1637). It was first published in Jonson's 1616 poetry collection, The Forest. The imagery and references in the poem are derived from classical Roman and Greek mythology and writings.

'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is also a popular English song. It is believed that Ben Jonson's lyrics were initially paired with an already existing melody. There have been numerous arrangements of 'Song: to Celia' throughout the centuries since its conception.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Roses on Sheet Music, StudySmarter

'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is a love song.

Pixabay

The famous American country singer-songwriter, Johnny Cash, released a cover of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' in 2006. Johnny Cash said he first performed the song as a teen at a high school graduation ceremony. A cover of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is also featured in the 2020 movie adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, Emma.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Poem

Line'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' by Ben JonsonNotes
1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.
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.
thine: yourpledge: promise, vow thirst: desiredoth: doesJove: Jupiter, Roman king of the gods nectar: the wine of the godssup: sip
9.10.11.12.13.14.15.16.
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.
rosy wreath: circular arrangement of flowers thereon: on the object just mentioned thee: you

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Summary

The speaker asks his love, Celia, to raise her eyes to him. He implies that even a simple look into her eyes is intoxicating. If she were to give him a kiss, even just to leave a kiss in his cup, he would not need any wine because her attention and affection is more powerful and exhilarating than any real drink. The speaker says that his desire for her "doth rise" from his soul like a desire for a sip of a "divine" 1 drink (Lines 5 and 6). He says that he would prefer the cup with Celia's kiss to a sip of the wine of one of the most powerful gods, which would grant immortality.

The speaker says he sent a wreath of roses to Celia, not necessarily to please or spoil her, but to give the flowers a chance to live forever in the beauty of her powerful presence. Celia does not accept the speaker's romantic gesture, but rather sends the flowers back to him. Nonetheless, the speaker is fascinated by the flowers, which were graced by her breath and presence. The smell of the rejected "rosy wreath" 1 still happily reminds the love-drunk speaker of the woman he is entranced with.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Wreath of Roses, StudySmarter

In the poem, the wreath of roses symbolizes love, beauty, and the desire for immortality.

Pixabay

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Meaning

The meaning of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is that love is even more intoxicating than wine. The speaker's desire for the woman he is in love with, Celia, rises within him so strongly that he feels there is nothing greater he could have than her love. Love makes all things seem beautifuleven rejection.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Analysis of Form and Rhyme Scheme

'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' is a lyric poem written in two octets. Ben Jonson uses the lyric poem genre to express the speaker's overpowering emotions of love in a structured, songlike manner. The first octet illuminates the speaker's daydream desires for Celia's attention, kiss, and affection. The second octet presents the reality of him having presented Celia with a gift, and her rejection of his love, which only seems to bolster his admiration for her.

A lyric poem is a short poem with songlike qualities that typically expresses the speaker's strong emotions from the first-person perspective.

An octet is a stanza of poetry made up of eight lines.

Ben Jonson's poem is written in a common meter with a rhyme scheme of ABCBABCB in the first octet, and DEFEDEFE in the second octet. The meter of Jonson's poem alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. Iambic meter features an alternating pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. Poetry written in iambic tetrameter has eight syllables per line in this alternating unstressed‐stressed pattern, while iambic trimeter has six syllables per line. The regular rhymes and meter establish a steady rhythm within the poem, which carries it forward and makes it easy to pair it with a melody.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes, —A variation of iambic tetrameter
And I will pledge with mine; —B iambic trimeter
Or leave a kiss but in the cup, —C iambic tetrameter
And I’ll not look for wine. —B iambic trimeter
The thirst that from the soul doth rise —A iambic tetrameter
Doth ask a drink divine; —B iambic trimeter
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup, —C iambic tetrameter
I would not change for thine." 1 B— iambic trimeter

(Lines 1‐8)

Read this first octet of the poem aloud, placing stresses on the syllables in bold. How do you think the steady meter and rhymes affect the poem's reading?

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Analysis of Literary Devices

Ben Jonson's poem, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,' opens with the extended metaphor of love being compared to wine. The speaker asks the woman he loves, Celia, to drink to him with her eyes in the opening line of the poem. By this, he means that he wants her to raise her eyes to meet his and to acknowledge him, as if she is making a toast to him only by looking at him.

This metaphor continues as the speaker says, "Or leave a kiss but in the cup, / And I'll not look for wine" 1 (Lines 3‐4). The speaker suggests all he needs is Celia's affection. Her look and love is an intoxication so strong and pleasurable that he would not need any alcohol to feel better.

The speaker says that his desire for Celia "doth rise" 1 from his soul like a "thirst" 1 seeking a "divine" 1 drink (Lines 5 and 6). Nonetheless, he would rather have Celia's affection and attention than a sip of "Jove's nectar" 1 (Line7). Jonson uses an allusion to Greek and Roman mythology to suggest the power and other worldliness of Celia's love. Jove, also known as Jupiter, is the Roman king of the gods, the sky, and thunder, synonymous with power. Nectar is the wine or drink of the gods. Its Greek meaning is "overcoming death," as drinking nectar is associated with the immortality of the gods.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Jupiter and Zeus, StudySmarter

The Roman god, Jove, also known as Jupiter, is the equivalent of the Greek god, Zeus.

Pixabay

Ben Jonson uses this allusion to "Jove's nectar" 1 to link Celia's love to immortality. Jonson clarifies this connection through the symbol of the "rosy wreath" 1 that the speaker gifts to Celia. The wreath is an arrangement of flowers, which symbolizes love and beauty. However, the speaker points out that he gives the flowers to Celia so that they will not wither, suggesting that her breath and presence will give them immortal life. The wreath symbolizes both the offer of the speaker's affection, and the beauty and immortality with which the speaker characterizes Celia's love. He hopes to share a love with her that is immortal, as he mentions earlier in the poem that he will "pledge" 1 with his eyes (Line 2). The word choice of "pledge" implies the solemn vow or commitment that the speaker is willing to make for Celia's lasting love.

Ben Jonson emphasizes the give and take between the speaker and subject through assonance, repetition, and rhyme. Assonance is the repetition of similar vowel sounds in nearby words. In the following example, notice how Jonson uses assonance to emphasize the long "I" sound.

"Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine" 1 (Lines 1‐2)

Jonson's emphasis on the long "I" sound cleverly evokes the image of the eyes he writes about, as well as draws attention to the contrast and interaction between the speaker ("mine") and Celina ("thine"). Attention is further drawn to this back and forth, me and you, through the end rhyme of the words "mine," 1 "wine," 1 "divine," 1 and "thine" 1 (Lines 2, 4, 6, and 8). The speaker desires Celia's love, and the metaphorical cup of wine is what passes between them. However, the fact that Jonson emphasizes the image of an empty cup of desire foreshadows the ending of the poem, in which the speaker's love is not reciprocated.

Ben Jonson's repetition of the words "thine" 1 and "thee," 1 meaning your and you, contrasts the emphasis on the speaker's personal desires presented from the first-person perspective (Lines 1, 8, 10, and 16). Jonson does this intentionally to suggest the conundrum of love in which one desires to do and give everything for another, but in desiring the love and affection of the other person, they ask and expect much from them. In the case of the speaker in the poem, he may feel he is being selfless in his love for Celia, yet it is clear by the way she sends back the wreath that his love for her was unreciprocated and undesired. In the poem, love is presented as a give and take between the speaker and subject, the admirer and the beloved.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes: Theme

The main themes in the poem, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,' are the power of love and immortality. The poem suggests that love is more intoxicating and desirable than a cup of wine. Love has the power to make everything in the speaker's view rosy—even rejection. The power of love is so strong that it blurs reality. The speaker is dazed in his obsession with Celia and even when she sends the wreath of flowers back, he only thinks of how it carries her sweet smell.

In the poem, Ben Jonson suggests the desire for immortal love, and also how being in love can make someone feel immortal. The speaker in Jonson's poem wants to "pledge" 1 himself in commitment to Celia. He wants the feelings that she brings to him to carry into a powerful eternity, like the Roman gods he alludes to. The speaker feels such a great high in his infatuation with Celia, that not even her rejection gets him down. His hopes carry on in an everlasting fashion.

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes - Key takeaways

  • 'Song: To Celia' (1616) is a poem by the English poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson. The poem is better known by its first line, 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.'
  • The poem conveys the meaning that love is even more intoxicating than wine, and it makes everything appear beautiful—even rejection.
  • The key themes in the poem are the power of love and immortality.
  • The literary devices used in the poem include metaphor, allusion, symbolism, rhyme, word choice, assonance, repetition, contrast, and first-person perspective.
  • In the poem, wine is a metaphor for love.

1 Ben Jonson, 'Song: To Celia (Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes),'The Forest, 1616.

Frequently Asked Questions about Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes

When the speaker says, "Drink to me only with thine eyes.," he means that he wants Celia to look up at him and make a "toast" to him with her eyes.

"Thine Eyes" means "your eyes" in 'Song:To Celia.'

The opening line to the poem 'Song: To Celia' is "Drink to me only with thine eyes." The poem is commonly referred to by its opening line. 

"Thine" refers to Celia's affection, presented by the idea of the cup with her kiss, in line 8 of 'Song: To Celia.'

The speaker of 'Song: To Celia' asks Celia to leave a kiss in his cup. 

Final Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes Quiz

Question

Who is the author of 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'?

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Answer

Ben Jonson

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Question

What is the other name for the poem 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'?

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Answer

Song: To Celia

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Question

What type of poem is 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'?

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Answer

A lyric poem 

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Question

Which year was 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' published?

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Answer

1616

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Question

What are the two key themes of the poem? 

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Answer

The power of love and immortality 

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Question

What is the meaning of the poem?

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Answer

Love is even more intoxicating than wine, and makes everything appear beautiful—even rejection.

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Question

In the poem, what is wine a metaphor for?

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Answer

love

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Question

Who is Jove?

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Answer

Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods, sky, and thunder. 

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Question

What does the wreath of roses symbolize in the poem? 

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Answer

love, beauty, and the desire for immortality

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Question

What does the speaker mean when he says "Drink to me only with thine eyes"?

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Answer

He is asking Celia to raise her eyes to meet his. 

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Question

True or False: The poem uses highly regular, iambic meter. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What is nectar in Greek/Roman mythology?

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Answer

Nectar is the wine of the gods, which gives them immortality. 

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