Best Wine Poems: Song to Celia

The poet sent his love Celia a "rosy wreath".

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wreath-flower

The poet sent his love Celia a "rosy wreath".

© Shutterstock

Song to Celia by 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.

Is there anything more delicious than love? Wine comes close enough that it’s deployed by 17th century English poet Ben Jonson to express his thirst for Celia.

But while Jonson makes clear he’d rather savour the sweet intoxication of Celia’s love than even the finest wine of the gods, it becomes clear – to the reader at least – that he’s better off seeking solace in the grape.

We never hear Celia’s view on this ardent display of affection and the man behind it, but her action in returning his gift speaks volumes. It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss the writer as a deluded, rather hopeless romantic. But it’s possible to hold that pragmatic response in suspension while revelling in the beauty of this love poem that captures too by close association mankind’s emotional relationship with wine.

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