Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Song To Celia and The Odyssey - Celia and Calypso

Song to Celia

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
    And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
    Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove's Nectar sup,
   I would not change for thine.
  I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
    Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
    It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did'st onely breath,
    And sent'st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
    Not of it selfe, but thee.
   I would not change for thine.
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
   Not of itself, but thee.

~ Ben Jonson (1619)

Song to Celia from Poets.org

Jonson uses immortality and eternity symbols such as Jove’s Nectar and a (rosie) wreath i.e. a circle or eternal symbol when he speaks of his love. Much like Donne, Jonson uses the eyes, our “windows to the soul” to flesh out the true nature of Celia’s feelings.

To change the spelling to ‘new English’ would be a mistake, in my opinion as Jonson has already invoked the imagery of Jove (Zeus), nectar - considered by the Greeks to be the ‘Nectar of the Gods’ and hold immortality which is collected by bees from blossoming flowers so the use of bee in line 12 could be said to be a reference to nectar.  Both Jove and nectar are used quite extensively in Homer’s Odyssey. 

Calypso and Odysseus, Oil on canvas, Gerard de Lairesse, Rijks Museum, Amsterdam 
In book V, Homer talks of Calypso who longs for the love of Odysseus who, 'In the nights, true / he'd sleep with her in the arching cave-he had no choice- / unwilling lover alongside lover all too willing... / But all his days he'd sit on the rocks and beaches, / wrenching his heart with sobs and groans and anguish, / gazing over the barren sea through blinding tears. (Homer, The Odyssey, Book V, Lines 170-175)'.  Odysseus loved his wife like Jonson loves Celia and Calypso loves Odysseus. Like Jonson, Calypso will not receive the same eternal and unending love from Odysseus and realizes she must let him go both physically and emotionally. Calypso says to Odysseus, "No need, my unlucky one, to grieve here any longer, / no, don't waste your life away. Now I am willing, / heart and soul, to send you off at last (Homer, The Odyssey, Book V, Lines 177-179)."  Jonson realizes Celia will not return his love the same as he feels when he wrote in lines 13-14, "But thou thereon did'st onely breath, / And sent'st it back to mee".

Both Calypso and Jonson may love deeper and more completely than ever before and want an eternal and immortal love, but when the person they love does not return these feelings they have to let them go.

Calypso's Isle, Oil On Canvas, 1897, Herbert James Draper (1862-1920), Source for Image

And that art and poetry fans is my spin on the poem and not an official analysis... 

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