Although Ben Jonson is best known for his plays, his poetry had a significant impact on seventeenth-century poets and has come to be as highly regarded as that of his contemporary William Shakespeare. Edmund Gosse, in The Jacobean Poets, concludes that Jonson was "rewarded by the passionate devotion of a tribe of wits and scholars . . . and he enjoys the perennial respect of all close students of poetry." Jonson's lyric ballad "Song: To Celia" is his most beloved and anthologized poem. Soon after its publication, it was put to music by an anonymous composer, after which it became a popular song in public houses. "Song: To Celia" was included in the book The Forest, published in 1616. It appears in the sixth edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature (1993).
Jonson's "Song: To Celia" is a short monologue in which a lover addresses his lady in an effort to encourage her to express her love for him. Jonson includes conventional imagery, such as eyes, roses, and wine, but employs them in inventive ways. As a result, the poem becomes a lively, expressive song extolling the immortality of love. John Addington Symonds, in his 1886 study of Jonson, calls the poem a masterpiece in its "purely lyric composition" and individuality. He concludes that Jonson's lyrics "struck the key-note of the seventeenth century."
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