illustration of two faces, a man and a woman, staring at one another and connected by vines that meet together between them holding a glass of wine

Song: To Celia

by Ben Jonson

Start Free Trial

How does the poet highlight his lover's divine qualities in "Song: To Celia"?

Quick answer:

In "Song: To Celia," the poet brings out the divine qualities of his lover by preferring drinking from her "divine" soul to drinking the nectar of the gods and by asserting that her breath is life giving.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker brings out the divine qualities he perceives in his beloved, first, by comparing her soul to the "nectar" of Jove or Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. The speaker says that the "drink" he wants to sip of hers is not her wine but a "drink divine"—in other words, he wants to drink in a deep soul connection with her. In fact, he would rather be united with the divine soul of his beloved than sip Jove's nectar.

In the second stanza, the speaker suggests that his beloved's breath has a divine or life-giving quality. He says that he sent her a rosy wreath in the hope that it could not wither in her presence. And even though she returned it to him, she breathed on it. This means it "grows" and "smells" of her.

Jonson is using hyperbole or exaggeration to describe the divine power he wants to believe is part of his beloved. He is flattering her in depicting her soul and breath as divine, trying to woo her and gain her interest. He is also describing the way a rejected lover feels about a beloved that will not return the love expressed: such a person seems divine and unattainable, even though the lover's soul yearns for her.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial