How is love treated in Ben Jonson's poem "Song to Celia"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ben Jonson's poem "Song to Celia" is a short love poem, often performed as a song. Both stanzas evoke Jonson's understanding of love by use of extended metaphors, but underneath the metaphorical language is a consistent viewpoint, or philosophy, of love.

In the first stanza, love is is compared to drinking wine. Jonson, however, emphasizes that this is not simply carnal or sexual desire, but instead something more spiritual, saying:

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
         Doth ask a drink divine;
Rather than the frank sexuality of Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" or Donne's "The Flea", Jonson focuses on more subtle connections of of sharing a gaze or a cup. 
The second stanza describes the poet sending Celia a wreath of roses, saying that the roses if infused with her breath will prolong there lives and become as shared emblem of love.
In both stanzas, what is striking is the delicacy of tone, and the sense of love as being something fragile and almost spiritual, as compared to the more earthy tone of the metaphysical poets.