Song: to Celia [Come, my Celia, let us prove]
This poem is one the two different poems written 400 years ago by Ben Jonson both entitled “Song: To Celia.” This poem contains some language that we will not use today. Specifically, for the contemporary reader the words “prove” and “sports” have significantly different implications than they did for the readers of Ben Jonson’s. “Prove” implies proof of the reality or validity of something. Speaker of the poem wishes to explain the nature of “the sport of love.” “Sport” here means not physical exertion but its archaic meaning as a form of pleasure or enjoyment.
The poet invites Celia, his love interest, to show how much pleasure they will gain from “love.” It is obvious from the remainder of the poem that the “love” alluded to intimate physical love. The speaker discounts “fame and rumour,” suggesting that it wouldn’t really matter if they had been caught together and their reputations ruined. However, he feels that keeping their affair hidden from those in the “household” and even from him who was “removed by our wile,” probably Celia’s husband, will be pretty easy. The reference to taking “love’s fruit” indicates that Celia belongs to another, also pointing to the physical nature of the proposed foray into “love”.
The speaker, then, is encouraging Celia, his love interest, to demonstrate how much enjoyment they can derive from “love.” That the “love” referred to is intimate physical love is clear from the rest of the poem. The speaker discounts “fame and rumour,” suggesting that if they were caught together and their reputations ruined, it wouldn’t really matter. Nevertheless, he feels it would be quite easy to keep their affair secret from others in the “household” and even from him who was “removed by our wile,” probably Celia’s husband. The reference to stealing “love’s fruit” suggests that Celia belongs to another, also pointing to the physical nature of the proposed foray into “love
Throughout lines 3-9, the expression “while we can” is extended as the speaker states that they will enjoy the moment. This statement is the version of the modern expression “you live only once” from the 17th century. The author appears to assume that he and Celia have the best chance to act on their passion, perhaps because their husband is away and they shouldn’t let the moment slip. Although the vocabulary used is quite old, the thoughts conveyed could not be more new.
Analysis of Song to Celia by Ben Jonson
The poem that I will be analysing is Song to Celia by Ben Jonson. This poem is about a man who wrote a letter to Celia to try and win her over/ convince her that they belong together. This poem addresses the social phenomenon of falling in love. During this poem, the narrator is a man that is in love with Celia and wants to prove to her that they can be together. I believe that the man wrote a letter to her and this is her reading it in his voice as though he is talking to her.
Some of the word choices definitely let you know a bit about this man and about Celia, you get a tiny glimpse of their personality for example “Why should we defer our joys?/Fame and rumours are but toys./Cannot we delude the eyes/Of a few poor household spies,” this lets us know that the man who wrote the poem is a lot more carefree he doesn’t care that people will stare or maybe start rumours he just wants to be with her whereas Celia, is a bit more anxious and doesn’t want people to see and stare and start rumours. This poem sort of address the cliches like something that he knows won’t happen. Like for example “Time will not be ours forever;” in my opinion thinking that you can be together happy forever is a cliche but he knows that their relationship won’t be like that, so perhaps this is him accepting that it won’t be perfect but, for some of the time it will be great.
The tone of This poem is slightly changed throughout the poem. In the beginning, it was sort of playful and lighthearted and the reason I say this is because he said “Come, my Celia, let us prove,/While we can, the sports of love;” when he compared love to a sport I thought that maybe he thinks it’s just a game but as he kept going it good at a bit more serious and bold “Why should we defer our joys?/Fame and rumour are but toys./Cannot we delude the eyes/Of a few poor household spies,/Or his easier ears beguile,/So removèd by our wile?/’Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal;/But the sweet thefts to reveal,/To be taken, to be seen,/These have crimes accounted been.” towards the end of the poem it just seems a bit more serious as though he was seriously considering to make it work and he wanted to prove to her that he doesn’t care what people think.
Throughout this poem, the stanza length stays relatively the same at about one sentence per stanza, within those stanzas starting at the third stanza there is an AABB rhyme scheme with the last word rhyming in each sentence. Because this poem uses a rhyme scheme it takes form as a closed poem.
This poem does not contain any allusions that I’m aware of, neither does it use alliteration, onomatopoeia or assonance. The poet does, however, including figurative language such as metaphors and irony, the metaphor being that love is a sport and the irony being that he is trying to convince Celia that they should be together but at the same time he is saying some stuff that sounds unconvincing like “Time will not be ours forever;/But if once we lose this light,/’Tis with us perpetual night./Cannot we delude the eyes/Of a few poor household spies,” it’s just ironic that he’s trying to convince but at the same time, he seems very unsure.
Furthermore, that he is unsure in this poem there are lots of commas, perhaps this represents the fact that he takes moments to really think and make sure this is what he wants because he is unsure. I think that personally, the writer chose an excellent title because it gives us a bit of information as to what’s going on by the title being Song to Celia we know that this is not him just talking to Celia this is him singing to her or her reading it in his voice.
The poet, in my opinion, does succeed in recreating his experiences within the reader because I feel like I really want this man to win Celia’s heart because from what I read he seems to care but, it also makes me sort of unsure about this man because he seems unsure. This poem made me sort of rethink what I think about love and that I should really think harder about it instead of just acknowledging that’s it’s there in the real world, after all, it seems like there are lots of different sides to love besides what we see in the movies.