So let's take a break from all the sonnets. We're still celebrating National Poetry Month, and trying to bring attention to the many wonderful poets of the Elizabethan era. This week's honoree is Ben Jonson, who's line "Drink to me only with thine eyes," has secured his place in poetry history.
Ben Jonson is a favorite of mine, because like William Shakespeare, he came from no important family and received no university education. His father died before he was born and his step-father was a bricklayer. At some point in his life, Jonson moved to London and got work as an actor with the Lord Admiral's Men, a theater company sponsored by Lord Howard, England's Lord High Admiral. Like Elizabeth I, Lord Howard loved the theater and fought to keep London's public theaters open in the face of Puritan opposition. Jonson was apparantly a failure as an actor, but found work with the company as a playwright. He knew Shakespeare and wrote a Eulogy for him that appears as part of the First Folio.
Like Shakespeare, Jonson was also a poet, and here, for National Poetry Month, is his most famous poem.
Song to Celia
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that form the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, i swear,
Not of itself, but thee.