HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Ben Jonson, born 11 June 1572
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 from 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.
Ben Jonson’s poem To Celia is also known as Drink to me only with thine eyes, and it has been beautifully set to music.
You might like to listen to this moving recording of the song, sung by Johnny Cash.
Jonson was multi talented – poet, playwright, critic, wit and actor. He made the genre of comedy of humours popular on the English stage. I am not an expert on Jonson’s work, but have always felt envious of the man because he was lucky enough to have a friend called William Shakespeare. I love his tribute to Shakespeare, “He was not of an age, but for all time”.
Ben Jonson died on 6 August 1637, aged 65.
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