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Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes
(1777-1817). Later arrangements include those by Granville Bantock and Roger Quilter. Quilter's setting was included in the Arnold Book of Old Songs, published in

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Song by Ben Jonson

"Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" is a popular old song, the lyrics of which are the song "To Celia" by the English playwright Ben Jonson, first published in 1616.[1]

  • 1 Lyrics
  • 2 Melody
  • 3 Versions and uses
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links
Lyrics .mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
     And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss within the cup,
     And I'll not ask 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 honoring 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.[2]

After this song had been popular for almost two centuries, scholars began to discern that its imagery and rehtoric were largely lifted from classical sources - particularly one of the erotic Epistles of Philostratus the Athenian (c. 170 – 250 BC).[3] This borrowing is discussed by George Burke Johnston in his Poems of Ben Jonson (1960), who points out that "the poem is not a translation, but a synthesis of scattered passages. Although only one conceit is not borrowed from Philostratus, the piece is a unified poem, and its glory is Jonson's. It has remained alive and popular for over three hundred years, and it is safe to say that no other work by Jonson is so well known."[4]

Besides Philostratus, a couple of other classical precedents have also been identified.[5]

This literary background helps restore the original intention of the words from the blurring of certain lyrical variations which, while naïvely touching, do conceal the true meaning. In particular, the line "But might I of Jove's nectar sup" is often rendered: "But might I of love's nectar sip". The disappearance of Jove was probably not due to changing fashion, however, but to a popular misreading of the text of early editions. In Ben Jonson's time the initial J was just coming into use, and previously the standard would have been to use a capital I (as in classical Latin). Thus in the first edition of Ben Johnson's The Forest (1616), where the song first appeared in print, the line reads: "But might I of Iove's nectar sup". "Iove" here indicates Jove, but this was misread as "love". The word "sup" has also often been changed to "sip"; but "sup" rhymes with "cup", and is clearly the reading in the first edition. The meaning of the line is that even if the poet could drink to his heart's content of the nectar[6] of the king of the gods, he would prefer the nectar made by his earthly beloved.[7]


Willa McClung Evans suggested that Jonson's lyrics were fitted to a tune already in existence and that the fortunate marriage of words to music accounted in part for its excellence.[8] This seems unlikely since Jonson's poem was set to an entirely different melody in 1756 by Elizabeth Turner. Another conception is that the original composition of the tune was by John Wall Callcott in about 1790 as a glee for two trebles and a bass.[9] It was arranged as a song in the 19th century, apparently by Colonel Mellish (1777-1817). Later arrangements include those by Granville Bantock and Roger Quilter. Quilter's setting was included in the Arnold Book of Old Songs, published in 1950.

Versions and uses
  • Sir Walter Scott used the tune for another song, "County Guy".
  • It appears as an arrangement by Theo Marzials in 'Pan pipes: A book of old songs' (1883).
  • The song was very frequently performed in American student musical performances in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In liner notes, Johnny Cash says that this song was one of the first that he ever sang at a public engagement — at commencement exercise when a high school junior. (A version of the song was recorded privately by Cash at his home recording studio and released posthumously on the album Personal File.) Cash previously recorded a song called "Drink To Me," loosely based on this song.
  • Kenneth Williams sings the song briefly in Carry on Screaming.
  • The first stanza is sung in the second episode of The Onedin Line.
  • Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge) drunkenly sings the song in episode 6, season 5 of Keeping Up Appearances.
  • In 1926, Gwen Farrar (1899-1944) performed the song in a short film made in the Phonofilm sound-on-film process.
  • The song is featured in the 1931 film Alexander Hamilton, as a love theme for Hamilton and his wife Betsey, who at one point sings it accompanying herself on the harpsichord.
  • The song features unflatteringly in the 1936 Merrie Melodies short subject I Love to Singa as the selection young "Owl Jolson's" parents force him to perform in his lessons rather than the title number much to his chagrin and dismay. Warner Bros., which distributed (and later produced) the Merrie Melodies series (and sister series Looney Tunes), would later use this song as incidental music in the TV series Baby Looney Tunes, particularly when one of the characters is drinking milk, water or juice, or even pretending to drink tea.
  • The song was performed by Paul Robeson in his album "Ballad for Americans and Great Songs of Faith, Love and Patriotism", Vanguard Records.
  • The song was performed by Gloria Jean in 1942 film Get Hep to Love.
  • The song is sung by the East Side Kids in a wedding scene in the 1943 film Ghosts on the Loose.
  • The song is also sung in a comedic manner by Lou Costello in the 1946 Abbott & Costello film The Time of Their Lives.
  • Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961)
  • Duke Special recorded a version of the song as a B-Side for the single "Freewheel" with Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy.
  • The song was performed by Swans in their album Various Failures.
  • The song was used briefly in a 1986 episode[episode needed] of the TV series Tales from the Darkside.
  • Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet, adapted the tune in his poem "Katabar Bhebechinu." A popular Bengali vocalist Swagatalakhsmi Dasgupta sang both the versions.[10]
  • The song comes to the Martian Ylla, in a dream, in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles (1950).
  • The song was performed by Sherwood in their album The Favourite Songs of Henry VIII.
  • Laura Wright recorded a version, featured on her album The Last Rose (2011).
  • George Eliot refers to this song in her novel, The Mill on The Floss, Book 6, Chapter 13, as being sung by character Stephen Guest.
  • It is also played in "A Fortunate Life" from the book by A B Facey made into a film (DVD) where the young Bert Facey woos his future wife.
  • African-American composer Florence Price included this melody as a movement in her "Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint" (1951) for string quartet.
  • Used in the movie "High Spirits", (1988) by the ghost Mary (Daryl Hannah), and attributed to Ben Jonson.
  • Used in the movie "Emma", (2020) sung as a duet by George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), and Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson).
  1. ^ Ben Johnson, "The Forrest" (1616), p. 829.
  2. ^ Song: to Celia , Poetry Foundation
  3. ^ The Epistle in question is number xxxiii.
  4. ^ George Burke Johnston, Poems of Ben Jonson (1960), "Introduction" p.xl. The author notes (p. 331) that while the authoritative proof of this borrowing was made by Wikisource has original text related to this article: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes
    • Recording and text of the poem, Poetry Foundation
    • Original 3 part glee composition by Callcott
    • Sheet music and midi for "Drink to me only with thine eyes"
    • Lyrics and midi arrangement
    • Four mixed voices composition by Kaiser
    • v
    • t
    • e
    Ben Jonson (works)Plays
    • A Tale of a Tub
    • The Case is Altered
    • The Isle of Dogs
    • Every Man in His Humour
    • Every Man out of His Humour
    • Cynthia's Revels
    • Poetaster
    • Sejanus His Fall
    • Eastward Hoe
    • Volpone
    • Epicœne, or The Silent Woman
    • The Alchemist
    • Catiline His Conspiracy
    • Bartholomew Fair
    • The Devil Is an Ass
    • The Staple of News
    • The New Inn
    • The Magnetic Lady
    • Rollo Duke of Normandy
    • The Sad Shepherd
    • Mortimer His Fall (fragment)
    • The Coronation Triumph
    • A Private Entertainment of the King and Queen on May-Day
    • The Entertainment at Althorp
    • The Masque of Blackness
    • Hymenaei
    • The Entertainment of the Kings of Great Britain and Denmark
    • The Masque of Beauty
    • The Masque of Queens
    • The Hue and Cry After Cupid
    • The Entertainment at Britain's Burse
    • The Speeches at Prince Henry's Barriers
    • Oberon, the Faery Prince
    • Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly
    • Love Restored
    • A Challenge at Tilt, at a Marriage
    • The Irish Masque at Court
    • Mercury Vindicated from the Alchemists
    • The Golden Age Restored
    • Christmas, His Masque
    • The Vision of Delight
    • Lovers Made Men
    • Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue
    • For the Honour of Wales
    • News from the New World Discovered in the Moon
    • The Entertainment at Blackfriars
    • Pan's Anniversary
    • The Gypsies Metamorphosed
    • The Masque of Augurs
    • Time Vindicated to Himself and to His Honours
    • Neptune's Triumph for the Return of Albion
    • The Masque of Owls at Kenilworth
    • The Fortunate Isles and Their Union
    • Love's Triumph Through Callipolis
    • Chloridia
    • The King's Entertainment at Welbeck
    • Love's Welcome at Bolsover
    • "On My First Sonne"
    • "To Celia"
    • "To Penshurst"
    • Ben Jonson folios
    • English Renaissance theatre
    • Sons of Ben (literary group)



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