Traditionally, a lover would toast his or her love with a glass of wine; here, the poet requests just a vow from Celia's eyes—a loving look—that he pledges to reciprocate in kind. Even better, if she will "leave a kiss but in the cup" (promise a kiss), he will forget about wine. In other words, a kiss is more powerful than wine!
Celia agrees to his proposal and leaves him be for now.
Lovers' vows have been used by poets since the 14th century. They often involve drinking wine together - which makes sense given that it is a form of toasting - but others have included kissing, uttering poetry, and even performing specific tasks.
Lovers' vows are usually simple promises that lovers write down and place somewhere safe. If they ever meet again after being parted for some time, they will hopefully remember their pledge and renew their love accordingly.
The idea of drinking wine while pledging your love comes from a medieval poem called The Glass of Wine. It tells the story of a couple who drink wine together, then part ways until the next full moon when they will reunite and exchange kisses instead.
This tradition still exists today in certain parts of Europe where people often write their names on a piece of paper and burn it as a reminder of their promise.
The speaker looks at his sweetheart, Celia, and begs her to pay attention to him and kiss him. Her wonderful kiss is more enticing to him than wine. He is thirsty for her, not for wine or intoxicating drinks. The kiss makes him want to drink in every part of her beauty. His feelings for her are strong and true.
Celia is a good girl who obeys her parents. She doesn't go out at night without permission. She doesn't kiss men other than her husband. But the speaker has seen her standing on the edge of the lake with another man. This makes him think that she may have kissed others before he met her. It hurts his heart to think this about her.
He pleads with her to forgive him for what he saw. If only she would listen to him, then he would never ask anything else of her. All he wants is to make her happy.
Celia loves the speaker even though he has done wrong. Because of this, she feels guilty and doesn't tell her father about the kiss. She keeps his love and happiness at the center of her life even though he has hurt her deeply.
In the end, Celia decides that it's best if they don't see each other for a while.
The speaker in "Song to Celia" confesses his love for Celia by first asking her to drink a toast to him with her eyes. He claims he'd rather take a kiss from her than drink the god's wine. He gave her a bounty of roses to protect them from wilting in her presence. Finally, he tells her she is loved even by the men who fight over her.
This poem is one of three written by Tennyson while he was in the prison library at Millbank Tower. It was here that he came up with the idea for his now-famous poem "Maud". The other two poems are called "Ulysses" and "Tithonus". They all deal with different themes related to love and immortality.
Tennyson based "Song to Celia" on an ancient Greek myth about Zeus and Leda. According to this story, Zeus had fallen in love with Leda but she didn't return his feelings because she found him too ugly. So, one day, when Leda was out shopping, Zeus took the form of a swan and made love to her from behind. As soon as she finished, she turned around and saw what looked like a real swan and stopped touching it. Frustrated, Zeus turned into a lion and attacked but she still wouldn't get close enough to feel his breath on her neck. Finally, he changed into a human and told her not to worry about his looks because he was very beautiful inside.
"As a Representative of Love: This poetry is a statement of love," Celia says. He is thirsty for her rather than for wine or alcoholic beverages.
The poem begins with the poet asking Celia to marry him. He wants her to be his wife forever. A marriage proposal in those days was very serious and not something that could be taken lightly. So the poet is really asking Celia to become his girlfriend forever. However, she loves drinking wine and dancing so he proposes that they have an arrangement where she can drink wine and dance with other men if she doesn't want to marry him. But he will never leave her alone even when she tells him she doesn't want to marry him.
Celia's father approves of the marriage proposal because he thinks that since the poet is rich, he must be a good husband who will take care of Celia. But Celia's mother does not like the idea of her daughter marrying someone who owns only one house. She fears that when he grows old and poor, he might sell the house and move away leaving Celia all alone. So her mother suggests that Celia wait until she is older before she decides whether she will marry him.
However, Celia loves the poet and wants to marry him immediately.
The speaker in "Song: To Celia" begins by pleading with his beloved to declare her love for him by gazing upon him. His appeal is forceful, like an order to drink to him with her gaze. The speaker wants his wife to make a vow to him with her eyes rather than with a cup of wine in her hand. If she refuses, he will have no choice but to find another woman who will.
Their relationship is that of a husband and wife, so it is only appropriate that the speaker plead with her to look at him as such. He wants her to show him affection by giving him her eye when asked. If she refuses, then he will have no choice but to find someone else to love him.
The speaker believes that celibacy is too great a burden to bear for any human being, much less for him, who has found love and happiness with another woman. He begs his wife to free him from this duty by looking at him with love. If she refuses, then he will have no choice but to find comfort elsewhere.
The speaker finds peace after telling his wife how he feels about her.
"To Celia" is about ultimate love. The poet's affections for Celia—and hers for him—are so strong that he believes she would only drink to him with a loving glance. The poet argues that for his turn, he doesn't need wine to inspire his love, because it's his soul that thirsts. He wants to be loved back by her.
Celia was one of Ben Jonson's namesakes. She was born in 1557 and died in 1606. Her father was Sir George Carey, who served as lord protector during most of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. Her mother was Mary Browne, sister of Robert Brownell, who was also a poet and playwright. She had two siblings: a brother named John who lived only a few months longer than she did and a sister named Katherine who married Edward Herbert, 3rd Earl of Powis.
Celia was educated by private tutors and then attended Lady Margaret Hall, where she met several important people in politics and literature. She became good friends with other famous people such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Watson, and Francis Bacon. In 1582, Celia's father appointed William Cecil (the first Baron Burghley) as guardian for her until she came of age. She remained under his care until his death in 1598. After this, she managed her own estate and had much freedom in choosing her partners.