Friday, December 10, 2010

Drink to me only with Thine Eyes

"Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" is a popular English song, set to the lyrics of Ben Jonson's 1616 poem "Song To Celia." John Addington Symonds demonstrated in The Academy 16 (1884) that almost every line has its counterpart in the Epistles of Philostratus, notably Epistle xxx. George Burke Johnston noted 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."Another classical strain in the poem derives from Catullus. In a brief notice J. Gwyn Griffiths noted the similarity of the conceit of perfume given to the rosy wreath in a poem in the Greek Anthology and other classical parallels could be attested, natural enough in a writer of as wide reading as Jonson.
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. 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.
It was arranged as a song in the 19th century, apparently by Colonel Mellish, and again arranged as a song by Granville Bantock.

I've made a transcription for 4 voices, but it can also been played by violin, mandoline, bouzouki and octave-mandolin.


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