By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From Greece With Love

English playwright, poet, and actor Ben Jonson...Image via Wikipedia
An old Greek textbook (see image below) gives an ancient Greek love poem as a translation exercise. Here, from another source, is the English translation popularized by Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson, with commentary from the source link noted below:

To Celia 

A Romance Poem Rendered in English by Ben Jonson 
From a Love Letter by Philostratus of Athens or Philostratus of Lemnos 
Jonson Published the Poem in 1616

1....Drink to me only with thine eyes,
2....And I will pledge with mine;
3....Or leave a kiss within the cup,
4....And I'll not ask for wine
5....The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
6....Doth crave a drink divine;
7....But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
8....I would not change for thine
9....I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
10..Not so much honoring thee
11..As giving it a hope that there
12..It could not withered be;
13..But thou thereon didst only breathe
14..And sent'st back to me,
15..Since when it grows and smells, I swear,
16..Not of itself, but thee 

Notes and Comments  [by Source Link below]

Lines 1-8: The first stanza is a metaphor comparing love to an ethereal elixir. The poet uses the words drink, cup, wine, thirst, and nectar to enhance his trope. Jonson bends the connotation of sup in Line 7. Ordinarily, the word means to eat the evening meal—that is, to have solid food for supper.

Lines 7-8: These lines call to mind Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses) and his wife, Penelope, in Homer's Odyssey. When the goddess Calypso offered Odysseus immortality if he would remain with her on her island, Odysseus refused the offer in order to return to his homeland to be with his wife. Nectar, as noted above under Figures of Speech and Allusions, conferred immortality on those who drank it. 

Lines 9-16: The second stanza centers on the hope that the love of Celia and the poet will thrive, like the wreath, which continues to grow and send forth fragrance. 

Source link (source different from the textbook image above).

The source commentary notes the hope that the love between man and woman "will thrive, like the wreath, which continues to grow and send forth fragrance."

You want to know the raison d'etre for the traditional Catholic and Christian teaching about chastity. There it is. That is what you are saving yourself for: to make that "which continues to grow and send forth fragrance" possible and probable.