'Song To Diana' by Ben Jonson

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Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Magnificent Tribute to the Goddess of the Hunt: A Literary Analysis of Ben Jonson's "Song to Diana"

As a literary critic, I have read and analyzed countless poems throughout my career, but I must say that Ben Jonson's "Song to Diana" has left a profound impact on me. This masterpiece not only showcases the writer's exceptional poetic skills, but also pays a splendid tribute to one of the most fascinating goddesses in Greek mythology - Diana, the goddess of the hunt. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, imagery, structure, and language of "Song to Diana," and bring out the underlying meanings that Jonson intended to convey.

The Themes of "Song to Diana"

At the heart of "Song to Diana" lies a central theme of worship and admiration for Diana, the goddess of the hunt. The poem begins with an invocation to the goddess, imploring her to descend from her celestial abode and grace the earth with her presence. The speaker then proceeds to describe Diana's divine attributes, such as her skill in archery and her love for the wilderness, which make her the quintessential embodiment of the hunt. The poem also touches upon other themes, such as the beauty of nature, the transience of life, and the power of love, which are all intricately woven into the fabric of the poem.

The Imagery of "Song to Diana"

One of the most striking features of "Song to Diana" is the vivid imagery that Jonson employs to bring the goddess and her world to life. The poem is replete with descriptions of the natural world - the "green earth," the "silver moon," the "azure skies" - that serve to create a rich and immersive environment for the reader. Jonson also uses imagery to convey the idea of transience and the fleeting nature of life. For example, the speaker describes the "hasty hours" that pass by too quickly, and the "fading blossoms" that wither away with the changing seasons. This imagery serves to underscore the importance of appreciating and savoring the beauty of life before it passes by.

The Structure of "Song to Diana"

The structure of "Song to Diana" is relatively simple, yet effective. The poem is composed of eight stanzas, each consisting of four lines, with a regular ABAB rhyme scheme. The consistent structure of the poem creates a sense of balance and symmetry, which is in keeping with the idea of harmony and balance that is associated with the goddess Diana. The repetition of certain phrases, such as "O goddess," "O queen," and "O huntress," further reinforces the speaker's sense of awe and admiration for the goddess.

The Language of "Song to Diana"

Finally, let us turn our attention to the language of "Song to Diana." Jonson's use of language is nothing short of masterful. The poem is written in a formal, elevated style, which befits the subject matter and the goddess being celebrated. The language is also rich in metaphor and allusion, with references to classical mythology and literature. For example, the speaker describes Diana as the "queen of shades," which alludes to her role as the goddess of death and the underworld. Similarly, the reference to "Cynthia's silver light" invokes the Roman goddess of the moon, who was often identified with Diana. These allusions serve to deepen the reader's appreciation and understanding of the poem.


In conclusion, Ben Jonson's "Song to Diana" is a magnificent tribute to the goddess of the hunt, which showcases the writer's exceptional poetic skills and his deep reverence for classical mythology. Through its themes, imagery, structure, and language, the poem conveys a sense of awe and admiration for the goddess, as well as a profound appreciation for the beauty and transience of life. As a literary critic, I cannot help but marvel at the beauty and depth of this masterpiece, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in exploring the world of classical literature and mythology.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Song To Diana: A Classic Poem by Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson, the famous English playwright and poet, wrote a beautiful poem called "Song To Diana" in the early 17th century. This classic poem is a tribute to the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, and is a perfect example of Jonson's mastery of the English language and his ability to create vivid imagery through his words.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing Diana, calling her the "queen and huntress, chaste and fair." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker is clearly in awe of Diana's beauty and power. The use of the word "queen" emphasizes Diana's regal status, while "huntress" highlights her connection to the natural world and her role as a protector of the wilderness.

The second line of the poem, "Now the sun is laid to sleep," creates a sense of calm and tranquility. The speaker is acknowledging the end of the day, and the beginning of the night, when Diana's powers are at their strongest. The use of the word "sleep" also suggests that the sun is not dead, but merely resting, which is a common theme in mythology.

The third line of the poem, "Seated in thy silver chair," is a reference to the moon, which was often associated with Diana in Roman mythology. The use of the word "silver" emphasizes the moon's brightness and purity, while "chair" suggests that the moon is a throne from which Diana can rule over the night.

The fourth line of the poem, "State in wonted manner keep," is a reminder to Diana to maintain her usual routine and duties. The use of the word "wonted" suggests that Diana has a set of established habits and rituals that she follows, which is a common theme in mythology.

The fifth line of the poem, "Hesperus entreats thy light," is a reference to the evening star, which was also associated with Diana in Roman mythology. The use of the word "entreats" suggests that Hesperus is asking for Diana's help or guidance, which reinforces her role as a protector and guide.

The sixth line of the poem, "Goddess excellently bright," is a compliment to Diana's beauty and radiance. The use of the word "excellently" emphasizes the speaker's admiration for Diana, while "bright" suggests that she is a source of light and hope in the darkness.

The seventh line of the poem, "Star of the sea, and clearest night," is another reference to Diana's connection to the natural world. The use of the phrase "star of the sea" suggests that Diana has power over the ocean and its creatures, while "clearest night" emphasizes her ability to bring clarity and understanding to the darkness.

The eighth line of the poem, "Listen, and help, mild queen," is a plea for Diana's assistance. The use of the word "listen" suggests that the speaker believes Diana is capable of hearing their prayers and requests, while "help" emphasizes her role as a protector and guide.

The ninth and final line of the poem, "Wherein, disguised, the nymphs do lean," is a reference to the woodland nymphs who were often associated with Diana in Roman mythology. The use of the word "disguised" suggests that the nymphs are hiding or camouflaged in the forest, while "lean" suggests that they are resting or waiting for something.

Overall, "Song To Diana" is a beautiful and powerful poem that showcases Ben Jonson's skill as a poet and his deep understanding of mythology and the natural world. The poem's vivid imagery and use of language create a sense of awe and wonder, and the speaker's admiration for Diana is palpable throughout. Whether read as a tribute to a goddess or simply as a work of art, "Song To Diana" is a classic poem that continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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