'Hymn To Diana' by Ben Jonson

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Cynthia's Revels1601Queen 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 wishèd 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

Hymn To Diana: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, what a sublime piece of poetry is this Hymn to Diana! Written by the master wordsmith Ben Jonson, this poem is a celebration of the goddess of the hunt and the moon, Diana, who was one of the most revered deities in Roman mythology. With its rich imagery, powerful metaphors, and lyrical language, this poem is a masterpiece of the English Renaissance literature, and one that continues to captivate readers even today.

So, let's dive deeper into this remarkable work of art and explore the various themes, motifs, and symbols that make it such a timeless classic.

Background and Context

Before we begin, however, it's important to understand the historical and cultural context in which this poem was written. Ben Jonson was a prominent figure in the literary and artistic circles of early 17th century England, and his works reflected the intellectual and philosophical trends of the time. Jonson was deeply influenced by classical writers such as Horace and Virgil, and he sought to emulate their style and themes in his own poetry.

At the same time, Jonson was also a devout Christian who believed in the power of poetry to convey spiritual truths and moral values. In this sense, Hymn to Diana can be seen as both a celebration of the pagan goddess and a reflection of Jonson's Christian faith.

Themes and Motifs

One of the central themes of Hymn to Diana is the idea of divine transcendence. The poem portrays Diana as a powerful and mystical force that is both beyond and within the natural world. Jonson uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey this sense of otherworldly power. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, he describes Diana as "Queen and Huntress, chaste and fair, / Now the sun is laid to sleep, / Seated in thy silver chair, / State in wonted manner keep."

Here, Diana is depicted as a queenly figure who presides over the natural world, with her "silver chair" symbolizing the moon and her "wonted manner" suggesting her eternal and unchanging nature. This image of Diana as a transcendent deity is further reinforced by the poem's repeated references to her "divine" and "holy" nature.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of the hunt as a metaphor for spiritual pursuit. Jonson uses the hunt as a symbol for the human search for meaning and purpose in life. Throughout the poem, he depicts Diana as a guide and protector for those who seek enlightenment and understanding. For example, in stanza 4, he says:

"Let not thy beams, which coyly play, Veil'd in clouds, lead me astray. The wat'ry clouds are false and light, To them I yield no more than night."

Here, Jonson is suggesting that the pursuit of spiritual truth requires a steadfast commitment to the path, and a willingness to resist temptation and distraction.

Symbols and Imagery

The poem is replete with powerful symbols and imagery that enhance its overall impact. One of the most striking of these is the image of the moon, which is used throughout the poem as a symbol for Diana's power and influence. Jonson describes the moon as "silver" and "chaste," suggesting the goddess's purity and transcendence.

Another important symbol in the poem is the hunt, which is used as a metaphor for the spiritual journey. Jonson depicts Diana as a skilled and compassionate guide for those who seek knowledge and enlightenment, likening her to a "teacher" or "preacher" who leads her followers along the right path.

Finally, the poem contains numerous references to classical mythology and literature, which serve to situate Diana within the broader context of ancient Roman culture. By drawing on these references, Jonson is able to evoke a sense of timelessness and universality that gives the poem its enduring appeal.


In conclusion, Hymn to Diana is a remarkable work of poetry that continues to captivate readers with its rich imagery, powerful symbols, and lyrical language. Through its portrayal of the goddess Diana as a transcendent and mystical force, the poem explores the themes of divine transcendence and the pursuit of spiritual truth. By drawing on classical mythology and literature, Jonson is able to situate Diana within a broader cultural context that gives the poem its timeless appeal. For these reasons and more, Hymn to Diana remains a classic of English Renaissance literature and a testament to the enduring power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Hymn To Diana: A Masterpiece of Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson, the renowned English playwright, poet, and literary critic, is known for his exceptional contribution to the world of literature. Among his numerous works, Hymn To Diana stands out as a masterpiece that showcases his poetic prowess and his deep understanding of classical mythology. This poem is a tribute to the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, and is a perfect example of Jonson's ability to blend classical themes with contemporary language and style.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a distinct tone and theme. The first stanza is an invocation to Diana, where the poet addresses the goddess and asks for her blessings. The second stanza describes Diana's attributes and her role as the protector of the wilderness. The third and final stanza is a plea to Diana to protect the poet and his beloved from the dangers of the world.

The poem begins with an invocation to Diana, where the poet addresses her as "queen and huntress, chaste and fair." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it establishes Diana's dual nature as both a powerful goddess and a beautiful woman. The poet then goes on to describe Diana's attributes, such as her "silver bow" and her "chaste beams," which symbolize her purity and her ability to protect the innocent.

In the second stanza, Jonson describes Diana's role as the protector of the wilderness. He portrays her as a fierce and powerful goddess who rules over the forests and the mountains. He describes her as the "mistress of the beasts," who can tame even the wildest of creatures. This stanza is a tribute to Diana's strength and her ability to protect the natural world from the destructive forces of humanity.

The third and final stanza is a plea to Diana to protect the poet and his beloved from the dangers of the world. The poet asks Diana to "keep us from the world's disdain," and to shield them from the "envious eyes" of those who would seek to harm them. This stanza is a testament to Jonson's belief in the power of the divine to protect and guide us through life's challenges.

One of the most striking features of Hymn To Diana is Jonson's use of language and imagery. He employs a variety of poetic devices, such as alliteration, metaphor, and personification, to create a vivid and evocative picture of Diana and her world. For example, he describes Diana's "silver bow" as a symbol of her purity and her ability to strike down evil. He also personifies the wilderness as a place of refuge and safety, where Diana's power is strongest.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of classical mythology. Jonson draws heavily on the Roman tradition of Diana worship, which was closely linked to the natural world and the hunt. He also incorporates elements of Greek mythology, such as the story of Actaeon, who was turned into a stag by Diana for daring to spy on her while she was bathing. By weaving these myths and legends into his poem, Jonson creates a rich and complex tapestry of meaning that speaks to the enduring power of these ancient stories.

In conclusion, Hymn To Diana is a masterpiece of English poetry that showcases Ben Jonson's exceptional talent and his deep understanding of classical mythology. Through his use of language and imagery, Jonson creates a vivid and evocative picture of Diana and her world, while also exploring themes of nature, power, and protection. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of myth and the human imagination, and it continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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