'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 Masterpiece of Eulogy: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation of Ben Jonson's "Song To Diana"

Ben Jonson's "Song To Diana" is arguably one of the most beautiful and well-crafted eulogies in the English language. Written in the early 17th century, this poem exquisitely captures the author's reverence and admiration for the goddess Diana, who was associated with the moon, hunting, and chastity in classical mythology. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various elements of Jonson's poem, including its themes, structure, language, and imagery, to gain a deeper understanding of this timeless masterpiece.

Contextualizing the Poem: Understanding the Poet's Inspiration and Intent

Before delving into the poem itself, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. Ben Jonson was a prominent English poet and playwright in the late Renaissance period, known for his wit, erudition, and satirical flair. He was also a devout admirer of classical literature, particularly the works of the Roman poet Horace, whose odes and epistles he emulated in his own poetry.

In "Song To Diana," Jonson draws inspiration from the Roman goddess Diana, who was revered as the patron of hunting, wild animals, childbirth, and virginity. Diana was also identified with the moon, which symbolized her purity, beauty, and mystery. This association between Diana and the moon is central to Jonson's poem, as he uses the imagery of the moon to express his admiration for the goddess's divine attributes.

The poem was likely written as a tribute to Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of King James I, who was often compared to Diana in courtly literature. Jonson may have been commissioned to write the poem for a courtly occasion, such as a masque, where it would be performed as part of a theatrical entertainment. However, the poem's enduring popularity suggests that it transcends its original context and speaks to universal themes of beauty, power, and transcendence.

Exploring the Themes: Love, Beauty, and Eternity

At its core, "Song To Diana" is a love poem, expressing the poet's adoration for the goddess in romantic and spiritual terms. The poem is structured as a series of prayers or invocations, addressed to Diana as the embodiment of beauty, purity, and grace. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, as Jonson compares Diana to the moon, describing her as "fair, fresh, and sweet," and "shining queen of state." The use of alliteration and repetition in these lines creates a sense of rhythm and harmony, emphasizing the goddess's perfection and radiance.

The theme of beauty is further developed in the second stanza, where Jonson likens Diana to a star, describing her as "a fixed star, whose motion cannot err." This image suggests that Diana is not only beautiful, but also constant and unchanging, like the celestial bodies that guide sailors and travelers. The poet's use of metaphor and simile in this stanza adds depth and complexity to his praise of the goddess, as he seeks to capture her essence in words and images.

The third stanza shifts the focus of the poem from Diana's physical beauty to her moral and spiritual qualities, particularly her chastity and divinity. Jonson describes her as a "pure virgin," who is "undefiled" by any earthly passions or temptations. This emphasis on Diana's purity and chastity reflects the ideal of female virtue that was prevalent in Renaissance literature and culture, and is also a nod to Horace's odes, which often celebrated the ideal of the virtuous and modest woman.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most striking and memorable, as Jonson elevates Diana to a status beyond mortal beauty and virtue. He calls her "the queen of shades," and "the starry frame's delight," suggesting that she transcends the material world and inhabits a realm of eternal and divine beauty. The use of the word "queen" in this stanza is significant, as it echoes the courtly conventions of praising a lady as a queen, while also elevating Diana to a higher level of authority and majesty. The image of the "starry frame" also suggests a cosmic and metaphysical dimension to Diana's power and beauty, as if she were a celestial entity worthy of worship and adoration.

Analyzing the Structure: Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition

One of the most striking features of "Song To Diana" is its masterful use of form and structure. The poem is written in quatrains, or four-line stanzas, with a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB. This structure creates a sense of symmetry and balance, as each stanza contains two rhyming couplets that reinforce the theme or image of the preceding lines.

The poem also employs a variety of poetic devices to enhance its musicality and resonance. For example, Jonson uses alliteration, consonance, and assonance to create a sense of harmony and euphony, as in the lines "In thy shadows we recline," where the repeated "sh" and "ine" sounds create a soothing and dreamy effect.

Repetition is another key element of the poem's structure, as Jonson repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem to reinforce his praise of Diana's beauty and virtue. The repeated use of the word "fair" in the first stanza, for example, emphasizes the goddess's physical attractiveness, while the repetition of "pure" in the third stanza highlights her moral purity and chastity.

Overall, the poem's structure and form contribute to its overall effect of elegance, harmony, and reverence, as if the words themselves were a musical offering to the goddess.

Decoding the Imagery: The Moon, the Star, and the Virgin

As mentioned earlier, the imagery of the moon, the star, and the virgin are key motifs in "Song To Diana," and are used to convey different aspects of the goddess's identity and power. The moon, for example, is an enduring symbol of beauty, mystery, and femininity, and is often associated with goddesses in various mythologies. In Jonson's poem, the moon represents Diana's physical beauty and radiance, as well as her celestial and mystical qualities.

The star, on the other hand, represents Diana's moral and spiritual virtues, particularly her constancy and purity. Unlike the moon, which waxes and wanes, the star is a fixed point in the night sky, representing a guiding and unchanging force. This image reinforces Diana's status as a paragon of virtue and chastity, and underscores her superiority over mortal women.

The virgin, finally, is a complex and multivalent image in the poem, representing both Diana's physical virginity and her spiritual purity. The concept of virginity was highly valued in Renaissance culture, as it was seen as a sign of moral and physical integrity, and was often used as a metaphor for spiritual purity and devotion. In Jonson's poem, Diana's virginity is not only a symbol of her moral superiority, but also a sign of her divine nature, as if she were a goddess who transcended human frailty and sin.

Conclusion: A Timeless Masterpiece of Eulogy

In conclusion, Ben Jonson's "Song To Diana" is a sublime work of literature that exemplifies the best of Renaissance poetry. Through its elegant language, intricate imagery, and formal structure, the poem celebrates the beauty, power, and transcendence of the goddess Diana, while also reflecting the ideals and values of its own historical context.

The poem's enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring appeal, as it continues to resonate with readers and scholars alike, inspiring new interpretations and appreciations with each passing generation. Whether read as a devotional ode to a goddess or as a tribute to a beloved muse, "Song To Diana" remains a masterpiece of eulogy and a testament to the poetic genius of Ben Jonson.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Song To Diana: A Masterpiece of Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson, the famous English playwright, poet, and literary critic, is known for his exceptional works in the field of literature. Among his many masterpieces, the Poetry Song To Diana stands out as a unique and beautiful piece of poetry. Written in the 17th century, this poem is a tribute to the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, and is a perfect example of Jonson's poetic genius.

The poem is a lyrical ballad that is written in the form of a song. It is divided into four stanzas, each consisting of six lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABCC, which gives it a musical quality. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four iambs, or metrical feet, with each iamb consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. This gives the poem a rhythmic flow that is pleasing to the ear.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing Diana, the goddess of the hunt. He praises her beauty and grace, and compares her to the moon, which is also associated with her. He says that she is the queen of the night, and that her beauty shines brighter than the stars. He also praises her hunting skills, saying that she is the best hunter in the world, and that no one can match her prowess.

In the second stanza, the speaker talks about the various animals that Diana hunts. He says that she hunts the deer, the boar, and the hare, and that she is so skilled that she can catch them with ease. He also says that she is merciful to her prey, and that she only kills them when it is necessary. He praises her for her kindness and compassion, and says that she is a true goddess of the hunt.

In the third stanza, the speaker talks about the various places where Diana hunts. He says that she hunts in the forest, the mountains, and the fields, and that she is at home in all of these places. He also says that she is a protector of the wild, and that she keeps the balance of nature. He praises her for her wisdom and her love for the natural world.

In the final stanza, the speaker addresses Diana once again, and asks her to bless him with her presence. He says that he wants to be her servant, and that he will do anything to please her. He asks her to come to him in his dreams, and to show him the secrets of the hunt. He ends the poem by saying that he will always be faithful to her, and that he will never forget her beauty and grace.

The Poetry Song To Diana is a beautiful poem that celebrates the beauty and power of nature. It is a tribute to the goddess of the hunt, who represents the wild and untamed aspects of the natural world. The poem is full of vivid imagery and rich language, which creates a sense of wonder and awe in the reader. The poem is also a perfect example of Jonson's poetic genius, as it showcases his mastery of language and his ability to create beautiful and memorable poetry.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery. Jonson uses vivid and powerful images to create a sense of the natural world. For example, in the first stanza, he compares Diana to the moon, which is a powerful symbol of the natural world. He also uses images of the stars and the night sky to create a sense of wonder and awe. In the second stanza, he uses images of the deer, the boar, and the hare to create a sense of the wild and untamed aspects of nature. In the third stanza, he uses images of the forest, the mountains, and the fields to create a sense of the vastness and diversity of the natural world.

Another striking feature of the poem is its use of language. Jonson's language is rich and poetic, and he uses a variety of literary devices to create a sense of beauty and wonder. For example, he uses alliteration, assonance, and rhyme to create a musical quality in the poem. He also uses metaphors and similes to create vivid and powerful images. For example, he compares Diana to the moon, and he compares her hunting skills to the speed of the wind.

In conclusion, the Poetry Song To Diana is a beautiful and powerful poem that celebrates the beauty and power of nature. It is a tribute to the goddess of the hunt, who represents the wild and untamed aspects of the natural world. The poem is full of vivid imagery and rich language, which creates a sense of wonder and awe in the reader. It is a perfect example of Jonson's poetic genius, and it is a testament to his ability to create beautiful and memorable poetry.

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