On My First Daughter and on My First Son - Ben Jonson's Poems on the Death of His Children

2379 Words Oct 31st, 2012 10 Pages
On My First Daughter and On My First Son
Ben Jonson's poems on the death of his children

Ben Jonson lived in the English Renaissance period when childhood mortality was very high due to health problems, diseases, lack of medicines and unhygienic life conditions. He got married to Anne Lewis in the early 1590s. Their first daughter, Mary was born in 1593 who died only six months later. Jonson wrote his poem On My First Daughter upon her death. His first son, Benjamin, born 1596, died of the plague in 1603 at age seven and Jonson wrote the poem On My First Son shortly after his death1.
On My First Daughter and On My First Son were both published with many other poems in Epigrams in the first folio collection of Ben Jonson's works in
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He does not understand his own reactions, that is why he asks: ”(...)For why Will man lament the state he should envy?”. The father does not understand why he is so sad about the death of his son, because he is at a much better place now and this should be rather envied. The father sees death as an escape from this life's problems such as anger, fury and fighting and sees dying at a young age as the possibility of staying forever young, because one does not have to face aging.
In the last part of the poem we see a kinder version of the usual inscript of the tombstones (”Rest in soft peace”), which expresses the great affection of the father towards the son again. This is even more revealed in the next two lines, where he says that if somebody asked who lies in the grave, it should be told that it is ”his best piece of poetry”. In this way the author tells us that his first son was the best he had ever created and he is better than his literary works. As a counclusion the poet makes a vow for the future, he swears that he is never going to love anything or anybody as much as he loved his first son, because he does not want to feel that pain ever again.
It is obvious that these two poems of Ben Jonson have much in common. The first thing that we have to look at, is the title and we can see that both poems are dedicated to his children. If we go on and look at the first words ”farewell” and ”here lies” we also find out

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