An Analysis of ‘On My First Sonne’ By Ben Jonson

This blog post will analyse the poem ‘On My First Sonne’ by Ben Jonson which is written below:
On My First Sonne
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven yeeres tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say, “Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.”
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.
Ben Jonson (1616)

Structure

The poetic structure of this poem can be summarised as consisting of 12 lines. The structure has a flowing rhyme pattern. It can also be said that this poem is well structured with a concise form relevant to the subject matter. The use of twelve lines illustrates how short-lived his son life was. It also illustrates how articulate and concise the writer is in expressing his loss. Alternatively, we can interpret the structure as an Eulogy.  Interestingly, I believe we can split the poem into three sections if we separate the poem by the first four lines.

Analysis

Section One

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven yeeres tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.

The poem commences with a goodbye through the use of ‘farewell’. This beginning is quite compelling and helps us to understand that new beginnings sometimes need closure. He refers to his son as his right hand and joy. In the era in which the poem was written, the right hand would have been symbolic of strength, power and protection. Personally, I feel the right hand is a symbol of function as the usage of the hand is needed daily to complete activities. Therefore, he was needed and couldn’t be lived without.

The next line is a bitter line which states ‘my sinne was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy’. The use of sin suggests it was immoral of him to have high expectations, dreams and ambitions for his son which is a natural ‘hope’ that any parent would have toward their child. He acknowledges that it was too much to expect a future for his son.

The third line suggest his son was loaned to him and the moment in time they shared together is now a consequence he is paying for.  Perhaps, he is paying for the bond and connection they share.

The fourth line suggests that his death was accounted for by fate. This suggests that this is the father’s explanation for his son’s death. This helps add meaning and a form of reasoning in understanding and accepting that the son had to die because accepting fate as the explanation helps to lighten the load.

Section Two

O, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age?

The line which grabs my attention in this poem is ‘Will man lament the state he should envy?’ To me this suggests, that perhaps we shouldn’t fear death or in the writers words ‘lament’ over death. It suggest we should envy those who have died and ‘escaped’ the ‘world’s’  and ‘flesh’s’ rage. This suggest that those who have died have indeed escaped misery whilst the alive are to yet ‘age’.

Section Three

Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say, “Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.”
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.

In the final lines of the poem, he refers to his son as his best piece of poetry. He acknowledges his son as his best piece of work. This shows how much he esteemed his son. Therefore, he leaves us with a ‘vow’ which is whatever he loves may he not ‘like too much’. This suggest that the writer will never hold anything in value or in high regards because the only thing in which he did is now gone.

Thank you for reading!

 

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