Episode 45

Ben Jonson, On My First Son


March 23rd, 2022

21 mins 18 secs

Season 4

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About this Episode

In this episode, we look at Ben Jonson's elegy for his son who died of the plague at the age of 7. This poem is so brief, and yet, it manages to cross a lot of emotional terrain as Jonson struggles to understand the profundity of his loss.

Here is the poem:

On my First Son

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years 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.

To learn more about the magnificent Ben Jonson, check this page on the British Library website.

To learn more about couplets, epigrams, elegies, and apostrophes, click this page on the Academy of American Poets website.