Farewell, thou child of my best hand, and joy;My sin to be too much hope of thee, loved boy:Seven years thou wert lent come me, and I thee pay,Exacted by your fate, ~ above the just day.O could I shed all dad now! for whyWill guy lament the state he need to envy,to have actually soon ‘scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,and, if no other misery, yet age?Rest in soft peace, and also asked, say, “Here doth lieBen Jonson, his ideal piece that poetry.”For those who sake henceforth all his vows shall it is in suchAs what he loves never like too much.

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Ben Jonson – soldier, courtier, author of satiric plays, bon vivant and also the design for the Cavalier poets of England – was likewise famous for his id in “sweet neglect” and his crowning Shakespeare the “Soul of one Age.” He live by his wits and his pen, and if necessary, his rapier, at the very least when young. However there is solid an elegy in the language much more tender and also heart-rending than Jonson’s “On My an initial Son,” written for his child Benjamin (etymologically “dexterous” and also “fortunate”), who died on his seventh birthday.

Half a dozen rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter, the city addresses a subject well-suited for a sonnet, however perhaps the architecture of a sonnet called for much more resolution than the poet could reach, and also perhaps that wished that is self-indicting language come stand outside that tradition, though some have interpreted the order in the original of “son” as “sonne” to be a nod to the popular form. The is a poem conveying both discipline and impulse.

I have the right to hardly think that a poem so cursed to its officially gestures however so emotional and spontaneous-seeming, all in the business of enacting the rings match between what “reason” would imply (that he refrain from lamenting the boy’s escape to a more peaceful state) and also his conviction that his love and hope for the young were sinful in their extremity. In ~ the poem’s close, he vow renounce loving v such fervor again, lest the force of his emotion carry still much more harm.

The city is addressed to the dead Ben by his namesake and also bids him “farewell,” though he’s mindful that “farewell” bites much more deeply below than in the casual use. He likewise sees the fatality as punishment because that his very own sin, therefore he has assigned guilt for the child’s loss come himself. Not one to miss a high irony, Jonson argues there might be a cruel logic to the boy’s dying on his birthday, the “just” day because that such a loss, though I have the right to fill the bitterness under the “just.”

This ns is deep enough to do him exclaim that he could wish to repudiate all parental identity – “lose every father!” His grief leads him to too much statements, i m sorry seem no so lot his famously sent rhetoric together the result of uncontrollable grief. He desires to uncover consolation in the notion of death as peace, yet he’s no consoled and also says to his son, if he’s asked that or what that is, to reply that he, the son, is the father’s ideal piece (and peace?) that poetry, far an ext valuable 보다 the penned works. But there’s lot more, as the slippery syntax says both here lies Ben Jonson’s son, his finest work, but likewise here lies Ben Jonson the father. The father could as well, because that the means he feels, be in the grave. Now all he have the right to do is to protect against committing again this sin of overabundance love which kills, to defend “those who sake” the must select his more actions on behalf of.

It’s a candid yet crafty poem, recall me how intellect and emotion are rarely mutually exclusive, and also I can’t withstand leaving the poem through a last question: exactly how are we to take the isolated “lie” in ~ the finish of line nine? i don’t suspect he method that either the expression that adheres to or the entire composition is a lie, and yet that potent word, therefore emphatically put wants a reckoning. Just as the “misery” and also “rage,” and also other facets of the poem, cry out for more exploration.

Yet none of the complexities weaken the grief or the knotty way the quick and also eloquent Jonson feeling this chance of profound sorrow. His many poems and plays space easily obtainable in anthologies and collections and reward repetitive readings.

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R. T. Smith has edited Shenandoah because 1995 and also serves as Writer-in-Residence at Washington & Lee. His forthcoming publications are Doves in Flight: 13 Fictions and Summoning Shades: new Poems, both due in 2017.