Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy ;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now ! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age !
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, 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’s son died at the mere age of seven. In the first two lines, “Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy; my sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy,” we see that Jonson held Benjamin close to his heart. He loved his son dearly, and he had very high hopes of him in the future. In fact, he states that it was a sin for him to have so much hope of his son. He realizes that putting anything so high that it might be higher than God on his List of Importance is in fact a sin, and a very dangerous one at that. Then he says that, “Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay, exacted by thy fate, on the just day.” This is how we knew his son was seven when he died. Here Jonson is admitting that life is a gift from God, something to be cherished and appreciated while we have it. Next, he says, “Oh, could I lose all father now! For why will man lament the state he should envy?” No parent should ever have to burry their child. Line five truly embodies Jonson’s grief over the loss of his young boy. In the next few lines Jonson talks about how death is something to be envied, and escape from the pains of life. “Rest in soft peace, and, asked, 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.” Jonson ends this poem by saying that if anyone asks who is in the grave, he would answer that in it lays the best thing he has ever had a part in making, better than any of his poetry and that he will not like anything too much anymore. This could be due to the grieving process that he was going through after the loss of his son, the realization that putting anything so high in his life is wrong, or a combination of the two.
This epigram holds great literary worth. It is unlike the many other poems that Jonson and many other poets wrote due to the fact that it had a more somber tone, rather than lighthearted or merry. I think that it is an amazing poem that shows grief in a beautiful way. I also think that this particular work of Jonson can be used to show how short life can be, and we should make the most of what we have been given while we still have it. That is definitely something that I know I struggle with, remembering that what I have has been given to me as a gift from God, every day, every moment, and every breath.
Jonson, Ben. "On My First Son." British Literature. Ed. Ronald H. Horton.
: BJU Press, 2003. 303. Print Greenville, SC