“On My First Son”: Short Writing Assignment
Have you ever been to a funeral, or lost somebody close to you, or known somebody who lost someone close to them? When someone has died, it is common for people to say things like "he or she is in a better place now" or "it was just his or her time." These and similar comments are attempts to explain death or to find some meaning in it. We like to believe that after we die, we go to a better place. In the same way, we like to believe that everybody is given a certain amount of time on earth and that, when that time is up, that's it. It makes life easier to believe that when we die it is somehow out of our hands; that there is some "fate" or destiny or logic controlling the things that happen in the world, including death. In response to his son's untimely death, Jonson composed this short poem "On My First Son." Nobody is entirely sure when he wrote the poem, but it must have been shortly after his son's death and burial. The poem laments the death of Jonson's son and expresses what appears to be Jonson’s feeling of deep sadness. Even though Jonson wrote the poem shortly after his son's death, he didn't publish it until 1616, when he issued a collection of his works. In that collection, he sorted his poems into smaller groups. "On My First Son" appears in a group of poems called Epigrams. Epigrams are generally short and memorable little poems, usually only a few lines long. Jonson contrasts his feelings of sorrow with what he thinks he ought to feel; happiness that his son is in a better place. Although it's not a very long poem, it deals in great depth with the poet's tremendous grief and loss. In just a few lines, Jonson packs a powerful punch. Jonson writes as if talking to his son, and as if he assumes that the boy can hear or read his words. He calls him the child of his “right hand” both to suggest the boy's great worth and also the fact that he would have been the writer's heir. The...
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