Compare and Contrast the Themes of Death and Loss in ‘On My First Sonne’ and ‘Mid-Term Break’
‘On My First Sonne’ by Ben Jonson and ‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney are both poems which explore the themes of death and loss and are both written about the death of a child. In the case of Ben Jonson it was the death of a son and for Seamus Heaney it was an infant brother. The similarities of the poets are not just the fact that they have both suffered the death of an infant, but also the fact they are poets and play writes which result in similar tones and styles throughout the poems. Both poems are considered as elegies as they lament the death of the child.
Firstly, Ben Jonson titles his poem ‘On my first sonne’, which is quite vague and only implies that the poem is about Ben Jonson’s first son. Whereas ‘Mid-Term Break’ suggests a holiday but this “break” does not happen for pleasant reasons. Jonson start his poem with ‘Farewell, thou child’ which seems as if he is talking to his son and he assumes that the boy can hear his words. In comparison, Seamus Heaney’s poem starts with ‘I sat all morning in a college sick bay Counting bells knelling classes to close.’ This implies that Heaney was in school or college at the time of his brother’s death and also seems that Heaney was bored as he was ‘counting bells’, but the word ‘knelling’ suggests a funeral bell rather than a school bell.
Both poems are about the death of a child. However, the poets have chosen to actually state the death at different places of the poem. Jonson reveals and hints the death in the first three words of the first line, ‘Farewell, thou child…’ However Heaney doesn’t actually clearly state that his brother has died, but instead spreads it out across the whole poem especially in the second half, ‘the corpse…’, ‘I saw him… Paler now’ and ‘the bumper knocked him clear.’ The effect of this is so that it takes the audience a while before they can establish what has happened. Heaney may...
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