A Parent’s Elegy

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During the early seventeenth century, poets were able to mourn the loss of a child publicly by writing elegies, or poems to lament the deceased. Katherine Philips and Ben Jonson were two poets who wrote the popular poems “On the Death of My Dearest Child, Hector Philips”, “On My First Son”, and “On My First Daughter” respectively. Although Philips and Jonson’s elegies contain obvious similarities, the differences between “On the Death of My Dearest Child” and “On My First Son” specifically are pronounced. The emotions displayed in the elegies are very distinct when considering the sex of the poet. The grief shown by a mother and father is a major theme when comparing the approach of mourning in the two elegies.
Katherine Philips gained a lot of attention as a poet after writing “On the Death of My Dearest Child, Hector Philips”. This poem was written in a way to give readers an emotional account of a mother mourning the experience of losing her child. Philips expressed deep emotions from a maternal standpoint in the elegy. Unlike Jonson, Philips had the unspoken right of claiming a deep maternal connection with her son through pregnancy and childbirth. Philips’ approach to writing “On the Death of My Dearest Child” illustrates that the pain of losing her son, Hector, was enough for her to never write another verse again.
Just as Katherine Philips, poet Ben Jonson also wrote two elegies, for his son Benjamin and daughter Mary, entitled “On My First Son” and “On My First Daughter”. Jonson’s son died the early age of seven, and he expressed the strong, personal bond between them through the years Benjamin was “lent” to him. Jonson really comes from a place of sorrow and self-condemnation while writing this elegy. His approach to “...

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...ent, young daughter, and to cover her lightly.
Without doubt, Katherine Philips and Ben Jonson both shared equal emotions in their elegies but they coped with the situations inversely. Philips was not very accepting of her son’s death because she vowed to him that the elegy would be her last verse. It is obvious that she lost the drive to do something that she loved because of unhappiness. Jonson, on the other hand, found light in the deaths of both of his children. In “On My First Son”, he considered it to be a good thing to not have to deal with the struggles of life. In “On My First Daughter”, Jonson felt that since she was a gift from God, she would have to return someday. He also felt assurance by knowing that her innocent age was sure to get her into heaven.

Works Cited

On the Death of My Dearest Childe, Hector Philips
On My First Son
On My First Daughter

In this essay, the author

  • Compares ben jonson's elegy "on my first son" to katherine philips' motherly elegies.
  • Analyzes how philips and jonson used metaphors in their elegies to elucidate the perfection of their innocent children.
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