Close Reading Exercise

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The poetic achievement of Ben Jonson’s “On My First Son” can be realised by a consideration of elegy as a poetic form and its emotional appeal, as well as Jonson’s conciseness and vividness of speech. Jonson successfully uses a range of tropological and figurative devices to evoke a sense of empathy and pity, in mourning the loss of his son. In addition, Jonson effectively conveys a Father’s sense of lament through the themes of sin and judgement. Thus it is Jonson’s use of the traditional structure of the elegy, which achieves an autobiographical tone with a range of euphonic sounds and economy of expression. By analysing Jonson’s use of the elegy, this poetic mode of presentation reveals how compression and conciseness fulfil the achievement of “On My First Son”. However, in first considering the definition of the elegy as “a formal and sustained lament in verse for the death of a particular person, usually ending in consolation” this will demonstrate how Jonson conforms to the traditional structure of the elegy. For example, Jonson’s elegy is traditional as he depicts a father mourning for his son. The apostrophe of “Farewell, thou child” immediately conveys the death of a son, whom Jonson later warmly refers to as his “loved boy”. The title in itself “On My First Son” similarly conveys the speaker’s personal relationship to the son he is mourning. Thus, it is this initial structure of the poem that establishes the conventions of the elegy. Furthermore, in considering meter and presentation, it can be realised that Jonson is conforming to the elegiac form, which is a significant achievement of this poem. For the majority of “On My First Son” Jonson is writing in the iambic pentameter, which is common to the elegy. As realised ... ... middle of paper ... ...curately portray a bittersweet account of his grief and inability to forget the death of his son. In conclusion, the poetic achievement of “On My First Son” has been realised by accounting for the tropological and figurative elements of the poem, along with the emotional sentiments and conciseness of speech. Jonson’s works accentuates the grief and guilt felt by a father, in losing his only son. By writing in a concise meter that exemplifies the elegiac form, Jonson ends his poem on a consoling note, stating that he will not love anything more than his son. However, Jonson’s final rhyming couplet can also be interpreted, with the meaning that he will never love anything again, as it will only hurt him in the end. Ultimately, it is this powerful and vivid portrayal of the unconceivable loss of a child, which accounts for the poetic achievement of “On My First Son”.

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