On My First Daughter (By Ben Jonson) Analysis

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Structure and Rhyming Scheme

-This is an epitaph, which is written in memory of Jonson’s daughter.

-Six rhyming couplets, simple rhymes (to denote the simple and pure nature of his daughter and life, along with the youth and innocence of his daughter).

-Light tune allows Jonson to grieve and the reader to relate.

-Couplets may alternatively tell us about how love is shared between 2 individuals, and without the latter line, the former line does not/cannot rhyme with itself. This may be directly referenced to the second line of the first couplet where Jonson says ‘daughter of their youth’, meaning Jonson is talking about his one between him and his wife along with his late daughter.

-Exclamation mark at the end gives urgency to his plea.

Tone

-Sombre tone, due to the subject, which is upsetting.

-Jonson is hoping for the best for his daughter, yet he still grieves which is shown by his plea at the end.

-Jonson treats the situation optimistically, this shows.

Title

-‘First’: His first child, and capitalised to show importance and reinforce how he sees his daughter as someone he had put ‘first’.

Language and Techniques

-‘daughter of their youth’: Basically, Mary was an offspring of the love shared between Jonson and his wife. Alternatively, the mortality of everyone’s youth and how time will catch up and we all eventually grow up (youth of Jonson and his wife). Mary dying could denote the ending of the youth of Jonson and his wife.

-‘…heaven’s gifts…heaven’s due’: A metaphor. Comparing his daughter to a heavenly gift, thus shows the divine and spiritual impact his daughter has had on Jonson. This allows the father to deal with the pain and burden of his daughter’s passing: all gifts from heaven must be repaid, ‘due’. So it’s as if he was borrowing the divine creature – ultimately having to give her back. This adds to Jonson’s spirituality and how he could be denoted as a religious person and his outlook of life as preplanned by a higher power.

-Uses the metaphor of a loaned gift as a coping mechanism; to ease the guilt of her death on the father (not that it was his fault), and he reminds himself that the spiritual creature had to return at some point.

-‘Innocence’: says that his daughter is safe with her innocence intact, as if it is a figurative armour designed to protect her and thus allows her to claim a spot in heaven. As she was alive for 6 months, we would assume the baby, Mary, was away from all evils and vices, thus allows her to seek shelter with her innocence.

-‘…six months’: Gives us the time period of her life and shows how the poet gradually revels information on his daughter.

-‘…heaven’s queen’: Referring to the virgin Mary – Jesus’s mother (Jesus being the Christian God, Jonson being a Christian and thus looked at Jesus in a divine and respectful manner; Virgin Mary receiving similar respect being his mother). The child was called Mary, and also a virgin – thus could be seen as Jonson’s individual Virgin Mary and relates her privilege to the actual Virgin Mary and gives her similar respect and importance, if not more.

-‘…virgin-train’: as if both Virgin Mary and baby Mary have boarded the same train and thus places the two congruent to each other.

-‘…mother tears’: Let Mary know that her parents are thinking about her and have their protection —> personalised Mary.

-Jonson switches focus of the poem from Mary’s soul to her body —> from intangible and abstract factors to tangible and concrete elements. Not only does he want Mary’s essence (her soul) safeguarded, but also her worldly and mortal body. This is the extent of Jonson’s love for Mary.

-Soul considered to be the true essence of a person, but Jonson wants her body to be treated kindly as well, and thus shows the true nature of his love and concern for Mary. He pleads softly ‘…gentle earth!’, being kind to the earth and to the superior powers and also making a demand to take care of her. there is urgency in his tone with the exclamation mark at the end as he desperately needs Mary to be taken care of so her may move on with other challenges of life; as if his role has ended and now pleading the earth to now look after Mary as she is now out of his mortal control.

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