This poem by Ben Jonson is a poignant expression of what is really important in life and what we should value. It was written in 1603 after the death of his first son, Benjamin, at the age of seven.
On My First Sonne
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age!
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say, Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.
I studied his play ‘Bartholomew Fair’ for A Level and did not enjoy the experience. This poem, though, makes up for the hours of drudgery he put me through! I particularly love the line, ‘Here doth lie/Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry’. Of course, the poem resonates because it came at too high a price.