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Analysis


Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

"On My First Son" is written in the most popular meter for English poetry: iambic pentameter. In each line of the poem, there are five (which is where the "pent-" comes from) groups, each called a...

Speaker

The speaker of "On My First Son" is a grieving father. But he's not just any grieving father—he's Ben Jonson. That's right, this poem is pretty stinkin' autobiographical, as poems go. Through the...

Setting

We might imagine that the speaker is standing over his son's grave, but if you look closely, there's no evidence in the poem that tells us that. Really, the only thing we can say for sure about the...

Sound Check

We talk about the use (and reason) of rhyme in this poem over in "Form and Meter," so be sure to check that out for a full discussion. If we look a bit closer at the rhyme scheme, though, we notice...

What's Up With the Title?

The title "On My First Son" is kind of vague. A title like this could be about almost any aspect of one's "first son." It could refer to the birth of the speaker's first son, or it could just be ab...

Calling Card

Ben Jonson really loved his classics (the literature of ancient Greece and Rome), and many of his poems show it. "On My First Son" is no exception. First, Jonson considered the poem an epigram—or...

Tough-o-Meter

Jonson's poem isn't too difficult. The language is pretty normal stuff. There aren't any real crazy words like eleemosynary, and, for the most part, we get what he's saying. The structure of the la...

Trivia

Jonson served in the military for a time. On one memorable occasion, he challenged a Spaniard to single combat, slew him, and stripped the corpse of its armor. Gnarly. (Source) In 1598, Jonson got...

Steaminess Rating

"On My First Son" is a very serious poem. It's about the death of a child, so there really isn't any room or place for sexuality of any kind. The poem is rated G. That's even less than PG, folks, o...

Allusions

Martial, Epigrams, VI. xxix (11-12) Benjamin Jonson, first son of the poet (whole poem)
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