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On My First Son
On My First Son
by Ben Jonson

Lines 5-8 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 5-6

Oh, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?

  • Here, the speaker sounds as if he wishes he could lose "all" of his father (that's kind of bizarre isn't it?).
  • It seems less freaky, though, if you think of it as the speaker actually wishing to abandon all thoughts of fatherhood ("lose all father now"), because he's so upset. The idea of fatherhood will never be the same for him since his son has just died.
  • He then asks why people get upset ("lament") about death. In reality they should "envy" it (i.e., desire the state that the dead have achieved). "State" here means state (of death), not, you know, state of California.
  • More weirdness. Why would anybody "envy" those who are dead? Perhaps the speaker is trying to find some consolation in death, or perhaps he thinks life in Heaven is better.
  • Notice that the speaker says "man" and not "I." Do you think he's speaking for everybody, for himself, or for people that think differently than he does?

Lines 7-8

To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age!

  • The speaker elaborates on why he thinks he should envy the state of death.
  • He says he should because those who are dead have escaped the pains of the world and the pains of the body ("flesh's rage"), like stomachaches, arthritis, that sort of thing.
  • It's pretty wild to think of physical pains as flesh's rage. Although, when we stub our toes (which we do a lot), it does kind of feel like our toe is screaming at us. To give inanimate body parts a human emotion is a technique called personification.
  • He also says that even if the dead haven't really escaped from anything, at least they have escaped or avoided the pains of old age (this is what he means by "age"). 
  • "'Scaped" is just the word escaped without the "e." Poets like to do this sometimes, and it's not because they're lazy typists. Notice how dropping the "e" keeps the iambic pentameter rhythm intact. "Escaped" would throw the meter off, but "'scaped" keeps it regular.
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