Study Guide

On My First Son Speaker

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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 poem, he speaks to his son (and, by extension, us in the audience) about his own experience in dealing with the son's death. (Sure, dad, let's make this all about you, why don't we?) Through this one-sided conversation, delivered from a first-person point of view, the speaker is trying to work some things out: why does death happen? Are the perks of living overrated? What is the ultimate price of love?

These are big questions, ones we're guessing that you might relate to in some way yourself. At the poem's end, though, the speaker has arrived at a conclusion: he'll be reeling in all that liking from now on. Sure, he may love things again in his future, but he won't allow himself to get too attached. It's just too painful. Cheery thought, eh? How about you? Do you think this speaker reaches the right decision?

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