“On My First Son” by Ben Johnson
The author establishes his theme in “On My First Son” as an internal message promising to never love anything or become so close to anyone again to avoid the excruciating pain that comes with the death of a loved one.
The author begins with a goodbye. He says farewell to his son who was only seven years old. He began to seek some explanation for the tragedy by eulogizing his son. Questioning his own role in his death, employing religious diction. He did not know what to do or say for the immense love he had for his son. His feelings became overwhelming between love and hatred in this cruel world. He begins to question why the death of his son, “And if no other misery, yet age?”
The author states his son was “lent” to him, and the time has come for him (the son) to return to heaven. However, implying that it is just or fair for the child to die since he believes that the child was only on “loan” from God. He was so upset he wanted to forget everything about fatherhood. The idea of fatherhood will never be the same without his son. The author then gives his son some advice. He tells his son to rest in peace.
His son had died from the plague. He made a promise to his son. He promised to never love anything or become attached to anyone again to avoid the excruciating pain that comes with the death of a loved one. “This vow was to never like the things he loved too much” this statement can be confusing. How can you like something and not love it? Did he ever tell his son he loved him? It is a message that resonates in the reader’s mind. After finishing the poem, it allowed us to feel sadness that draws on the memories of loss, grief, and death. It also allowed me to visualize him reading this above a grave.
It also seemed as if the author contradicts himself by questioning his son’s death and then accept the fact his son was lent to him by God. The poem was a reflection for the author in his time of grief. Always tell someone you love, that you love them. Tomorrow may be too late.