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Compare the way death is represented in 'Dream of a Lost Friend' with 'On My First Son'.

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Introduction

Compare the way death is represented in 'Dream of a Lost Friend' with 'On My First Son'. Ben Jonson's poem 'On My First Son', written in 1603 is the compelling tale of one father's unconditional love for his son who has perished after falling victim to the notorious plague, the Black Death. 'Dream of a Lost Friend' meanwhile is much a more modern-day poem; almost story-like in nature it tells the story of the immense strain placed upon a close friendship as the realisation that one friend will die hits home. It is how these poems deal with death, and their differing representations of it that make these poems so engaging to read. 'On My First Son' is basically a Dad's reflection on the loss of his son. The poem deals with how Jonson's son died and his own feelings and reactions toward every father's personal nightmare. The themes are the poem's recurring religious overtones and the father's state of mind following his dreadful loss. 'Dream of a Lost Friend' is the story of a friendship capitulating under the pressure of two friends struggling to come to terms with the fact that one of them has AIDS and is destined to die. Themes seen throughout the poem are the strength and durability of feelings within a friendship, the denial of fate and the boundaries between dream and reality. ...read more.

Middle

The sufferer reacts hysterically: "You laughed, a child-man's laugh, innocent, hysterical, out of your skull." I feel that the laughter portrays a refusal to accept reality. The third stanza is one friend's dream that her friend is still alive while the fourth stanza is a quick return to reality. The fourth stanza also reveals the guilt of the friend for not attending the victim's funeral: "I missed your funeral, I said, knowing you couldn't hear at the end of the corridor, thumbs up, acting." I personally think that the victim's friend is seeking forgiveness and redemption from her friend for not attending her funeral and telling her, when she was alive that everything was going to be alright. 'On My First Son' is written in a typical sixteenth century style of writing and the tone of is one of great emptiness, loneliness, sadness and reflection. Jonson writes: "My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy." Jonson cannot bring himself to look upon the good times he spent with his son; he can only see his faults as a father. 'Sin' was also considered a very damning word in the 16th Century so Jonson is being very harsh on himself as a father. There is no bitterness from Jonson in the tone of the poem though. ...read more.

Conclusion

His son has also escaped the perils of old age, the terror of the rampaging plague and in Jonson's eye the World's universal misery. On the other hand 'Dream of a Lost Friend' illustrates death as something to be feared. Obviously the impact of dieing from AIDS makes this portrayal of death understandably more chilling. The fear of death for both friends in the poem is all too over-powering: "The words you spoke were frenzied prayers to Chemistry; or you laughed, a child-man's laugh, innocent, hysterical, out of your skull." The dread she feels for death causes her to give up on religion and God. She makes 'frenzied prayers' to science in the hope a cure will be found rather than plead with God for a miracle. What I find most intriguing about the two poems are their religious connotations. 'On My First Son', the sixteenth century poem is a poem that sticks to a strong set of religious rules and treats death more lightly while 'Dream of a Lost Friend' shows a lack of faith in religion and treats death more bluntly, in my opinion. 'On My First Son' is also such a reflective poem from the father's point of view that it does not need to use the raw emotions displayed in 'Dream of a Lost Friend'. 03/10/2004 By Dean Chard ...read more.

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