Both “On my first Sonne” and “refugee mother and child” deal with the death of a child. Compare and contrast the 2 poems, exploring their themes and ideas, the poet’s use of language and your own reaction to them.
On My First Sonne
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy,
Seven yeeres tho’wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I loose all father, now. For why
Will man lament the state he should envie?
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To have so soone scap’d worlds, and fleshes rage,
And, if no other miserie, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say here both lye
BEN JONSON his best piece of poetrie.
For whose sake, hence – forth, all his vowes be such.
As what he loves may never like too much.
Refugee Mother and Child
No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother's tenderness
for a son she soon would have to forget.
The air was heavy with odours
of diarrhoea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in laboured
steps behind blown empty bellies. Most
mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother's
pride as she combed the rust-coloured
hair left on his skull and then -
singing in her eyes - began carefully
to part it...In another life this
must have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.
Background on Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson was born on the 11th of June, 1572. He was educated at Westminster School by William Camden and worked his stepfather’s trade, bricklaying. Jonson joined the army, displeased with his job, serving in Flanders. He returned to England in 1592 and married Anne Lewis on November 14th, 1595.
Ben Jonson joined the theatrical company of Philip Henslow as an actor and a playwright at around 1595. In 1597 Jonson was arrested for his involvement in a satire entitled ‘The Isle of Dogs’. This was declared seditious by the authorities. A year later Jonson killed a fellow actor. His name was Gabriel Spencer. Jonson killed him in a duel in the Fields at Shoreditch.
Background on Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe was born in eastern Nigeria. He started his education at a church missionary society school. His 'secondary' and university educations were also in Nigeria. He graduated from University College, Ibadan, in 1953. Then, he worked for over ten years for the Nigerian Broadcasting Company. He left the N.B.C. in 1966 and headed for a career in writing and teaching. Achebe played a significant role in the development of the Heinemann African Writers Series, a series which has given many Africans a voice in the western world and which, outside of Africa, publishes more African (and Caribbean) writers than any other publishing house.