On Sunday ,The Times printed an article entitled ‘Which poems make grown men cry ?’
John Carey said
” I have, thank God, never lost a child. But every parent has a lurking dread that it may happen, and an inbuilt sympathy with those to whom it has. Over and above these obvious triggers of grief in Johnson’s poem,though, it is the tone that makes it, for me, impossible- or anyway, unsafe- to try and read aloud.
I know ,from experiment, that I cannot be sure to get any further than the last two words of the second line- “loved boy”. They sound so natural, so like a loving afterthought, as if he has turned to the child and addressed him in an altered, gentler voice, as you might do after making some more public announcement- just to reassure him, in case he is afraid or bewildered.
On My First Son,1616, by Ben Jonson
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age!
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say, “Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry,
For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.”
This poem was written around 500 years ago , and the pain I feel today ,runs as deep as his did then