How do the poets write about childhood death in 'On my First Sonne' and 'Mid-term break'?

Essay by deepesh April 2004

download word file, 4 pages 4.1

Downloaded 56 times

The death of a child has a great power to move us. In this essay I will be discussing how the poets write about childhood death in 'On my first Sonne' and 'Mid-term break. It would be a far more common event in the 17th Century, when these poems were written, as childhood illness was often fatal.

On my First Sonne is written by Ben Jonson. It is an elegy in which the poet expresses his sorrow for the death of his first son. Jonson contrasts his feelings of sorrow with what he thinks he should feel; happiness that his son is in a better place. Shamus Heaney records a similar experience in 'Mid-term break'. The poem is about the death of Heaney's infant brother and how people, including him, reacted to this. The poem's title suggests a holiday but this "break" does not happen for pleasant reasons.

For most of the poem Heaney writes of people's unnatural reactions, but at the end he is able to grieve honestly.

The reader of 'On my first Sonne' is aware of Jonson's Christian faith .He is certain that his son is in a "state" we should envy, in God's keeping. Heaney's poem does not discuss religion so prominently; however there are discripions which indicate a Catholic funeral. Both Jonson and Heaney write in the first person and therefore we can be sure that they are speaking for and as themselves.

Throughout 'Mid-term break' there are references to the different the types of mourning which people went through after the death of a child. The father, apparently always strong at other funerals, is distraught by his child's death, while the mother is too angry to cry and instead she "coughed out angry tearless...