Comparison Of “Death Be Not Proud” and “On My First Son”

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Death has always been a controversial topic with two sides always battling with each other. The side that says that death is a terrible stage in life that take people that you love away. Or the side that believes that death is just a resting period between this world and the afterlife.

The poems “On My First Son” by Ben Jonson and “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne are perfect examples of those two arguing sides. “On My First Son” has a very distinct tone of being sad and morbid about death that is evident throughout the poem. On the other hand “Death Be Not Proud” has an angry and witty tone about death, saying that death should not be feared but embraced. The poem “On My First Son” is an elegy about Ben Jonson’s son who died at the age of 7.

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Ben Jonson looks at death as a terrible stage in life that has taken away his son at such a young age. He can not understand why God has taken his son away so soon and wishes that it was he himself that God had chosen as expressed in this quote “Will man lament the state he should envy?” (Line 6). Ben Jonson uses figurative language throughout the poem to strengthen his sad and morbid tone. The author used two types of figurative language in the first line of his poem, “Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;”(Line 1).

He first addresses a “farewell” to his son which is an apostrophe since his son can not answer. He also made a biblical reference to Jesus being at the right hand of God, called an allusion. Ben Jonson strengthens his tone by using an extended metaphor in lines 3 and 4, “Seven years thou were lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by thy fate, on a just day. That metaphor of God “lending” Ben his first son really keeps the reader interested and creates a nice flow carried throughout the poem.

Towards the end of the poem, we learn that the author can no longer love so strongly in fear that whatever he loves will be taken away from him. “Death Be Not Proud” is a sonnet by John Donne explaining that death should not be feared because death is just asleep before the afterlife. The author seems to mock death with an angry yet witty tone because he feels that death should not be dreaded, but embraced. The author also uses figurative language throughout the poem to support his tone.

The whole poem is an apostrophe because he addresses the whole poem to the idea of death as shown in-text “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee.” (Line 1) The author also does a great job of personifying death. He gives death human-like characteristics like being mighty and dreadful, “Mighty and dreadful, for though art not so” (Line 2). The author also uses metaphors to strengthen his tone throughout the poem as shown in this quote “One short sleep past, we wake eternally” (Line 13).

He refers to death as a short sleep and mocks the idea of death being the end of everything. The author uses incremental repetition in lines 10-14 by starting each line with “And”. This repetition keeps the reader thinking of different strong points but keeps them intact to one main stand on a position. “On My First Son” and “Death Be Not Proud” are both dealing with death but share some different views on it.

“On My First Son” looks at death as something that takes away the people you love. Death Be Not Proud” embraces death and looks at it as a short rest into eternal life. The author of “On My First Son” doesn’t think death to be anything more than the end to life but in “Death Be Not Proud” the author seems to unlock and analyze death to be something more complex than that. I feel that the two poems have a lot of truth in them.

I think that when death comes at such a young age it can be devastating as shown with “On My First Son”.I also feel that death is a transition to an everlasting afterlife and should not be feared as much as it is, as explained in “Death Be Not Proud.” Both poems also have different tones that add to what the authors are trying to convey. “On My First Son” has a sad and morbid kind of tone about death which is exactly what the author thinks of death.

“Death Be Not Proud” has an angry and witty kind of tone that strengthens the author’s view of death as just being a transition of this world to the next.

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Comparison Of “Death Be Not Proud” and “On My First Son”. (2018, Feb 24). Retrieved from

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