We are going to spend two days looking at Jonson’s poems as
Today we will discuss two of Jonson’s most famous poems in
terms of the following questions. You are responsible for reading only
these two poems for today.
“On My First Son”
- Here are elements of this poem’s outline; put them in
the right order: lamentation, moral exhortation, praise, consolation, loss.
- What is Jonson’s sin, and what is its punishment? Is
there also comfort here?
- How is life portrayed in line 3? How is God portrayed?
- What does “O could I lose all father now!” mean (line
- According to the poem, why is an early death desirable?
- Why does Jonson say, “Rest in soft peace” instead
of just the standard “Rest in peace”?
- Why does Jonson call his son “his best piece of
poetry”? If you have read Sidney’s “An Apologie for Poetry,” can you make a
- In the last two lines, with what attitude will Jonson
now confront life?
Here are some questions to help you read the poem:
- How does the poet characaterize the house and the
- What does the poem suggest about how a family should
- How does Penshurst contrast with newer estates? Is
there an element of social commentary here?
- What point is Jonson making at the beginning and end of
this poem? What does “dwell” signify?
- How is the poem organized?
- How does the poem reflect the Great Chain of Being?
In class we will do the following group activity: “To
Penshurst” can be viewed from numerous critical perspectives. This exercise
gives you an opportunity to put your knowledge of literary theory from ENGL 300
to use. Work with a partner or in a group of three to make points about the
poem from one of the following critical perspectives. How would each of these
“schools” of criticism view the poem?
- Archetypal criticism
- Psychological criticism
- Marxist criticism
- Feminist criticism
- New Historicism
Today is a fact-finding mission. We will not try to
discuss all of the poems in on pages 147-63; we will instead focus on the
- “On Something that Walks Somewhere”
- “To William Camden”
- “On Lucy, Countess of Bedford”
- “Inviting a Friend to Supper”
- “An Epistle to Master John Selden”
- “An Epistle Answering to One that Asked to be Sealed of
the Tribe of Ben”
- “To the Immortal Memory and Friendship of that Noble
Pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison”
- “To the Memory of My Beloved, The Author, Mr William
Shakespeare, And What He Hath Left Us”
I will assign each of you at least one poem to study
carefully ahead of time. As you (or you and your partner[s]) work, try to
answer the following two questions:
- What is the basic gist of the poem? (You may want to
summarize it for the class.)
- What does the poem say about Jonson’s values?
(Our goal for today is to construct a two-columned list of things that Jonson
finds important and things that he detests.)
Note: It is very appropriate for you to do some research
on your poem and/or to write a response paper about it.