Ben Jonson

"To My Book"

This is a poem that he wrote to his book of poetry in 1616.


People thought of epigrams as short poems attacking someone.  Jonson's book of epigrams will be broader than that, surprising the readers.
He won't try to get fame by attacking and shaming others.

"On My First Daughter" (620) & "On My First Son" (622)

His daughter died at 6 months, his son at 7 years.  The average baby had a 50% chance of living to adulthood.  Parents often lost all their children.

The daughter's spirit is in heaven, her body in the ground.

The son was Ben Jonson, Jr.

Jonson liked his son too much.  Parents who became too attached to their children suffered too much when the inevitable losses came.

Epigram 42.  "On Giles and Joan"

Who says that Giles and Joan at discord be?
     Th' observing neighbors no such mood can see.
Indeed, poor Giles repents he married ever;
     But that his Joan doth too.  And Giles would never,
By his free-will, be in Joan's company:
     No more would Joan he should. Giles riseth early,
And having got him out of doors is glad;
     The like is Joan: but turning home is sad;
And so is Joan.  Oftimes when Giles doth find
     Harsh sights at home, Giles wisheth he were blind;
All this doth Joan: or that his long-yearn'd life
     Were quite out-spun; the like wish hath his wife.
The children that he keeps, Giles swears are none
     Of his getting;  and so swears his Joan.
In all affections she concurreth still.
     If now, with man and wife, to will and nill
The self-same things, a note of concord be:
     I know no couple better can agree.
This is a humorous poem about a married couple who hate each other.  Jonson argues that they do not have discord (disagreement), but that they agree on almost everything.
3-4   He wishes they'd never married, & so does she.


They try not to spend time together.  They're happy when he leaves in the morning, sad when he returns home @ night.
13-14  They agree that their children are not his.  She's been sleeping around.