Ben Jonson

Two epitaphs

Epitaph on Elizabeth, L.H.

Would thou hear what man can say
In a little? Reader, stay.
Underneath this stone doth lie
As much beauty as could die;
Which in life did harbor give
To more virtue than doth live.
If at all she had a fault,
Leave it buried in this vault.
One name was Elizabeth;
Th'other, let it sleep with death:
Fitter, where it died, to tell,
Than that it lived at all. Farewell.


On My First Daughter

Here lies, to each her parents' ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven's gifts being heaven's due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months' end she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven's queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother's tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!


In neither poem is Jonson just emoting; he is thinking  as well -- and demanding thought of us! His reactions combine thought and beliefs with feelings. Which poem do you prefer? Why?