Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Ben Jonson's On Gut - Adam McDonald

Adam McDonald

Ben Jonson’s On Gut first struck me as I read as being quite similar to the epigrams that Martial wrote in ancient Rome. Short, witty, and somewhat of a saying, as most epigrams tend to be. The six-line poem follows an ABABCC rhyme scheme. This ABABCC structure also allows Jonson to first tell some humor in the first four lines, with Gut feasting during the day and philandering about in the evenings (then summarized by line two “So all his Meat he tasteth over twice;”) and his striving to “double his delight” (line three) from the first two lines which in effect then makes him a “thorough-fare of Vice” (line four). This follows the ABAB structure in that both the A lines are actions and goals of Gut, and then both the B lines are the consequences of those actions. Lines C (five and six) finally summarizes the previous four by giving a conclusion to all his above actions (quite strikingly denoted by Jonson’s use of the word “Thus,” in line five), in that Gut is able to change Sin itself from the Gluttony that went in (the feasting all day) into the Lust that comes back out (the lechering all Night).

A. McDonald

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