Ben Jonson was off in the country
Visiting a friend's estate
When he had a vision

Of his eldest son Benjamin
Who appeared to him with the mark
Of a bloody cross on his forehead

As if it had been cut with a sword
Jonson was so amazed
By the apparition that he prayed

Unto God it was but a fantasy
His friends assured him
It was a fevered dream

It was no dream
The letter came from his wife
Announcing their seven-year-old son

Had died of the Pest
Ravaging London in 1603
Why had the father escaped

That night Jonson's son appeared
To him again in a dream
This time the child of his right hand

Had grown into the shape of a man
The one he would become
On the Day of Resurrection

Jonson wrote a poem and called his son
His best piece of poetrie
A lovely line a little loathsome

I loved that poem once
He said we are lent our sons never take
Too much pleasure in what you love



Edward Hirsch

Excerpted from Gabriel by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2014 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.