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The tone of the two poems is celebratory, honoring poet Ben Johnson, but the ode is more familiar.
Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject, and can be expressed partly in poetic form. An ode, for example, is usually celebratory in tone. A hymn is as well, but usually with a religious overtone. Robert Herrick considered himself a sort of literary “son” to Ben Johnson, and therefore wanted to honor him in these poems.
In “An Ode for Him,” Herrick describes Ben Johnson affectionately and familiarly, acknowledging his literary heritage.
Or come again,
Or send to us
Thy wit's great overplus
The old-fashioned language and the use of the strong emotion in punctuation like the exclamation point demonstrate how happy and grateful he is for this literary heritage.
In “His Prayer to Ben Johnson,” Herrick also celebrates Ben but in less of a familiar way, praising him religiously.
Candles I'll give to thee,
And a new altar,
And thou, Saint Ben, shalt be
Writ in my psalter.
By describing him as “Saint Ben” and describing candles at an altar, Herrick elevates his subject beyond a friend and mere mortal to a figure of religious significance. This moves the tone from celebratory to praising. They are no longer equals.
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