On his Blindness

John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

  • John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness” is an autobiographical sonnet in which Milton meditates on his loss of sight.
  • Milton went blind at 42.
  • The poem is an exploration of a moral dilemma faced by John Milton.
  • Milton fears that his blindness will prevent him from doing God’s work.
  • He is struggling to understand what God expects of him now that he is losing his sight.
  • He’s upset about wasting ‘that one Talent which is death to hide.
  • The word ‘light’ is being a metaphor for life.
  • Before even half of the speaker’s life had passed, he is forced to live in a world that is “dark… and wide.”
  • His talent, his skills with words and love for writing, was his entire life.
  • As a biblical scholar Milton he refers The Parable of Talents from Matthew 25, here.
  • A lord gives three of his servants some money (“talents”) and went for a trip. Two of the servants use the money to gain more money. But the third servant just buries the money. When the lord returns, he’s happy with the first two servants and gives them more responsibilities. He exiles the third servant.
  • The speaker has just told us that his talent is as useless as money buried in the desert.
  • His soul desires to use his skills in the service of his God.
  • He worries that God will scold or “chide” him.
  • The word “exact” means something like “charge,”.
  • The word “fondly” means “foolishly,” not “lovingly.” The speaker accuses himself of being a idiot for even thinking this question.
  • “post” here just means “to travel quickly.“
  • With His kingly status, God has plenty of minions to do His “bidding” by rushing from place to place.
  • The poem ends with a vindication of the speaker’s passivity, which has been forced on him by his blindness.
  • This sonnet—written in the “Petrarchan” rhyme scheme.
  • Petrarchan sonnets traditionally focus on love and romance, but Milton subverts this in order to explore his relationship with God.
  • By opening with a dependent clause, (when) he creates a certain suspense.
  • Petrarchan sonnet, a lyric poem with fourteen lines.
  • It has a rhyme scheme of ABBA, ABBA, CDE.
  • It is written in iambic pentameter, and it is separated into one octave and one sestet.
  • Poems themes are Inner conflict, the spiritual light, talents and their uses, God’s master plan.
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