“On His Blindness”- By John Milton

From http://www.lib.utexas.edu, in the public ...

From http://www.lib.utexas.edu, in the public domain ja:画像:John Milton.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Lodg’d 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.

 

 

A nice sonnet in the Petrarchan  abba, abba,cde,cde form.  The Biblical allusions add significantly to the content.
Interesting images/usages :

 

Light is spent

(spent :a blind man using inner light in place of external light that falls on things making them visible)

in this dark world and wide
(note dark world ,a blind man’s world whose bigness is only to be imagined)

talent

( a form of money in use in Biblical times in Rome: here it also means a poet’s talent for creating beauty in the service of God)

Which is death to hide

The poet is prevented by his blindness from serving God in a more active manner but the poetic talent cannot be hidden but put to use in His service

My true account 

He should give a proper account of himself when the Lord returns. The allusion is to the parable of the three servants who were given five, two and one talents respectively by their master with instructions to multiply them and give accounts of themselves on his return .In the parable the first servant invests the five talents given to him at usurious rates of interest and doubles them. Likewise the second servant too doubles his two talents .The third servant has buried the single talent for safe keeping and is pulled up and cast into the void by the master unhappy with his poor performance.

Does God exact day-labor ,light denied?

I love the precision of the words. Blindness is God given and is it fair on His part to expect him to serve Him like the others who are not similarly handicapped? Day labor is beautiful usage. Here Day signifies not labor done in the day but that done in the inner darkness of a blind poet.

Fondly:

Fondly implies foolishness born of love.

To prevent that murmur

To prevent has a Biblical connotation of prevenience a divine power that anticipates and blocks rejection of God. Murmur is the silent protest by the inner grace

...who best His mild yoke,they serve him best

Blindness is the mild yoke imposed upon the poet and he is expected to bear it with patience and thereby he truly serves God .

 

The last four lines are classical in their precision,saying so much in such shortness of breath

“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.”

God is the Lord and master and at his bidding thousands speed and post over land and ocean without rest and he does not need man’s work or his gifts. The so called gift of poetry given to him need not be used by God as He has thousands of angels to do His bidding over land and sea. The puny gifts that man possesses are nothing compared to what God’s servants have.

“They also serve who only stand and wait”

Beautiful last lines , quoted in so many contexts and non-contexts. First of all ,they also serve who stand. That is unlike those who ,at his bidding speed and post over land and sea without rest. Standing too is an act of obeisance.

“Wait” is here in the sense of waiting upon God, like the waiter who waits upon a client at a restaurant table. Wait is taking His orders, while standing .
.

 

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