On His Blindness

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.”

On His Blindness Summary

On His Blindness was composed in 1655. It was published without a title. It is one of the first references by Milton to his blindness. It refers to his in 1652. He had strained his eyes by reading late into

the night though blindness the doctors had asked him to avoid hard study. This made his life difficult and hard. It pained him as he felt that he had done nothing great in the field of poetry till then. The present sonnet refers to this spiritual crisis of the poet. Its theme. appears to be his blindness. But as we dive deep, we find that his blindness is only the starting point. The sonnet ends in deep religious note. It affirms

Milton’s firm belief in the justice of God. It also seeks to justify God’s

ways to man though the poet later devoted an epic to this purpose. The sonnet begins with a reference to his blindness and his poetic gift. It leads the poet to think of the Parable of Talents in the Bible. Matthew, X X V, 14-30). He is afraid of being scolded if he does not use the poetic gift given by God. He is willing to serve Him though he has no eyesight. He asks himself whether God would ask what he had done. with his poetic gift. He also wants to know whether He would not take his blindness into consideration. Truth dawns upon him that it is not so. God neither needs our services nor the proper utilization of His gifts. His patience reveals to him:

Who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best. God is so and privileged those numerous angels serve Him speedily and all the twenty-four hours. These servants have limitless power. He has nothing to worry about:

They also serve those who only stand and wait. The poem is dictated by Milton to his daughter who wrote it.

Summary

The sonnet begins with deep pessimism. The poet became blind when he had hardly completed half span of his life. The whole world appeared dark and gloomy to the poet. His poetic talent which was the gift of the god seemed useless to him because he could not compose poetry in the absence of his eye-sight. The poet is desirous of giving full account of his genius but he is helpless. The poet suffers dejection in his soul as the Almighty God has rendered him blind. The poet asks whether God requires full work from a man who has been deprived of his eye-sight but immediately he hears the inner voice of patience. Patience consoles the poet saying God does not require the return of his gifts. His heart is kind and merciful. God does not depend upon the man’s services.

Thousands of angels are at his command and they always carry out his order over land and ocean. The people who bear their sufferings and responsibilities are also God’s good servants. Prayer in silence complete resignation and dedication and submission to the will of God without any complaint indicate the true and real service of God.

                            Stanza 1

  When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days, in this dark world  wide,

 And that one Talent which is death to hide

Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

                           Stanza  2

 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

                           Stanza 3

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

                          Stanza 4

And post o’r Land Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only-stand and wait.

                           Important Explanations

Stanza 1

 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,

Reference to the Context:

 These lines have been extracted from Milton’s famous sonnet ‘On His Blindness’.

The poet had become blind at the age of 44. He had studied so hard with his weak eyes that his eyesight had gone. It made him sad. These lines express his concern over his own blindness. For now, he is rendered unable to achieve what he wanted to. He has beautifully presented the idea with the help of an allusion to the Parable of Talents that occurs in the Bible.

Explanation:         

The poet thinks sadly of his blindness with great dejection. He is just forty-four years old and as such, has not reached half of the man’s age, i.e. fifty years, but his eyesight is gone. The world has grown big as those who were near to him have gone distant. This big world has no meaning for him. It looks dark to his blind eyes. He is worried that the poetic gift, given to him by God, is lying unused with him. He feels that his inactive life is very much like his spiritual death. For life without intellectual or spiritual activity is animal-like. He sincerely intends to serve God with that poetic genius. But his blindness stands in the way. So, he is reminded of the third servant in the Parable of Talents. The servant had not used the coin given by his master. Therefore, when the rich master came back, he scolded his servant and took his coin back. In the same way, it is possible that God might take him to task for not using his poetic faculties properly. Thus, Milton is quite meek and thinks himself a servant of God who has to account for his expenses, money given to him by God. In a way, he means to say that God wants us to make our life meaningful and not idle.

Comments

  • “And that one…………  account”. -there is Metaphor here.
  •  “That one Talent” refers to the Parable of Talents in the Bible (Matthew, XXV, 14-30); in it, a master is represented as having given to his three servants five, two and one coins respectively. The first two used their money for profit while the third kept his single talent unused. The master scolded him on his return and took back his gift.
  • The lines reflect religious nature of the poet.
  •  The sonnet is steeped in profound pessimism and dejection
  •  The blind poet is tottering about and those who were his nears and dears have gone distant.

STANZA 2:

“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

Reference: 

 These lines have been extracted from Milton’s famous sonnet ‘On His Blindness’.

Context:

The poet thinks of his blindness before he is even fifty. It worries him that his poetic gift, given by God, is lying useless with him. It is possible that God may take him to task after his death for not using his gift.

Explanation: The poet asks himself whether God would like him to make use of His gift in spite of his being blind. But soon he realizes that it was a silly question. The use of the word ‘fondly’ shows it. It is a silly question because it doubts the goodness of God. Then the poet personifies patience. Patience tries to prevent him from making such grievances. It adds that too much concern over his failure in the performance of his duties due to his inability absolves him of any sin. It removes his doubt regarding the justice of God. This patience is nothing but his firm faith in the justice of God. It convinces the poet that God wants neither work nor an account of his gifts. He loves all those who face trials and difficulties courageously.

Thus, the poet has not to bother that he is not able to make proper use of the poetic talent given by God. He is now meek and surrenders himself before his Maker. It brings him peace and fearlessness.

Comments:

  • The poet has used personification in “Patience …….. soon replies”.
  •  God is the great giver. He does not expect any services in return.
  •  A life full of responsibilities, difficulties and problems is like yoke.
  •   There is metaphor in “who best bear his mild yoke”.

STANZA 3:

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.”

Reference to the Context: These lines have been quoted from Milton’s famous sonnet. ‘On His Blindness’.

The poet had become blind at the age of forty-four. Therefore, he could not make use of his poetic gift properly. It pained him. He was afraid lest God should punish him after his death. But his belief in the justice of God convinced him that God wanted neither man’s work nor an account of His gifts. He loved those who faced misfortunes bravely.

Explanation: God’s position is Royal. Like a king he has a number of his servants to obey him. They are always ready to serve him. They can cross seas and run on the land even with the speed of his command on Therefore, He needs no service from human beings. Even those servants

of God who stand meekly in His service serve Him. They also please God with their devotion and service while standing and waiting pleasure. Thus, Milton gives here a very human view of God; he presents Him as liberal monarch. Comments:

(i) In Genesis (The Bible) God said, “Let there be light and there was light.” Thus, his servants obey him with the “bidding speed”. (ii) The last line refers to Psalms (7-14): “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait I say on the Lord.”

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