LOVE POETRY, Literature, authors, books, literature
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.'
This sonnet is conjecturally dated 1655, because in the vol. of 1673 it follows the Piedmontese sonnet.|
Milton's sight had been long threatened before it was finally extinguished. In a letter to the Greek Philaras, the agent in London of the Duke of Parma, dated September 1654, Milton says it was ten years, more or less, since he had first found his eyes failing. The blindness had become total probably about March 1652, in which month Weckherlin was appointed by the Council of State to assist Milton as secretary. The calamity was precipitated by his persistence in writing his Defension pro populo Anglicano contra Salmasium, though warned by his physician of the consequences.
The reader will observe that in the present lament, Milton does not bewail his own privation, but insists wholly on the wreck of the heaven-appointed task to which he considered himself called and set apart.
'My often thought is,' he writes to Philaras, 1654, 'that since to all of us are decreed many days of darkness, as saith the Wise Man, Eccles. 11, 8, my dark thus far, by the singular favour of Providence, hath been much tolerable than that dark of the grave, passed as it hath been amid leisure and study, cheered by the visits and conversation of friends.'
l. 2, ere half my days.—Taking March 1652 as the date at which the blindness was complete, Milton's age was forty-four.
—dark and wide.—In Milton's imagination the great size of the habitable globe was a constant element. Paradise Lost, 12. 370—'and bound his reign With earth's wide bounds.' The epithet here enforces the impression we receive of the helplessness of the blind.
l. 3, one talent which is death to hide.—The allusion is to the parable of the talents, Matt. 25.
l. 8, fondly = foolishly—'he who to be deemed a god, leaped fondly into Ætna flames.'—P.L., 3. 470.
l. 12, thousands.—'Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen both when we wake and when we sleep.'—P.L., 4. 677.
The Sonnets of John Milton.
Mark Pattison, ed.
New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1889. 203-6.
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