Essay, Research Paper: John Milton

Literature: John Milton

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On his blindness John Milton was born in 1608 to a Puritan family. During his
service to the Commonwealth, in 1652, Milton became blind and it became
necessary for others to share in his labors. His blindness occasioned one of the
most moving of his sonnets, "On his blindness," written in 1655. It
records his fear that he will never be able to use his God-given gift for poetry
again. Yet God may demand an accounting of his righteousness. And his entry into
Heaven will depend upon how well he has used the gifts that God gave him. The
sonnet ends with Milton's acceptance of the fact that what God wants of him is
obedience and resignation. He can then serve God even if he cannot write poetry,
for "they also serve who only stand and wait." The most effective of
the personal sonnets is #19, usually called "On his blindness. "This
allusion to his blindness is the first of many in his poetry. When I consider
how my light is spent When I judge how my ability to see has been taken away Ere
half my days in this dark world and wide, After I have only lived half of my
life And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though
my soul more bent This is based on the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
in which the unprofitable servant was punished for burying, not using, the
talent his master had given him. Milton is pondering whether he will be punished
for not using his ability that is useless and will weigh down his final
judgment. To serve therewith my maker, and present My true account, lest He
returning chide, Milton cannot serve God by using his ability to see and now he
must face God in his “true account” of being blind. And if God was to
reprimand Milton because he has not served God well he will say the following:
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?” I fondly ask. But patience, to
prevent That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need Either man’s work or
his on gifts. Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. Milton wonders,
now that blindness has fallen upon him before half his working life is spent,
whether God will still expect him to use his talent. Milton now says that with
patience his murmur of spite against God, “Doth God…” will be avoided. And
patience replies: God does not need men to serve Him nor to serenade Him,
whoever carry His burdens without complaint, serve him finest. The term “mild
yoke” is a double-entendre. The “Yoke” blindness as the burden, is not so
bad a punishment. Proof that the punishment of loss of sight was not as bad as
conceived was that Milton, while blind, continued to accomplish what most people
who are privileged to see cannot do, to write to well-known epic poems: Paradise
Lost and Paradise Regained. The second meaning is that one should bear God’s
burdens (yoke) in a mild manner and not complain of the suffering and serve God
as best as one is able. 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 kingly and omnipotent. Thousands serve Him at His beckoning.
Milton is answered with the idea that there are angels of contemplation as well
as of action; similarly, some men may serve God best who humbly accept His
decrees, waiting in faith on His will. Patience replies that while God does not
really need "Either man's work or his own gift," He wants obedience
and resignation. Thousands of angels serve Him, but men "also serve who
only stand and wait." There are many scriptural passages that Milton may
have had in mind, such as “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him"
(Psalm 37:7). This poem appeals to me because Milton says that at first he was
concerned that he would not be admitted into heaven because he did not serve
God, but later he concludes that one may go to heaven through faith in God. I
can apply this to my own life and serve God with the abilities that I have, but
even if that fails, I can always serve God with my faith. Milton saw himself as
the prophet who had failed, the man of the Lord to whom no one listened, that he
completed the epic poems Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes
to which so many listened.
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