English Christian poet John Milton who was a civil servant for the common wealth of England under it’s council of Stateland and then under Oliver Cromwell. he began to go blind in the early 1650’s. This sonnet was his response to his blindness.
LINE BY LINE ANALYSIS
“When I consider how my light is spent”,
- The speaker begins by reflecting on how his life is being used up, how he is growing older, and how he is facing a “dark world and wide.”
“Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide”,
- The speaker notes that he has not yet reached the midpoint of his life, yet he feels as if he is already in a dark and wide world.
“And that one Talent which is death to hide”
- The speaker is referring to a “talent” that he possesses, which he cannot hide. This talent could be a reference to Matthew 25.
“Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present”
- The speaker feels that his talent is useless, even though he wants to use it to serve his Maker and present himself in a positive light.
“My true account, lest he returning chide; “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
- The speaker is worried that God will be unhappy with him for not working hard enough, even though he is facing challenges and obstacles.
“I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need”
- The speaker’s worries are answered by a voice of patience, which reminds him that God does not need him to work hard or accomplish great things.
“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”
- The voice of patience goes on to say that those who bear God’s “mild yoke” and serve him best are those who are content to do what they can, rather than striving for greatness.
“And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.”
- The voice of patience concludes by stating that even those who are not actively working or striving can still serve God, as long as they are patient and faithful.
FORM AND STRUCTURE
The form of the poem is a miltonic sonnet which deals with politics or moral issues. And is also identical to Italian sonnet in structure.
The structure of this poem is that it has 14 lines which inludes one octave and 1 sestet.
THEME AND SUBJECT MATTER
The theme of “When I Consider How My Light is Spent” by John Milton is the idea of serving God despite one’s physical limitations. The poem reflects the speaker’s struggle with the loss of his sight and his fear that he can no longer serve God with his writing, which he sees as his God-given talent.
The subject matter of the poem is the speaker’s contemplation of his own mortality and his sense of duty to serve God. The poem explores the tension between the speaker’s desire to use his talents to serve God and his realization that his physical limitations may prevent him from doing so. Ultimately, the poem suggests that one can still serve God through acceptance of one’s limitations and the practice of patience.
Allusion: The line “And that one Talent which is death to hide” alludes to the parable of the talents in the Bible.
Metaphor: The phrase “my light” in the first line is a metaphor for the speaker’s life or his creative ability, and the phrase “my true account” is a metaphor for the speaker’s final judgment before God.
Personification: Patience is personified when it is described as “soon replying.”
Alliteration: The “L” sound in “Lodged with me useless” and “lest he returning chide” creates alliteration.
Imagery: The use of imagery in the line “in this dark world and wide” creates a visual image of a vast, empty world, emphasizing the speaker’s feelings of isolation and despair.
Apostrophe: The speaker addresses God directly, using the rhetorical device of apostrophe, when he asks “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”.
Antithesis: The contrast between “They also serve who only stand and wait” and the speaker’s earlier anxiety about his ability to serve God creates an antithesis.