Analysis Pages

Themes in On His Blindness

Themes Examples in On His Blindness:

Text of the Poem

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"They also serve who only stand and wait...."   (Text of the Poem)

Patience reminds the speaker that God is like a king and has many servants across the world to do his bidding. Some ride over land and ocean carrying out His will, but others simply need to serve him by waiting. Patience relieves the speaker’s anxiety by telling him that it is acceptable to wait for divine inspiration to tell him what God wants him to do.

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"To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account..."   (Text of the Poem)

Milton's sonnet concerns the universal desire to discover and develop one's talents. The poem suggests that each of us is given one or several gifts which we are obliged to identify, utilize, and develop throughout our lives or else experience disappointment, failure and frustration. The Bhagavad-Gita says something similar and invokes Milton's idea of a "maker" to be served:

In the beginning
The Lord of beings
Created all men,
To each his duty.
'Do this,' He said,
'And you shall prosper.'

The problem for many of us is to discover our talent—or talents. This process may involve a lot of trial and error. But it is obviously a matter of the utmost importance. Milton was neither the first nor last person to consider the great importance of putting one's gifts to work. Many thinkers of the past have their their attentions to this topic:

Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.

—Thomas Carlyle (1798–1881)

A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1802–1883)

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"murmur..."   (Text of the Poem)

Note that the speaker's response to his personal loss is a stance of yielding. The word "murmur"—which describes how "Patience" communicates to the speaker—is appropriate to the overall tone of the sonnet. He is resigned to accept whichever fate God imposes upon him. This is also indicated two lines later in the words "mild yoke." When Milton concludes with the words, "They also serve who only stand and wait," he seems to be suggesting that he can serve God by serving as an example of patience, faith, and humility.

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"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied..."   (Text of the Poem)

In this line, Milton's speaker asks the question, not God. The long and complex sentence beginning with "When I consider how my light is spent" leads the poet to fondly, or foolishly, ask: "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" After this question, the first sentence of the sonnet ends with a full stop. All the rest of the sonnet is supposedly spoken by an invisible spirit or angel he calls "Patience." Milton's conclusion suggests that he has made appropriate use of his "one talent" and that God will not scold or "chide" him for wasting it.

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