Tuesday, October 19, 2010

John Milton's Petrarchan sonnet

"For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them."  John Milton
 Sonnet: On his Blindness
              John Milton (1608-1674) 
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.

n.b. (note well) This is a Petrarchan sonnet. John Milton was one of Mary Shelley's favorite poets and he is the author of Paradise Lost.  In writing Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus Shelley quoted from his poetry extensively - as she also did from both her husband's and Wordworth's.


  1. In the first quadrant Milton explains how he foccuses spending his day in the "dark" meaning a life of hardship and malice.Gowing through life realizing that the world is full of bad things and immoral cituations.Line 4 "lodge with me useless, though my soul more bent" shows how Milton admits to his own hipocracy, criticizing others when he is just as full of malice as his peers.

    By the second quadrant Milton shows a sense of remorse.By admitting to his wrong doings and wanting spiritual forgiveness.Line 7 and 8 "Doth God exact day labour,light denied? I fondly asl;but patience prevent", these line illustrate frustration and desperation in the asking of when will the "dark" times come to an end, when will the rath of God illuminate society.

    The last quadrant answers the question to the second question. Line 9"that murmur,soon replies,God doth not need." shows how people should take responsibilities for their personal actions and not lean to God or to anyone for personal healing. God gives us the strenght to survive and we have to put these steps into good actions. In order to move on one should realize one's own wrong doing and try to correct it. Those whom are afraid of change will never prosper.

  2. She really understands the sonnet. The sonnet speaks of hard labor and work. God with forgiveness and moving on in life is what I kind of got from the sonnet.

  3. I see this entire poem as a reflection. However, I disagree with Katherine in that the character of the poem is repenting. Yes, he does confess to living a life of sin and acting irresponsibly. However, instead of repenting he only chooses to change; to serve god,and devote himself to religion as an alternative way of life. But then he realizes that he does not need to serve god or devote himself to religion because, "God doth not need, either man's work or his own gifts."As Katherine said, he does make an assertion to each man taking responsibility for his own actions, " who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best." Nevertheless, it almost seems to me as if the whole thing is a joke to the voice of the poem. As if he is being sarcastic. Then again,I did have a hard time understanding it and read it about 10 times before being able to make any conclusions.

  4. Yes Yenifer, although this poem is beautifully composed, it requires very careful reading
    and rereading.

  5. What I believe in this poem is that it means Milton is realizing about all he's done and his wrong doings and choosing to serve his God, but then realizing that he doesn't have too. In lines 5-6, he says "To serve therewith my maker, and present/My true account, lest he returning chide" meaning he's going to serve his "maker" to make up for all he's done. But then it seems as though he questions if the Lord actually sees the good doing that is done which he then realizes that he doesn't have to serve the Lord in lines 9-10, which he says the following; "God doth not need/Either man's work or his own gifts". What this means is basically there's no need to actually serve God in a way. I'm still not sure the true meaning of this sonnet, but this was the best I can come up with.

  6. The rhyme scheme of this poem is a bit different from the Shakespearean, Spencerian, and Petrarch sonnets what we have been reading up to now. This sonnet has a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDE CDE. I believe that this sonnet is also written in the style of iambic pentameter.

    I believe this poem is about how the author of the poem has lost his sight and cannot what is about to happen to him. He is scared and frustrated that he spends his days " in this dark world and wide" (line 2). He also talks about how useless and how incapable to do work he is and how God will not accept him because of his disability.

    However, "Patience" responds of the authors cries and tells him that "God doth not need Either man's work or his own gift" (lines 9-10). When the author says "Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state" (lines 11-12), the author implies that God does not really need man's ability to do work or to make money- all God really needs is man's devotion and love towards God and he will love all man equally. And the last line of the sonnet really sums up the entire poem, "They also serve who only stand and wait" (line 14).

    This sonnet was pretty difficult to interpret. However, it is a very nicely written and crafted sonnet. I think this sonnet also has a lot of references and allusions to Biblical text and religious writings such as the "talent" in line 3 which refers to the "Parables of Talent" in the Bible.

  7. I think you might have posted this sonnet before. What I like about this poem though is that there is alot of refrence to the dark side, which I find more intense. In the first quadrant he discusses living in the darkness, which to me signifies that he is dealing with hardship in his life. He wants to serve God but doesn't believe he has to, like yennifer said. I also believe that he is new, towards worshipping God since he has been living in a "dark world" for "era half my days." How does he know so much about God if hes been in this dark world for so long? Maybe he should serve God.

  8. I really loved the sestet's rhyme scheme, and how well done these last lines bring about the conclusion. It follows the basic format of any sonnet. In the first two quatrains, Milton presents his thought process, admitting he has strayed off a rightful path. He also brings about a question that has probably puzzled many Christians, and overall, any followers of any religion: how do you make God (or whoever you believe in) happy? The conclusion comes in the last six lines, where as everyone has stated above, loyalty is key.
    However, I still have questions about Line 3, which may have thrown off my whole analysis.

  9. I believe that this poem is personal and the theme is exploring Milton's own feelings. It contrasts darkness and light. I think when he talks about talent, it has to do with religion or the bible.

  10. i think that this poem has a different scheme of rhyme however i can't figure out. In my opinion this first quadrant talks about the way he has been spending his life, or wasted. however this might as well be a reflection poem like yenifer said.it also says that he lost a talent, that is dead and therefore god might not want him because of that. all though he realize that god might not even need the talents from the people. after that i find the poem difficult to understand.

  11. I also the rhyme scheme. It is interesting to have 2 triads in the resolution. I think that the poet has realized his sins and understands the change he has to go through. He plans to devote himself to religion.

  12. The poem consists of a carefully reasoned argument based on Christian faith, for the acceptance of physical impairment. The speaker being blind learns that it is the obstacle and God’s work for him, his blindness is a part of that work, and that his achievement lies in living patiently with it. In the third quadrant the speaker realizes that those who deserve God's patience are those who tolerate God faithfully and don't complain when he asks, rather than those who try to work to fulfill it to try to please him. The last line says "They also serve who only stand and wait", it basically explains it in one line, that he serves those who wait patiently.

  13. I actually agree with Brittney this poem is very intense because of the way he expresses himself. They way he started this poem was already in a way a exposition of who the character is and the word around him. In the first quadrant He expresses the consequence of him no longer having a light."Light" in other words the could mean goodness or life which doesn't dwell in him anymore. Now his feels "useless" like trash and to the world around him he sees it dark. As the poem goes on he says key words like work and God which everyone in this world have some kind of relationship to. Most people can understand this poem and how the character feels because they have a way to relate to him.

  14. Milton actually was blind when he wrote this poem.

  15. I agree with Yenifer when the speaker of this poem is trying to not repent (like Katherine said), but sort of indulge himself in the aspects of God. For someone to truly understand God, he must feel the wrath as well as the kindness of God himself. A smart Priest once told me that for one to truly love God, he must believe in him fully, without question or thought.

    Like in The Sonnet the quote "God doth not need, either man's work or his own gifts." shows that the speaker himself has felt God's wrath, and was harshly affected by it. Within the middle of the Sonnet, the speaker tells how he try's to turn his life over for all his sins, by doing labor and receiving no sort of rewards for it. Out of the anger and the speakers greed he stops believing in the power of God.

    The speaker does admit that he himself has done many sins within his life... He is human, and us humans live a life fun of sin.

  16. Brandon is correct. The word "talent" alludes to the Biblical Parable of the Talents. Google and read what this parable is, then see if you understand line three, and the poem better.

  17. In this sonnet, the speaker meditates on the fact that he has become blind (Milton himself was blind when he wrote this). He expresses his frustration at being prevented by his disability from serving God as well as he desires to. He is answered by "Patience," who tells him that God has many who hurry to do his bidding, and does not really need man’s work. Rather, what is valued is the ability to bear God’s "mild yoke," to tolerate whatever God asks faithfully and without complaint.