On his Blindness Sonnet 19 by John Milton

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  1. by John Milton 2. More about the Poet John Milton (1608-1674) was blind when he composed his greatest poetry. Milton did not have an easy life. His first…
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  • 1. by John Milton
  • 2. More about the Poet John Milton (1608-1674) was blind when he composed his greatest poetry. Milton did not have an easy life. His first wife, 17year old Mary Powell, fled to her parents’ home immediately after the marriage ceremony and stayed there for several years. He managed a reconciliation, and Mary bore him three daughters and a son who died in infancy. She died three days after the birth of the third daughter. He sought child-rearing aid from his mother-in-law, a woman who strongly disliked him. His second wife died in childbirth within two years of their marriage.
  • 3. By the third marriage, his daughters were adolescents, angered by their father’s demeaning and demanding treatment. They were forced to read to their blind parent in languages they didn’t understand. He did not even inform them that he was marrying again. When they learned this news from a servant, his middle daughter remarked that it was interesting news, but more welcome would be the news of his death. In 1660 the restoration of the Stuart line of kings left Milton in dire circumstances, because of his blindness and his former assistant, he escaped execution but was fined and forfeited most of his property.
  • 4. He became blind in 1652. When he became blind, he worked even harder. He dictated his poetry to his daughters, sometimes up to 40 lines at a time! This poem was written in either 1652 or 1656, while he was still active in the Cromwell regime. We find him torn between the need to contribute his literary mastery to matters political and the wish to fulfil the plan that the Almighty had in mind when He gifted him with his literary talent.
  • 5. Mathews 25: 24-30 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou has that which is thine.”
  • 6. His Lord answered and said unto him, “Thou wicked and lazy servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchange, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with interest.” “Take therefore the talent from him…And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • 7. 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 4 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 8
  • 8. 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.’ 12
  • 9. Poem • Type: Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet, consisting of an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). • Stylistic devices: Elision, Inversion, Alliteration and Assonance.
  • 10. Type of poem Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet, consisting of an octave (8 lines) and a sonnet (6 lines).
  • 11. Theme He urges one to accept one’s fate with calm, patient resignation.
  • 12. Title Sonnet: shows that the poem is personal to the poet.
  • 13. When I consider how my light is spent, spent – he thinks that his life is wasted, he is frustrated and his talent is used up
  • 14. Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide He is pessimistic even though he is young. dark: parable, image of the lamp Alliteration (w): blind, big space (unfamiliar, frightened, despair)
  • 15. And that one talent which is death to hide He can’t write now because he is blind
  • 16. Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent Soul more bent – he tries his utmost and is determined to use his talent
  • 17. To serve therewith my Maker, and present He only wants to serve God with his talent
  • 18. My true account, lest he returning chide True account: his good work He did not use his talent and now he is worried that God will criticise him
  • 19. ‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’ How can God expect him to work a full day, if he withholds his eyesight?
  • 20. I fondly ask, but Patience, to prevent Patience to accept his adversity (blindness) Personification: of the virtue (patience) and he answers himself
  • 21. That murmur, soon replies,
  • 22. ‘God doth no need Either man’s work or his own gifts: God does not need your gifts because God gave you the gifts/talents that you have
  • 23. who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. Endure misfortune without complaining Suffering is universal and imperfection is part of the sinful nature of man
  • 24. His state is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed Kingly: to be proud Actually millions of Christians who obey God
  • 25. And post o’er land and ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.’ : Emphasises dramatic statement that follows Own wishes are not important, he will wait for God’s orders. Everybody waits for God’s orders, even the disabled
  • 26. Octave: he shows revolt and is frustrated with his blindness Sestet: resignation and he submits to God’s will
  • 27. He urges everyone to endure their misfortune without complaining, disciples work but even the disabled serve God to the best of their ability.
  • 28. Answers 1. Italian Sonnet 2. The poet has become blind in the middle of his life. He wonders whether God still expects him to continue writing poetry. 3. “light” 4. used up
  • 29. 5. “world…wide”. It emphasizes his loneliness and despair, and how large the world seems to a blind person. 6. His talent for writing poetry. 7. He does not want God to scold him. 8. God reprimanded the lazy servant in the Bible, so Milton wants to use his talent even though he is blind.
  • 30. 9. He asks whether God expects him to work just as hard as someone who doesn’t have a handicap. 10. “how my light is spent” / “light denied” – to describe his eyesight. 11. His fear of the dark and his longing to see.
  • 31. 12. a. used up b. middle age c. poetry d. it is a sin to hide his talent e. stuck with him f. cannot use it g. try his best h. what he is worth i. cannot see j. kindly
  • 32. 13. That one should accept one’s fate with patience. 14.It came too soon in his life. • “lamp” – the oil in a lamp which becomes used up, like his eyesight • His world is dark and wide, having no boundaries. 15. God
  • 33. 16.He has great respect for God. 17. That God will cast him out and scold him. 18.Loving and respectful 19.He has great love and respect for God, and realizes that as a Christian he should accept his fate.
  • 34. 20. Patience 21. Man’s work and his gifts. 22. From a feeling of bitterness to acceptance. 23. Those who accept their suffering. 24. His blindness. 25. They who stand and wait also serve God. 26. Those who are physically challenged.
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