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On His Blindness: A Response to the Poem Essay

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2019

On His Blindness is one of the most famous sonnets written by John Milton. It is believed that the author wrote this poem in 1655 when he lost his eyesight almost completely (Wehner, 2011, p. 6). In this poem, the author reflects upon his work, creative talents, and the disease that deprived him of his vision. This literary work evokes powerful emotions and it certainly produces a powerful impression on the readers.

While analyzing this work, one should pay close attention to its form, the use of language, and the main themes that John Milton explores. To a great extent, they are aimed at showing the internal struggle of a person who attempts to find a new meaning in his life, especially at the time when he passes through a serious crisis. This is the question that the narrator focuses on.

At first, one should look at the form of this poem and its structure. In particular, it is possible to argue that On His Blindness is a Petrarchan sonnet (Wehner, 2011, p. 6). This literary form greatly appealed to John Milton as a poet. It has a distinct rhyming pattern that consists of two tercets and two quatrains. For example, one can look at the opening lines of the poem,

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

Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

(Milton, 2008, p. 58).

On the whole, this rhyme creates a melody that enables the reader to sense the author’s despair and his loneliness. However, one should pay attention to Milton’s use of language which is even more relevant for the discussion of this poem. It can throw light on his feelings and experiences of the author. In particular, John Milton strongly relies on metaphors in this poem.

For example, one can refer to the following phrase, “how my light is spent” (Milton, 2008, p. 58). The author uses the word light as a synonym to time. This metaphor is one of the most important details. It shows that Milton’s blindness affected his perception of the world. He regarded the loss of vision as the end of his creative life, and this event was devastating for him (Wehner, 2011, p. 6).

It seems that the very existence is pointless for the narrator. Additionally, John Milton combines words that are not compatible with one another such as “mild yoke” (Milton, 2008, p. 58). To a great extent, these words can help the reader understand Milton’s conflicting view of God. It should be taken into account that the author was a devout believer, but at the same time, he struggled to understand why various misfortunes struck him.

This is the main paradox that he tried to resolve in this sonnet. Milton’s language profoundly influences people’s response to the poem, because his word choices prompt them to think about a person whose ambitions were almost ruined by some overwhelming force. More importantly, this individual has to find the purpose of his/her existence.

This is the main question that John Milton tries to answer in his poem. This is why the language of this sonnet should not be disregarded. The metaphors used in this sonnet can tell readers about the feelings and emotions of the poet.

Furthermore, one should focus on the content of this poem and its main themes that the narrator reflects upon. First of all, John Milton refers to the Biblical parable about the talents and the way in a person should use the opportunities available to him or her. In other words, he tries to discuss his poetic gifts that had not yet brought him fame or recognition.

This issue played an important role in Milton’s life especially, when he began to realize that his eyesight was weakening. Apart from that, this sonnet shows that the poet was able to overcome his despair even despite the difficulties that he had encountered. To a great extent, he finds consolation in his religious faith and he comes to the conclusion that patience can help him achieve happiness and peace.

This is the main goal that the narrator wants to attend. So, one can argue that the idea of hope was critical for Johan Milton, when he was writing On His Blindness. The following sentence eloquently illustrate the attitude of the author,

“God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best” (Milton, 2008, p. 58).

The themes that Milton explores in this poem enable readers to gain insights into the inner world of the author and his efforts to cope with the idea of his blindness. Overall, the author’s inner dialogue is critical for the understanding of this sonnet. The sonnet shows Milton’s internal world evolved.

Thus, it is possible to say that On His Blindness is an example of a literary work in which language, form and content interplay with one another. To a great extent, they are supposed to show Milton’s attempts to find a purpose in his life, especially at the time when he was not able to use his poetic gifts. The richness of Milton’s language and his rhyme are the main reasons why this poem enjoys significant popularity.

Reference List

Milton, J. (2008) On His Blindness. In. A. Goldrick-Jones & H. Rosengarten (Eds.), The Broadview Anthology of Poetry (p.58). New York: Broadview Press.

Wehner, J. (2011). John Milton’s sonnet “On His Blindness” is a statement on the individual’s worthiness independent of one’s measurable achievements. New York: GRIN Verlag.

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"On His Blindness: A Response to the Poem." IvyPanda, 15 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/on-his-blindness-a-response-to-the-poem/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "On His Blindness: A Response to the Poem." April 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/on-his-blindness-a-response-to-the-poem/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'On His Blindness: A Response to the Poem'. 15 April.

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