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On His Blindness(1652)

John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
MeterWhen I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
MeterEre half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
MeterAnd that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
MeterLodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
MeterTo serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
MeterMy true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
Meter“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask; but patience to prevent
MeterI fondly ask; but patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
MeterThat murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
MeterEither man’s work or his own gifts: who best

Note on line 10: The congested bunching of stresses in this and the following line insists to the ear on what the remarkable enjambment of Milton’s volta and sestet performs even more urgently: the copresence of latent with patent orders of being. Rhythm jars against meter, as syntax overlaps lineation, to affirm the higher reality of what meets the mind, not the eye.

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
MeterBear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
MeterIs kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
MeterAnd post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
MeterThey also serve who only stand and wait.”

Note on line 14: Patience’s simple reminder comes beautifully home here, after much turbulence, to rest on the plainness of straightforward diction, syntax, and metrical calm.


Rhyme

Resources

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