In the poem commonly known as "When I consider how my light is spent," John Milton refers to a Biblical parable found in the books of Matthew and Luke. In this parable, a man was preparing to leave on a lengthy trip and entrusted three of his servants with differing amounts of money in his absence. One servant received five talents, one received two talents, and the final servant received one talent.
Each of the first two servants chose to invest the money entrusted to him and ended up doubling the amount given him. The last servant, who had been allotted one talent, chose to hid the money, rather than risk or venture anything.
When the "lord of those servants" returned, he called them to him and was thrilled with the cunning of the first two servants. Because they had acted wisely, he promoted them. The servant who had hidden his money told his master that he had been frightened and hidden the money. The master was furious and ordered that he have the talent taken from him and given "unto him which hath ten talents."