What is the problem identified in the octave? What is the solution given in the sestet?  

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John Milton was born in 1608 and went blind in 1654. Milton probably wrote "On his Blindness" in 1655. It is an autobiographical poem reflecting on Milton's blindness. The octave poses the immediate problem Milton encountered of how to deal with his blindness on an emotional and religious level. Milton, at this point in his life, had a long and successful career as a writer of poems and prose pamphlets. He was also deeply pious, considering his work a form of service to God. In the octave, he wonders why God would take away his sight, as that renders him incapable of the work he had been doing in God's service, and how he can continue to serve God, being blind.

The sestet resolves these problems by accepting God's will. First, Milton acknowledges that since God is omnipotent, God actually does not need human help, saying:

... God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts;

Instead, Milton concludes that people best serve God by accepting God's will with faith and devotion. Thus rather than treat his blindness as something leading him to question God, he should strive to submit to God with patience and humility. 

 

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