For what purpose does Milton use the element of allusion in "When I consider how my light is spent"

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Milton, like many other poets of his era, often alludes either implicitly or explicitly (as in this poem) to the Bible.  The Bible was the best-known text of this period. Some people (such as Milton himself) studied it deeply for most of their lives, and even relatively uneducated people would have known the Bible by hearing about it in sermons and even in everyday conversation.

Therefore, by alluding to the Bible, Milton achieves several important results:

  1. He employs a source of authority that practically everyone in his culture would have accepted as the most important authority. He thus gives added authority to his poem.
  2. He shows his desire, as a Christian but especially as a Protestant, to ground his writings in the scriptural word of God.
  3. He shows the continuing relevance of God’s words to the particular lives of particular persons.
  4. He adds to the complexity of his poem by creating a kind of dialogue within the work between his poem and the master-text of his culture.