On His Blindness by John Milton

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What is a summary of "On His Blindness" by Milton?

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "On His Blindness," the writer, John Milton, talks openly about losing his eyesight, an event which began in the 1640s as a result of his heavy workload. Milton was completely blind by 1652.

In the first few lines of the poem, Milton reflects on losing his sight before he reached middle age and describes how his world has become totally dark. For Milton, this is particularly concerning because he now wonders how he will serve God, his master. Specifically, he wonders if God expects him to do "day-labour," everyday tasks, while he is in darkness.

As Milton ponders this question, "Patience," personified here as a living person, interjects his thoughts and softly reminds him that God does not need Milton to do anything. In fact, Patience tells him that the best way to serve God is just accept life for what it is since this is God's will.

Finally, Milton is also reminded that God has plenty of people to run around and carry out his errands. More importantly, Milton should wait patiently and trust that God will know the best way to use him (and his blindness).

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title of John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness” is first found in a 1761 edition of Milton's poetry. The poem was originally published in Milton's 1673 Poems, and was identified by a number and its first line or incipit, "When I consider how my light is spent." 

The poem is written in the form of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. It consists of fourteen lines divided into an octave rhymed ABBAABBA and a sestet rhymed ABCABC. The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter.

The poem is autobiographical and written in the first person. The octave describes how blindness overtook a middle-aged Milton. A deeply religious writer, he felt his writing was part of his service to God and feels his blindness deprives him of the ability to serve God effectively. In some ways, he thinks God made him go blind as a rejection of him and his work. 

Milton finds resolution in his sestet finds through the notion that God does not need humans to do his work for him; rather, God only asks that people serve Him by their faith.

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